Friday, May 6, 2011

Some Steps Are Harder Than Others


I wrote this on January 21, 2009.  I thought I'd repost it here for some of my newest friends who are learning to take those hardest steps.

On November 5th, 2006, our beloved son Ian drew his last breath.  Snuggled on my chest, finally free of the tubes and wires that had kept us apart for the past 3 days, he took several ragged breaths over many minutes.  It seemed to last forever, like suspended animation.  The room was full of family and friends who were like family.  William and I were face to face, knee to knee embracing our beloved 3 month old precious gift.  The tears flowed freely and sniffs and soft crying could be heard in the background.  We sang to him, we prayed over him.  We told him that it was OK to let go, that we would be alright.  We told him that we loved him, and would see and hold him again in Heaven.  Then suddenly, he was gone.

Our company slowly trickled out and the ICU room felt large, empty and cold.  It was very quiet and the staff was very courteous as they helped us make his hand and footprints on the crisp white paper that was enclosed in our “Memory Kit” from the hospital.  A staff member had brought it earlier, making the mistake of calling it by the internal name – the “death kit”.  The nurse carefully wrapped Ian in the red plaid blanket that had appeared the middle of the first night he was there.  I had once considered it so ugly that I planned to throw it away when we got home, now it is a treasured keepsake. 

We walked down the hall to the family room and sat with our Pastor and the funeral director, a friend from church.  Our parents each took turns sharing a quiet moment with him before they took him to the morgue.  I was numb, in shock, but still running on adrenaline and the clarity that often accompanies it.  I gave a business card to a friend and asked them to contact a client to let them know I wouldn’t be completing their job that week.  I handed another to a friend and asked her to contact the salesperson from whom I had ordered 2 now unnecessary nursing bras 3 days earlier.  I packed our items from the room and cleaned out our locker.  Our families took the items down to the cars and were waiting for us downstairs.

William and I thanked the staff, wished the other families in the waiting room well and stepped into the elevator lobby.  William reached forward and pressed the “down” button.  We were holding hands and when the elevator opened, we were frozen.  Another moment of suspended animation.  The doors closed.  Someone else came into the lobby and again pressed the button.  The elevator again left without us. Another time the elevator came and opened, but there was already someone on it, and I couldn’t bear the thought of small talk, so we stood there.  I’m not really sure how long we stood there, or how many cars came and left us.  One thing was clear, even though no words passed between us: we couldn’t bear to take that step.  We couldn’t leave our baby there.  It did not seem possible that he was really gone. It did not seem fair, it did not seem real yet, but at the same time it was painfully true.  When we did finally step onto the elevator, I felt like my legs would certainly fail me, that my knees would buckle and I would collapse.  Somehow we took that step, the first of so very many steps in our grief journey.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with God during our hospital stay the day that the doctor told us that Ian would likely not survive, and if he did, there would be massive permanent brain damage.  They explained the process and it became clear that we would probably have to make the excruciating choice to remove life support.  I was once again crying out to God, begging to trade places, to receive a miracle, for something to be done to save my son.  I asked “How can I do this?  How will I tell my children their brother is dead?  How can I be the woman who has buried a child?  How will I survive this?”  I heard a small voice inside, the Holy Spirit, tell me “You will hear a voice saying this is the way, walk ye therein.” And I said “OK”.  I had no idea how difficult that would be.

Now, God is asking me to take another step.  This one is so painful that it rivals all the others.  He is asking me to step back into the world.  To step back into a dance with Him. To step back into life.  For two years I have vacillated between barely crawling out of bed in time to meet the afternoon school bus, to being bodily present and mentally and spiritually distant.  There have been moments of complete awareness, moments of joy, moments of pleasure, but the overwhelming majority of the time has been steeped in grief, some days so thick that I can barely breathe.

In many ways, it is like being in that elevator lobby.  I’m here, but the world is going on around me.  I’m in the world, but not a part of it. That reminds me of that scripture – although my reasons for separation from the world are not spiritual, at least not entirely.

I don’t know how to take that step.  I want to move, I want to find my way past this grief and rejoin my life (already in progress), I want to feel the closeness of my Savior again.  I want to worship freely without pain, to trust without doubt, to share my faith with confidence.  I just don’t know how.  Oh – I know all the “right” things to say, I know the pat answers that I would most certainly give anyone else that asked me (at least I would have before this), but I struggle with the reality of it.

I’ve decided that it’s going to be just like that elevator, I’ve just got to take that one step, and God will carry me the rest of the way.  And, I’m not alone.  William told me on Sunday “just like we took that step together at the hospital, we’re going to take this one together too, will you step with me?”  I said “OK.”

If you'd like to read more about my grief journey, please click here.

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