Friday, October 16, 2009

Reminders and Challenges

The last couple of weeks have held a lot of memorable moments: getting Samuel's death certificate in the mail, going to my postpartum OB appointment I'd been putting off and putting off, attending a wedding and watching Bryan perform his first marriage, taking Caleb to his first ever movie theater experience (Toy Story and Toy Story 2 double feature!), finding out I need minor surgery, and receiving more amazing gifts and love from the people in our lives.  These are days I will never forget.

On Thursday, when it was just me and Joel, I was listening to the Sandra McCracken CD that has both songs I most strongly associate with Samuel -- "Grace Upon Grace" and "Thy Mercy My God."  We were in the van on our way to the store for the first time since July, and Joel asked me, "Is that the Samuel song, Momma?  I miss Samuel.  I want to hold him."  I told him, "I do too, Joel."  His next question led me to tears: "Is he coming today, Momma?"  I was so sad to think that Joel is still hoping Samuel might come home.  I thought he understood that we won't see Samuel again until Heaven.  When I said, "No, he's in Heaven", Joel asked his classic question: "Why?"  "Because he died, Joel."  "Why, Momma?"  "Because he had a sick heart, sweetie."  "Why?"  At this point I realized I couldn't keep answering Joel's questions comfortably.  What's the answer to that one?  Because God made him that way?  Of course Joel's next question would be "why?" and how do I answer that?  I have no idea why God made Samuel's heart sick.  I simply broke down into sobs.  Joel then wanted to know if I was sad and told me he wanted me to be happy again.  For the next 5 minutes, he asked every 20 seconds, "Are you happy now, Momma?"

I continually realize that the way Bryan and I handle our emotions is important for the future of our children.  I think we are laying the ground work for their attitudes and beliefs about emotions.  I want them to know it's ok to cry, to be sad, to mourn.  And I also want them to know it's ok to be happy in the midst of grief, and I want them to know they can turn to Jesus in their sorrow -- that He is a willing ear and friend in darkness.  I believe the best way to teach them this is to model it ourselves, but it takes courage to be broken in front of them.  And it takes such wisdom to know how to point them to God in a way that is authentic and visible.  I don't really know how to do this.

Today Bryan and I spent time planting a Japanese maple tree (thanks Jennings!) in our front yard in memory of Samuel.   It's easier for me to spend time on something like this -- something live-giving and beautiful -- than on something like picking Samuel's gravestone.  I keep putting that off.  I can't quite put my finger on what part of that task seems so revolting, but it does.

We also spent some time trying to find the right place in our house to hang a painting we received as a gift yesterday.  Jennifer Tanksley painted us a beautiful picture of the ocean that she did while Samuel was in the hospital.  It's called "You Sustain Me," and depending on the light, you can see the phrase "You sustain me" painted in different places.  It's just lovely and a wonderful reminder of how God has sustained us in the life and loss of Samuel.  Of course I was crying (in the middle of the parking lot, in the rain) when she gave it to us.  I keep being overwhelmed by people's care and love for us.  We are, indeed, ridiculously blessed.

Lately the thing I've been thinking about the most is a passage from I Samuel.  Hannah beseeches God to grant her a son and promises to give that son back to God.  A few years later she returns to the Tabernacle with her son, Samuel, and sees Eli, the high priest.  She tells him, "'I asked the Lord to give me this child, and he has given me my request.  Now I am giving him to the Lord, and he will belong to the Lord his whole life.'  And they worshiped the Lord there" (I Samuel 1:27-28). 

In so many ways, this is our story.  We did beg God, after our two miscarriages, for a child to grow in my womb, and He did answer our prayer.  And we have had to give our Samuel to the Lord.  I am challenged by Hannah's attitude -- by her willingness to submit to God and by her gratitude to Him.  Hannah worships God knowing full well that she is returning home without her precious Samuel, and she freely acknowledges that God has given her what she asked for even though she will have to part with that gift.  I am praying for the courage and grace to do the same -- to proclaim God's faithfulness in granting us Samuel (something we praise God for every day!) and to continue to worship him in this barren place without our son.  May I have the grace of Hannah.

In these days of continual reminders of Samuel -- some intentional and some unexpected -- I am challenged to honor God in my every response.  In the planting of a tree or the wearing of a necklace with Samuel's name on it or the lighting of a candle on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, I can remember my son with a heart that acknowledges his good Creator, or I can turn my eyes from God and ignore His goodness, grace, kindness, and sustaining love.  I am praying to keep my eyes fixed on the Lord in each moment I think of our sweet Samuel and to put my faith in Him time and time again.


  1. Bry,Kat,and my Sesame Street Drawing buds,

    As I told Bryan at our meeting, the coloring pics are still on our door going to the garage, I just went to see if I spelled Sesame right??? any rate, I got Oscar and Thanh got Elmo. Maybe I should chill. All kidding aside, those colorings are the last thing(s) I(we) see when we walk out the door. Please know that the things you have already done in your life are exceptional in more ways than you may know. Bryan, if we make it, Thanh has said that on our 20th, she wants to renew our vows. That will be 11/ that you have some experience we will be asking you to guide us in the next chapter.
    Samuel's memorial card is prominately displayed on our refrig. We are praying for you guys as always. Miss you more than you know....