Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Caleb's Grief in Light of Beauty

It has been a true privilege to walk with our boys through their grief and to listen to their thoughts, questions, and hopes.  Samuel still comes up regularly in their conversation.  Just a few days ago while Bryan and I were on one of our regular walks, I paused our conversation to listen to what Caleb and Joel were saying in the wagon behind us.  Caleb was trying to give a relative term of size to each of our children.  He said, "I'm big, you're medium, Samuel is small, and Beauty is little."  When Joel asked how Mommy and Daddy factored in, Caleb adjusted his scale: "Daddy is big, Mommy is medium, I'm small, you're little, Samuel is littler, and Beauty is...."  He fumbled for a more diminutive title for his unborn baby sister.  I love that Samuel was part of their equation.

I see Caleb's grief and his experience with death play out in his thoughts about Beauty.  Back in December before we had had any scans of Beauty and knew anything about her heart, I was tucking Caleb in one night, and he prayed, "Dear God, please help Mommy not to be worried about the baby in her tummy."  When he finished praying, I asked him if he thought I was worried, and he nodded yes.  When I asked, "What about?", he replied, "that the baby won't be healthy."  It broke my heart that these things were even on his mind: that he was worried about an unhealthy baby and that he was concerned about me being worried.  We talked for some time that night about how we didn't know if the baby would be healthy, but we do know that we can trust God to take care of us either way.  I told him that God is big enough to heal our hearts even if we have another unhealthy baby; He can help us smile again and laugh and have joy.  I asked him if Daddy and I smile now and have fun and laugh with him and Joel, and he answered yes unhesitatingly.  I told him that God had done that in us and was healing our sad hearts and giving us joy even in the midst of sorrow, and He could do that again.  And I told him that we certainly hope for a healthy baby.  Either way, we can trust our good God to be with us.

Not long after that I found out that Caleb sometimes shut himself in Samuel's room.  One day when I asked why the curtains in Samuel's room were closed, Caleb told me he would go in there to "remember Samuel."  He would close the curtains to make the room dark, shut the door, and turn on the night light.  Sometimes I would hear him playing the lullaby music in the crib.  It was entirely his own idea to go there and remember, and in some way I felt so proud of him for choosing to grieve.

I was concerned about how he would feel when we changed Samuel's room into Beauty's room, and it was a bit sad for him.  I warned him the last day it was still Samuel/Beauty's room that I was going to take down the decorations, and Bryan was going to paint it, and we weren't going to put it back the same way.  Later that day I found him in there alone, just standing and looking.  When I asked what he was thinking, he said, "I just wanted to come in here one more time to remember Samuel and to see it this way."

A couple of months ago at church, Caleb's kindergarten group was supposed to draw a picture of the people with whom they spend the most time.  Here is what Caleb drew:

It is a picture of our family with Beauty in my belly, and Samuel in the clouds in Heaven. (From left to right it's Bryan, Joel, me with Beauty, a tree, and Samuel in the top right hand corner.)  I LOVE that Caleb included Samuel in the picture.  This family picture is truly special to me!

Just last night as I was tucking Caleb into bed, I told him how excited I'm getting about Beauty's arrival.  He said, "I hope she gets to come home to our house."  I reassured him that I think she will, that the doctors all think Beauty is healthy.  His little face lit up, and he said, "We'll get to watch her grow up!"  I love that he's excited about his baby sister, and it saddens my heart to think he fears her death.  I am grateful for how grief has changed me and Bryan, for how it's grown us and deepened us, for how it's soldered our hearts to God, but it's harder to see that suffering in my children, though in truth I know the sorrow and hardships are life-giving for them as well.  I know their loss grows them, and I want that growth for them, but sometimes it is hard to watch my children suffer.

I so, so look forward to this baby girl's arrival.  (Yesterday I was 1 cm dilated --which is exactly where my OB would expect someone to be who is 35 1/2 weeks pregnant with her fourth.)  And I can hardly wait to see my boys with their baby sister -- to see them hold her in their arms, to give her kisses, to help me out with all that she needs.  I think it will be tremendously healing for their little hearts as it will be for mine.  Oh, Lord, may it come to be!

1 comment:

  1. I have been a reader of your blog when you first started. I have never commented but have sat here and cried, laughed, and smiled. Your faith is wonderful and I hope to have that much faith soon. Your little boys are so sweet and the faith that you have shared with them is what I long for my little girl and future children to have. Congrats on the upcoming arrival of your little girl. I will continue to pray for you and your family.

    You and your husband should be very proud of the work of raising your children.