Thursday, June 23, 2016

Two years

This morning Sean crawled over to the bookshelf in our room and pulled our scrapbook of Livia and Lucy’s pictures off the shelf. He helped me turn the pages and smiled and made squeaking sounds as I explained to him that they are pictures of his big sisters who live in Heaven with Jesus.
Tomorrow is the girls’ second birthday. Two years later, but the memories are seared into our hearts and our minds. Holding your twin daughters, knowing you have only hours before you have to say goodbye to them for as long as this life on earth lasts and leave the hospital empty-armed, that's not a memory that is ever going to fade.

One thing about being the mother of babies in Heaven is that you get to know more and more mothers who also have arms aching for their children. Some of them are moms like me who had stillborn babies. Some have babies that died soon after birth. Some are moms whose babies were too tiny to hold, or even to see, yet those precious children are just as real and important and loved and missed as all the others. In the past two years, I have been encouraged by listening to the other moms who are finding their voices, in person, on blogs, on websites, in articles, to declare the value of their babies who never took a breath, and to have the courage to give voice to a grief that so many people still want to ignore. There are people in Nate’s and my lives who have never acknowledged Livia and Lucy, never acknowledged that they are our daughters, that they lived in my womb and died before they were born, that they are real and important and that we love them and miss them so much. And I know that so many other parents who have lost children have those same people in their lives, people who just find it more comfortable never to acknowledge the children whom the parents ache for. And that’s why it gives me joy to see the fierce mother love of friends and even strangers who say, It doesn’t matter what the world says, this is my baby, and I love him (or her, or maybe I don’t know, and that doesn’t matter either) and he is real and he matters, and I will say his name and I will not be ashamed of my grief, nor will I hide my tears for him.
We are so thankful for our rainbow baby, our delightful Sean Peregrine. Rainbow babies are the babies born after the loss of a child, because a rainbow is a symbol of hope, of renewal, of redemption. And it is true that God has used Sean to redeem much of our pain. But it is also true that Sean will never, ever replace our Lucy and Livia. His birth did not end our grief for his sisters, and daily life with him doesn’t make us cease to miss them. Sean is not our only or oldest child, even though from the outside it looks that way. Questions like, “How many kids do you have?” or “Is he your only child?” still tear at my heartstrings. I hate those questions. Does a stranger have the right to know about my daughters? Do I have the right to keep them hidden, when I believe so passionately that their lives matter? There’s no easy way to deal with it. And I feel ashamed of too many times muttering, “Yes,” and leaving as quickly as possible. Should I feel ashamed? It’s so hard to be vulnerable with strangers, especially when there’s no way of knowing how they will react. And yet I want to do what I can towards living in a world where a mother doesn’t have to feel afraid of showing her grief or her love for the babies that she misses.

Tomorrow will be a quiet day. I am thankful to be living in Colorado this year, so that Sean and I and my mother and sisters can go and visit the girls’ grave together. There is so little that we know for certain about Heaven, but I do know that in Jesus’ presence, our little girls are full of pure joy. I also know that they have so many playmates– the babies of my friends and family. I wish they didn’t, because I wish that losing a baby was not such a common thing, but I do find comfort in all our children playing together.

On the girls’ gravestone we had engraved this chorus of a song by Mumford and Sons:

There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
 And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears.
 Get over your hill and see what you find there.
With grace in your heart
and flowers in your hair.

Tomorrow I will cry and Nate and I will Skype and cry together and we will miss our little girls. And we will long for the day when Jesus will wipe away our tears, when He, who is Love, will heal our broken hearts and cast away our fears forever. And we will dream of two little girls, whose live in the presence of grace, wandering hand in hand through the fields of Heaven with flowers in their curly hair.