I sit here staring at a blank screen for awhile before getting up the courage to type. Somehow the blank screen seems so appropriate since we all feel a little blank right now. But while it’s all fresh in my mind, allow me to write out my first and last letter to my nephew.
Dear Isaac Gary,
The night you were born there were stars in the sky. I don’t know why this stands out to me, but it does. As I finally left the hospital after being there for nearly 30 hours, I remember looking up and seeing stars. I had just heard your momma lament the fact that you would never see the sun shine, and somehow after two cloudy, dark days, starlight seemed significant. I’m still processing why this meant anything to me; but truthfully, I’m still trying to process everything about those two days.
It all began last Tuesday afternoon.
I’d just finished writing a note when my son ran to me with the phone announcing my sister Christine was on the other end.
I felt glee thinking that she had caved after her 20 week ultrasound and was going to tell me your gender a few days before the reveal photo we had planned to take. Little did I know it was the last time I was going to feel glee for a long time. I heard a cry on the other end, and made one of the biggest blunders of my life: I thought they were tears of joy and asked her if it was a girl.
Through wails I heard, “It’s dead! My baby’s dead!!”
I collapsed on the couch.
I think I remember yelling “no” over and over. My brain was rejecting the mere thought that she could be telling me the truth.
Your momma is the sister I’ve done everything with. I hardly have a childhood memory that doesn’t include her. I’d been with her for the births of both of your big brothers, and she asked me to be at your birth as well. In that moment, there was nothing I wanted more…or, to be totally honest, less.
We headed to the hospital for your induced delivery. Everything, absolutely everything, about it seemed like an insult to your parents’ pain. Walking past women in labor or crying newborns being wheeled to rooms. The hospital crib in the room that we knew you’d never lay in. The tiny heart beat monitors that the nurses never even bothered to turn on. The sign reminding visitors to be sensitive during this “special bonding time.” I discovered that the happiest place in the hospital became the most hellish when there was no baby cry to look forward to.
The next 30 hours were a blur of tears and waiting and more tears. Every time the labor progressed, any relief that it was all going to be over soon, was overshadowed by your mother’s tears that you were going to leave her body.
All the while, in the recesses of my brain, I was trying to grasp your purpose. We had already hoped for you and planned for you and fallen in love with you. Your momma and I had dreamed of being pregnant together since we were little girls. We had laughed that it had finally happened in such an unusual way, her with you and me with my heart full of a daughter from Ethiopia. We talked of you possibly both arriving in 2015.
How was this all even happening?
After almost 26 hours of labor, you arrived in a moment. Everything about it was backward and wrong and not how it should be. I could hardly look at your limp little body, and yet I witnessed your mother look at you the way every loving mother has looked at their baby since the beginning of time though her heart had been shattered. Isaac, she cradled you and talked to you and adored you. I don’t think I’ve ever heard one of my family members wail. And yet the wailing that filled the room could surely be heard through that hospital wing. Honestly, I’m not still not fully ready to talk about all that took place that awful night. To see you. To see my precious sister. Death had been delivered. We hadn’t gotten the chance to have one happy moment with you here on earth, and we all could hardly bear it.
A couple weeks before you were born, the Lord started putting the name Isaac on your momma’s heart. In that room, she said that she realized that she and your daddy were being asked to do what Abraham had been asked to do centuries before them- to give up their son. We started talking about the ram that was provided to Abraham as a substitute, so that he could keep his son. And we realized that for your parents, the ram was Jesus. Because he was the substitute, they would get to keep you. Tragically, not here on earth; but for all eternity in heaven.
So we grieve here. Sobs and aches that wake us up in the middle of the night.
I think if I tried to find the earthly purpose of this tragedy, I’d go mad. I refuse to walk down that road. But I’ve heard people say that this is life is all there is; that we’re just supposed to make heaven here on earth. And I’m more convinced than ever before that those are pure lies. Don’t tell me this is all that there is. I won’t accept that for one hot second. This life sucks; and the absence of you and Landon and Avaleen and Zoe and Lily and Sarah and Caleb and Denzel and every other little one who didn’t even get a chance to grow-up just goes to prove that point.
So I’m banking my hopes and eternal purposes on the place where you already are. On the place that’s been made available through the Son that my God gave up so that our debt of sin could be paid and perfect peace could be achieved. On the place where you and your brave, broken mother (I’m learning the older I get how much those two adjectives go together) and you will meet and recognize each other in an instant and have countless years to be together. On a place where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.”
I love you from the depths of my heart. In my mind you have blonde hair and fulfill the meaning of your name “He will laugh”. I can’t wait to truly meet you and find out if I’m right.
With all my heart,