We spent another weekend at Faith’s Lodge last weekend; it’s an absolutely lovely place of retreat for bereaved parents and families grieving the passing of a child. It can be as free or as structured as you want it to be. It is serene and inviting and there is just such comfort in being around a group of people who understand what it’s like to lose a child on earth and who can connect with you on a different level than most people. No matter how different the background stories, there is a shared understanding of loss and the life that is led afterward. We went there last fall for a family weekend and decided to come this year during a parents-only weekend as the timing worked better for the year and because Britta and Scarlett are not yet at a place of grieving. Bringing them along lends itself to more chasing of them and less connecting with the purpose of being here.
It was great to be at the Lodge and I definitely think we will return in the future. However, another mother there said it best, “I couldn’t do this all the time.” I could not agree more. It’s no problem to talk about Reece, but when you are able to go that deep, it can be a challenging task to resurface from it. It was a good assessment of the realistic picture of where I am at with everything. I operate on a pretty normal level, but there are things that have been left untouched in my own sorting process–maybe they’ll be addressed in my lifetime and maybe they won’t. But as we spent time in deeper discussions about life and death, these untouched topics were uncovered and I recognized for the first time in a long time how deeply painful they are.
As we left Sunday morning, I found myself tearful, inconsolably and uncontrollably at times. I couldn’t quite place what was going on. The weekend had been positive and not a tearful one for me. As the day passed I realized there were two main reasons for the intense emotions I felt. One is that taking on the emotional situations of everyone and understanding what led them to visit there probably built up and boiled over. When you spend time meeting and enjoying each other’s company you inevitably end up thinking, “These people are great, yet how is our common point the loss of a child?” I’ve yet to meet a family who has lost a child and not had it come as a surprise—even parents of terminally ill children. You never plan for it and you can never be prepared for it. For me, I know that God prepared me in certain ways when I look back at so many things—He prepared me mentally for me to understand that this was part of the plan. No one, however, can feel prepared and ready for the day-to-day challenges.
This past weekend was the first time I really let myself entertain the thought of “Why us?” As I’ve said before, those types of questions become defeating places to live in. Getting lost in the “why” prevents life from being lived. But you know what? Sometimes, the question has to be asked. Why is this the cup we are drinking? Yes, I know it’s for a bigger purpose and, yes, there are times when people will share how their lives have changed because of knowing Reece and his story. I absolutely cherish what people share with me in regard to Reece and his impact here. But that still doesn’t bring him back. It still doesn’t make it easier to be here without him. Sometimes, I just have to ask why this happened to us. Sometimes, when I think about how many times I will likely lay my head down on the pillow to go to sleep or how many birthdays we will celebrate without him or how many times I will have to find a silver lining, it becomes overwhelming. Sometimes the silver lining is only a sliver of silver and sometimes, I get weary of the thought that that’s all it will be here. I know–we aren’t made for this Earth and God has a plan and Reece is healed and this life is but a breath in the scheme of eternity. I know. These are amazing things, truly. But sometimes, when I think about right now and the intensity of everything, it just doesn’t seem like enough.
The second thing that has been tripping me up are all the parenting moments I wish I had done differently. I hate that I wasn’t perfect for Reece. I can’t even write it without tearing up. I HATE that I wasn’t perfect for him. There, I said it. By all accounts, I consider myself a loving, caring, responsible mother. Reece and I are very close. We still are close. But in light of him not being here, I don’t get to have the conversation with him when he is an adult to discuss all the things I wish I would have handled better—all the things he went through as our first child where I probably lost my temper too easily or I expected him to behave when he was being appropriate for his age–maybe even better behaved–in the first place. We don’t get to discuss all the intense and difficult things he endured and we endured as a family, with him throughout his illness. The irony is that he understands that better now than he would have here. He understands it better than we ever will here. He knows my parenting faults better than I do. He knows how his life will be used. He wouldn’t know that if he was here; not the way he does now. So, in reality, I need those conversations. I need that here, as a human, trapped here without him. I need that as Reece’s mom. I need him to somehow need to have the conversation with me–for my sake. In reality, I could be needing resolution on this for another 50 or 60 years here.
As we drove home and I was thinking about these things, I realized that a numbness that I felt about things since Reece passed away had either returned or perhaps never left me in the first place. I have an indifference to try to make these things better on my own. It isn’t that I’m a glutton for punishment, it’s that it is a waste of my energy to do so. Both of these things that cause me so much pain are things that either God will have to release me from here or I will be dealing with for the rest of my time here. I realize and accept that there is no person here that will say something to me to make it better or for me to view it in a different light. I don’t want to go to some therapist to do some exercise about loving myself more as a parent or to tell me, “It’s perfectly normal to ask ‘why’ in situations like this.” Blah. Not interested. It’s my burden to carry. The only release will come from God himself–either here or in Heaven. It’s part of our life’s deal.
On Sunday night, I re-read a passage that I can’t ever remember reading before Reece passed away. I know I sound like a broken record, but I have turned to it numerous times since he passed. I underlined it one of the first times I read it, as it stood out to me in how real it was. The words were so real–like it could have happened in this day and age. As I’ve read it more and more, I had confusion about why I continued to turn to it. I turned to it again on Sunday and it sort of made sense in light of how I was feeling.
“The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the Lord on me. 15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Aviv near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days—overwhelmed.” Ezekiel 3:14-15
Some Bible versions say “deeply distressed”, but my version says “overwhelmed” which is what initially caught my eye. The entire chapter discusses how Ezekiel was being called by God to talk to the Israelites, whether they listened to him or not. It was not going to be an easy task for him. My study Bible discusses how Ezekiel was angry with the Israelites and bitter with them for their defiance, not with the Lord. I personally view it as Ezekiel being overwhelmed with what the Lord was calling him to do. Often times, I feel overwhelmed with what God is calling us to do. I appreciate that this passage speaks to the human capacity to feel bitter, angry, and overwhelmed, even when what makes us feel that way could be completely in line with the Lord’s will. Maybe it’s ok to feel that, because God will still use us, despite our emotions. It seems strange when I reflect on the passage to say this, but it encourages me to know that other people haven’t always felt like willing participants in God’s plan. Despite our humanness, He uses it all for something bigger.