A couple of weeks ago while I was downstairs with my mentor group, I heard Caleb sobbing upstairs. Bryan graciously takes care of the kids during our group, so I didn't go up, knowing he would handle whatever was going on. The first thing I asked Bryan once the girls left was, "What was wrong with Caleb?" Turns out he was missing Samuel, and Bryan walked in his room to find him bawling and clutching his picture of him and Samuel to his chest. For the first time in a long time, he wanted to talk about Samuel, and he had numerous questions: did we know Samuel was going to die when I was pregnant? Did we know he was going to die before it happened? Did the doctors know? Were we there when he died? Apparently Bryan and Caleb talked for about 20 minutes. Over the next few days, I tried to talk to Caleb about it several times, but he clearly had no interest in going there. It amazes me that he still grieves his baby brother, and at unexpected times a wave of sorrow can crash over him like it does over me. How I love that kid's tender heart.
I have been training to work in our church nursery with babies (yay! my favorite!) this fall, and I spent the last two Sundays "apprenticing" in a baby classroom. We were wondering how old one of the boys in the room was, and we looked up his birthday to find out he was born on August 31, Samuel's death date. It was one of those moments that catch you by surprise and you momentarily find yourself winded. I didn't know anyone in the room and didn't say anything, but it threw me for a minute or two. And though of course I know August 31 is a happy day for many people, I hadn't previously met someone for whom I knew this to be true. I'm glad it's people's birthday, anniversary, etc., but it will probably always stir up sorrow in me. I miss that baby boy.
Later during that same church service in the nursery, one of the teachers asked me how many kids I have. Even nearly three years later, I don't have a good answer for that simple question. I am uncomfortable with saying "Three," but I am also sensitive to the fact that people aren't asking for a sob story. They're asking a very general, basic question, and I appreciate their curiosity, but I still don't know how to handle it. I often fumble around for a few seconds before spitting something out, but it's rarely ever the same answer twice -- probably because I've never found something that feels right. If it's someone who I think would be sent into a tailspin by the full answer or someone who asks in passing and isn't really paying attention to me, I will regularly find myself saying "three at home," but I don't love that answer. I have four kids, no doubt about it. But "four" is often followed by surprise and people asking how old they all are, and then they seem even more disoriented by the death of one of my children than if I'd just said it initially. In the past I've said "Three on earth and one in heaven", but some people thought I meant I'd had a miscarriage, and that made Samuel feel negligible -- like he didn't grow fully in my womb and come into this life and join our family and all the wonderfulness that happened in his month of life. Not to discount miscarriage or the pain of it or the life that is lost in miscarrying. It's just not the same thing as losing Samuel. And if people think I mean miscarriage, then I guess the real answer for me would be "Three on earth and three in Heaven" but that just sounds downright dramatic. So I have no idea how to handle it. Anybody out there have a beautiful solution to this? I know there isn't really a beautiful solution because it's an imperfect and broken world, and Samuel's death is hard, no way around it. So I'm probably fooling myself to think I can find an easy answer to a hard question.
In other news, Caleb turned 7 on May 31, and he's recently lost his top two front teeth. He's growing up before my eyes. So now we have an almost 1 year old (two weeks until Anna's birthday! sob!), a 5 year old, and a 7 year old -- as well as Samuel who has been enjoying Heaven for almost 3 years now. Amazing. I love this family God has entrusted to me. I love my days with them. I am so abundantly, overly, undeservedly blessed. I couldn't ask for more. Oh, Jesus, thank you for my precious family!
And here are some pictures of the recent festivities:
|Caleb and Colleen on Caleb's birthday. IHOP -- Caleb's choice|
|Bryan's latest creation -- Mario defeating a castle on Super Mario Brothers|
|Caleb and his "fiancee" at his birthday party. She was the only girl invited.|
|Bryan explaining the game -- Rock Star Dad!|
|Blowing out candles|
|Pretty Pea in the bath|
|Those lashes kill me|
|I mean irresistible, right?|
|Bryan's Wario pancake (another Mario character)|
|Anna's inaugural spaghetti eating|
|Aftee each meal, Anna takes off her left sock. Who knows why, but it's adorable.|
|Von Apinis Family Drummers|