I think of death more than most people. It’s only natural when you come face-to-face with it so often. My cardiologist can’t explain why my heart rate plummets dangerously low. My oncologist tells me I’m in the clear now, ten years since melanoma cropped up like a nuclear bomb in my eyeball. It’s been six years since I was in the hospital with a raging abdominal infection and two years since my heart flat-lined on the table. I’m good, considering. But the collateral damage that results is that I’m always pondering the blackness, leaving little notes for my children, and love letters to my husband. I can’t ever leave enough, like I need to stockpile memories and words and tiny little charms.
Imagining my own death is hardly painful – I trust in God and believe there is a better place looming. But I am utterly paralyzed when imagining it all happening in a different order, that the offspring might pass before the maker. The thought of burying my own is too heavy a cross to bear, and I cannot place myself in the position of the one viewing the wreckage.
For whatever reason lately I keep stumbling across stories involving this particular tragedy. It’s not like I sought out to read them. I was looking for a new website designer and found Anna See’s blog, An Inch of Gray, and was immersed in her story of her lost son, and grief, and hope. A high school friend of mine died before she reached her 40th birthday and her mother still posts little thoughts on her facebook page. I am spending the weekend with your boys. I miss your smile. And my dear writer friend Melanie Haney wrote a wonderful post on life and loss this week in her blog, A Frozen Moon.
I wonder if it’s good to think such horrid thoughts. Maybe one just shouldn’t go around borrowing trouble. And yet it seems as if this topic is pushed in front of me, against my best efforts and my own will. The other night I was so consumed with sadness that I fell on my knees and begged God to never let this come to pass. I am not as strong as Job: I would be unable to simply pick up the pieces. I am not Abraham, who walked his own son to the alter. I’m not Jesus who can say forgive them, Father, they know not what they do. I am afraid I could never forgive. I am so utterly weak. I can do great things, but not this. Please dear Lord not this.
So I tried thinking of happy things. I loaded the dishwasher, read my daughter a book, cleared my head. But last night I had fitful dreams. I tossed and turned and kept saying no to some imaginary dragon. I was fighting all night long and I can’t exactly remember why. I woke up exhausted and overwhelmed. Maybe I was fighting the devil himself.
Today, when I picked my son up from preschool, I swept him up in my arms and held him like he had been restored from death. I stood right there in the little room, crowded in blocks and caterpillars and mothers busy picking up their children, and sobbed. I peppered his cheeks with kisses and squeezed his body tight. I walked out fast so the teachers wouldn’t notice, but I’m sure it was futile. As I put him in the car, he looked at me and said simply, “I sorry, mama.” Because his beautiful two-year-old heart is filled with compassion, and he didn’t understand my tears. It’s okay, son. I just love you so.
I wonder if Satan and God have been having a discussion about me, like they did with Job. She’ll crumble like a house of cards. She won’t stay faithful. Without those two children, she’ll falter. Let me test her, I beg you. I wonder if God would have faith in me, as he did in Job.
Because honestly, I just don’t know how God could see his only son suffer. I would die in his place. I would run and scream and not be able to bear the weight of it. I would pull out my hair and rip my clothes and crumble to nothing. And yet I am weak, and can’t see the rising. For in Christ there is always rising. Through the blackness and cries of disbelief and anger and sorrow, there is light burning. God knew of this. It’s okay, son. I just love you so.
Despite my own weaknesses, the rooster crowing thrice at dawn, and my utter ridiculous failures, I will rest in that hope. I pray that certain things never come to pass, but I cannot guarantee such a future. My husband is the beam to which I’m tethered. My children are the brightness and lightness of my very being. But God is my strength, and without him it all crumbles like a deck of cards.
Tonight in my dreams, I’ll slay that dragon. I’ll plant kisses and seeds of joy and fight fire with fire. I will love my family through the tantrums and the screaming. I’ll keep loving when we don’t speak and when life is all stressed out and messy. I will show the devil that he cannot take away this love, no matter hard he tries. So if it’s ever ripped from me too soon, I can say with my whole heart that I did enough. I loved enough.
God is enough.