Friday, August 1, 2014

To Samuel on His 5th Birthday

Dear Samuel,

          Happy 5th Birthday, my precious son!  Can it really be true that 5 years have passed since you entered this world and took our hearts by storm?  From the moment I knew you were growing in my womb -- a much longed for and prayed for event -- I loved you.  That love grew exponentially when we learned you had a severe heart defect at your 19 week ultrasound, but none of that remotely compared to the love I felt for you once you arrived, and I could see your beautiful, perfect face and put one hand on the top of your head and one on the bottoms of your feet.  How desperate I was to scoop you up into my arms and shower you with kisses, but I had to content myself with touching your soft skin and staring at your tiny, adorable face.  You were so vulnerable, and that made my love fierce.  I was utterly smitten with you, and that love has done nothing but grow in the five years since.
          I miss you, sweet boy.  I wonder all the time what our family would be like if you were still here.  Who would be your main play buddy?  With whom would you bicker?  Where would you sleep???  Would we cram all three of you boys in one room?  Would you share with Anna who throws the occasional tyrannical fit at bedtime?  How would we fit you all in one vehicle?  What would you look like?  Would you resemble any of your siblings?  What would you be into?  And how, oh how, would I survive sending you to kindergarten in 6 short days?!?

         I've had a few heavy and sad days lately as August has approached.  Recently your daddy and I hung up a painting Caleb did, and the clear best place to hang it was in the upstairs hall -- where a collage of pictures of you has hung for the last 5 years.  We moved the collage to a less prominent place in the laundry room (where I still see it every day), and afterwards we both laid down on our bed with heavy, aching hearts.  I looked at your dad and said, "I can't believe how much grief it stirs up in me just to move a picture of Samuel.  My heart just hurts."  He looked over at me and said, "I know, right?  Grief is such a strange thing."  I was glad we were both in the crashing wave of grief together.  It hurt so much to think it was time to take those pictures out of the hallway, where you can see them from the front door of the house.  I know it's the healing God has done in us that enables us to think Caleb's artwork should have the place of prominence in the hall, but who knew healing could still be so painful five years later?

          I am still bewildered that next week would have been your first day of kindergarten.  I can't even imagine taking you to the boys' school and dropping you off with them.  In so many ways, you are forever my baby boy, so it's hard to wrap my mind around a you who would be headed to elementary school.  A kindergartener.  Oh, my.

          Today our family went to Egleston Children's Hospital for our annual trek to remember you and thank the CICU staff for all their hard work and the ways in which they blessed and served us in your lifetime.  It's always hard to visit as nothing takes me back to our month together like Egleston does.    Driving down into the underground parking lot and searching for a spot (I always get a sinking feeling in my stomach at that part), the smell of the soap on my hands (!!!), the long walk down the yellow hall, the loud click of the big double doors opening to the CICU, wandering in the beautiful gardens…it all takes me back to you.  And to the holiness that was August 2009.  I still marvel at God's tender presence, His embracing love, His faithful care while we were in the thin line between life and death.  I've never known God so intimately, relied on Him so fully, experienced His goodness so tangibly as I did that month with you.  As we surrendered you to Him, we knew His goodness in previously unfathomed ways.  And though He didn't answer our prayers the way we hoped, He carried us through every moment of gut-wrenching pain, of dashed hopes, of worst fears realized with previously unimagined love, tenderness, grace, and faithfulness.  I am so thankful.

          God has done a mighty healing in our hearts, Samuel.  We still miss you every day, but when I think of you, I almost always smile, and my heart floods with joy.  God has gone back and painted almost all my memories with a brush of joy.  Your name, your face, your place in our family fill my heart with gladness and gratitude.  I am so thankful God gave us you.  I love the way he made you -- imperfect heart and all.  I love how He's grown us because of you.  I love that He trusted us to be your family.  I love the story He has written and is writing in our lives.  YOU are at the heart of that story in so many ways.  I wouldn't trade you -- or even losing you -- for any other story out there.  This story He is penning is beautiful, redemptive, and life-giving, and I am so thankful.

          Samuel, I love you.  We all do.  Daddy, Caleb, Joel, Anna, Eliza, and I all treasure you.  You are forever part of our family.  Someday, I can't wait to get to know you.  Will you meet me at Heaven's gates when I come?  I hope so.

          Happy Birthday, little buddy.  I love you.  I always will.