Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stewarding Our Story

Today is 5 months since Samuel died in my arms.  I can't quit thinking about it.  Yesterday I broke down in the shower remembering that morning.  I suppose in some ways August 31st will haunt me for the rest of my life, and probably that's as it should be.  Most of the time I hate remembering that morning.  Sometimes what comes to mind is the incredible peace I felt when we walked in that morning and knew we were in Samuel's final hours, but more often it's the sights and sounds and smells and how I started dry-heaving after he died and I realized I was holding my dead son.  Or it's the doctor pronouncing him dead and asking if we wanted an autopsy or the clumsy moments when we we needed a whole force of people to shift Samuel from my arms to Bryan's and eventually back to mine.  I recall the shocking silence that followed when the doctor finally turned off Samuel's oscillator -- his very loud breathing machine -- and how overwhelmingly loud the silence was.  There are so many things to remember about that day.   Though it was a horrible day, I am so glad we were there, and I have these memories in my heart.  I can only imagine how heartbreaking it would be to wonder how Samuel died and how those hours were and not to have been there, or to have him die very suddenly without the privilege of holding him and handing him over to Jesus myself.  I am grateful in so many ways for August 31st.

Tomorrow Samuel would have turned 6 months old.  I've been thinking a lot about that too.  What would he have been up to?  We probably would have started solid foods by now, and Caleb and Joel would have gotten a kick out of seeing the baby foods and the mess Samuel's face would be at the end of mealtime.  He might have been learning how to sit up with a boppy around him on the playroom floor.  What I most remember about Caleb and Joel at 6 months is how happy they were, how full of joy and smiles, how they laughed and were so easily entertained.  It is a delightful age, and I wish I could see Samuel's smile and hear his laughter.  I will have to wait until Heaven for my first glimpse of his smile.  I wonder if he had dimples like his brothers.  With the breathing tubes I never got a chance to see if he did.  I imagine he did -- that it's one way he resembled his Momma and his big brothers.  How I'd like to be able to kiss those cheeks of his and proclaim again my love for him.

Bryan and I were talking this week about how hard grief has been lately -- and life in general.  In many ways we both feel like this is the hardest stretch we've yet encountered since Samuel's death.  I think Bryan especially is feeling the pain and brokenness of life right now, but I can sympathize and am "in it" too.  I was journaling about it a couple of days ago, and the best I can explain it is that the first month without Samuel was horrible, but it was hazy, foggy, and cloudy.  We were numb in many ways and in shock.  Life was a blur.  Now, however, life has come back into focus, and the edges are harsh and sharp and ugly.  I no longer walk around in a daze, but what I see is so much more gray and painful and broken.  It's like life is edged by broken shards of glass instead of the blurred clouds of September.  I never want to relive that month, but in some ways it was easier because our vision was so unfocused.  We were still getting used to Samuel's absence.  In fact, I spent about two weeks still hoping Samuel was coming home.  I knew that it was absurd, but it was true, and I couldn't seem to shake it.  Now I know he will never come home, and I know how empty his room is, and I know how broken life without him is.  And I know how heartbroken my family is and how broken I am.  I can see how we're suffering.  I can see how the people I love are suffering.  It all sinks in, and it's ugly.

Today in church Bryan was baptizing some people, so I sat down alone for the first 20 minutes of the service.  A few minutes after I sat down in an aisle seat, a couple sat in front of me with their newborn baby.  They put her carseat on the floor right at my feet.  I looked down at her sleeping face and thought, "Really?  I'm not sure I can do this today."  I was teary immediately.  Then across the aisle from me a family came in with a disabled son.  He might have been 10, and he was so excited to be in church during the music.  His mom stood behind him and held his waist while he rocked back and forth to the beat.  I saw both families love and treasure their child, and I was moved by their tenderness and evident love.  I cried for the family who never envisioned life with a disabled son, and I cried for the ways in which they cared for him and he delighted in church.  I cried for the couple in front of me who were clearly first time parents doting on their healthy daughter.  I thought about how there is blessing and brokenness all around me.  We are not the only ones hurting.  And we are not the only ones who are blessed.  And my God, who is good and mighty, is over it all and is faithful.  Why some people get healthy children and others do not is not for me to discern.  My job is to trust the good God who gives and takes away.  And so I will.

