White Roses. Yellow Rubber Duckies. Blue Gingham.
Regardless of where I see these three things, they immediately take my mind to a beautiful yet painful place.
On this day, 13 years ago, we both met and lost our precious son in a series of events that we could never have imagined or wished on anyone. Yet, God, as He is so good to do…met us there in that valley and showed us grace and comfort to walk through that rugged terrain.
Losing children was not new to us, for we had suffered three miscarriages before Jonathan. But his death was so senseless in our human minds. A life lost that should not have been. A bad judgement call by a physician was what our human brains screamed…for we always need to make sense of things that don’t make sense and so, often, we look for someone or something to blame.
Truth is that God had a plan and slowly we learned to lean into that reality and trust Him as we had so many times before. For there are no mistakes with God. Just circumstances that help shape us.
Yet, the loss was devastating and the pain so intense that at times we struggled to breathe. Some days, even now, 13 years later, the grief is so strong it takes my breath away.
Each year on his birthday (and so many other days in between), we find ourselves taking flowers to the cemetery. I spend time telling him all that he’s missed in his brother and sister’s lives that year and remind him of all that I’ve missed in being with him the past 365 days.
Perhaps it’s the milestone of turning 13 that seemed to make this birthday especially hard. Something about this particular year seems more difficult. I knew it was coming and busied myself on purpose. Yesterday was Sunday and I knew my soul needed church and preaching but I also recognized that being with people can sometimes feel like the loneliest place to be. So, I waited in the car until the service started, then I slipped in and slipped out during the last prayer. So grateful to be with my church family and hear sermons that I knew were God-inspired and rich in truth.
Sometimes that’s what we have to do. Make a plan so we can carry on as normal yet protect our spirits at the same time.
I fully recognize that God gives everyone a puzzle. A life story to write. A plan to fulfill. Mine is no more difficult than the next persons. The devil is so skilled at making us feel isolated and magnifying our issues to the point that we can become self absorbed and even bitter at the very God who created us, loved us, died to redeem us, and is waiting on the other side of the beautiful clouds for us.
As I looked into the sky this afternoon at the cemetery, I asked God to allow Jonathan to see me and to let him know just how much he is missed. But more than that, to know just how blessed I feel for having shared nine beautiful months with him.
You see, I am the only human being to have felt him move. The only human being to know what it felt like when he had the hiccups, when he was stretching out and turning over and kicking his adorable legs. I was the one who could sing to him and know he was hearing my voice from inside my body. I was the one who first held him once he was delivered from the safety of my womb. And I was the last to touch his precious face before the casket, that would be his crib instead of the one I had decorated for him, was closed the day of his funeral.
He was mine. God hand picked me to be his mother and Mike to be his father. Of all the parents in the world, He graced us with that privilege. How blessed I am.
So often, I’ve wondered what his personality would have been like, how his voice sounded and if he would have been funny like Emma or sarcastic like Spencer. I’ve longed to watch him grow up. I’ve hurt for all that I’ve missed.
Yet, I’m also envious that he is enjoying Heaven without me. He’s already walking beside the crystal sea that I have pictured in my mind for years. He knows what the angel choir sounds like and He plays with Jesus! How amazing is that thought!
His body is here, his spirit is with Jesus and his soul lives in my heart and has left my life richer because he spent nine months with me.
Emma loved rubber duckies when she was a toddler. She chewed on them long before we discovered chewy tubes! We had them everywhere. Her bathroom (that would have been shared with Jonathan) was decorated in blue and yellow rubber ducky theme. Jonathan’s nursery theme was to be blue gingham. And white roses were in abundance at his funeral and have become my favorite flower since then.
Those three things have become synonymous with Jonathan. So, we had a college student from UNC Chapel Hill Art department design his tombstone with a rubber ducky on it in honor of Emma and the life they would have shared together. I still have a few blue gingham items and I enjoy white roses every chance I get.
We have been so blessed by the friendships in our lives. So many have walked this journey with us. But, other than Mike, the one person I always turn too in my grief is my mother. She was there for every loss. is the one who has walked through so much of my parenting journey with me and the one person that I call from the cemetery every single year.
Once again, today when I called her, she listened, she cried, she encouraged and then she shared with me about a young lady at her church who lost a baby yesterday. It was a good reminder to pull myself up from the pit of grief and reach out to another to whom the grieving process is fresh and raw.
Isn’t the Lord good to give us opportunities to use what we have experienced? It doesn’t lessen the hurt. In fact, it’s painful to draw from that hurt to be a blessing to someone else. But it’s rewarding as well. Just to be able to walk along side another family and be able to understand a little of the journey they are beginning.
So blue gingham, yellow rubber duckies and white roses shall forever be my friends! Sometimes we must focus on the little things and find beauty in those things that were present in the valleys with us.
Happy 13th birthday to a boy who changed me forever!
Thanks for reading my heartbeat,