Andy Stanley, our pastor, spoke today about the parable in which a master entrusts 3 servants with his money.  When he returns from a long journey, the servant with 5 bags of gold has doubled the money as has the servant with 2 bags of gold.  However, the servant with 1 bag of gold buried it in the ground and did not do anything with it.  He failed to steward what his master had given him.  Andy talked about how no matter which lot we've been dealt -- 5 bags, 2 bags, or 1 bag -- we have a responsiblity to use whatever we've been given for God.  We cannot whine about our poor circumstances (like the guy with 1 bag) and dwell in a place of "woe is me," but we should take what we have and honor God.  Some days I feel like the person with 5 bags -- so abundantly blessed and favored, while other days I feel like the person with only 1 -- who has gotten the short end of the stick.  Most of the time I feel like the person in the middle, with 2 bags, who is plodding along like just about everyone around me.  No matter who I feel like, I have a responsibility to use the story God has given me for His glory, for His kingdom, and for His purposes.  I want to do that.  I want to honor God with our story of Samuel.  I want to point others to Jesus, and I don't want to look back on this season of life and feel like we wasted it or were selfish in the midst of it or failed to grow through it.  I want to hear from my Master, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

So once again I am looking to Jesus and proclaiming my trust in Him.  He is my good and faithful God.  I want to be His faithful servant.  I want to be authentic about the journey I'm on and the grief I feel, but I also want to shout out about the God I serve and how He saves and rescues the fallen -- how He saves and rescues me.  I want to love others even as I am broken.  I want to serve those who are sorrowful even as I am filled with sorrow.  I want to pray for the many hurting people I know even as I am desperate for prayer.  I want to steward this trial and heartbreak for the glory of God.  Lord, help me honor You afresh every day of this journey and every hour of my life.  Amen.


  1. Dear Heavenly Father,

    I couldn't let this moment go by without sending you praise for Kathryn. I want to thank you for the example she sets as a godly woman, mother and wife. I can see that she loves you with all of her heart, and with all of her soul, and with all of her mind, and with all of her strength. Despite her hurting heart, she shows a tremendous amount of courage and faithfulness to share her story so openly so that we may see Your loving goodness. I am grateful for her.

    I know you will continue to give her just what she needs to face her journey. And for that, I thank you, too.

    In the name of Christ Jesus I pray,

  2. Thank you, as always, for your honesty and for the way that your willingness to share your heart and your desire to honor God blesses us.

  3. Kathryn,
    I will never be able to fully understand what you and Bryan are going through but there is a part of me that really resonated with what you just wrote.

    I lost my mom when I was 7 on May 31. Not only does May hold mother's day but it ends with a memory of one of the worst days of my life. Every year, I would dread May. May 31st would roll around and all around me, people went on with their daily lives but I woke up each May 31 with the memories, the pain, and the longing for my mom.

    Then, something began to happen. I woke up one year and the pain wasn't as bad. This subsiding of pain went on for few years until one year I woke up, and I didn't think about the significance of the day until it was almost bed time. In a panic I started to wonder if I had forgotten my mother or if I was dishonoring her memory in some way. And then it hit me - I hadn't forgotten her, I was just further along in my healing. I was able to remember her more on a daily basis in a good way instead of dreading this one day of the year that represented so much pain and loss.

    It is amazing the things that jog your memories. Scott and I just got a new small group on Saturday and as I was looking at our sheet, I saw that one of our new group members had a birthday of 5/31. I instantly thought of that day and what it meant to me. I then rejoiced because this new person in my life had been born on that day. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.

    I write all of this to say that our God hears you. He longs to comfort you. And, over time, these dates will get easier. It has been 25 years since my mom died. I can honestly say that I think more on the happy memories than the loss. I know it will be difficult as you only had a month with your sweet Samuel but I pray that the Lord will bring new and warm memories to mind as you heal.

    You are loved.