I’ve been thinking about Eli a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I have friends hurting because their babes are with Jesus and not with their mammas.
There comes a point in grief where there’s an acceptance. Not really an acceptance that is embraceable, but an acceptance, that is sure. A time when I knew that my son was safe. My son was with Jesus and he’s ok. I’d prefer that he’d be with me, but he’s with Jesus and he’s safe.
In March of 2008, I knew that I had to start doing something. My heart was hurting a lot. Ellison was soon to be one and Eli would have been turning two in a month and I felt like I was still stuck in a rut. I felt like I had a good excuse for my rut, but I felt like I was learning NOTHING from my pain.
At church they had starting going through How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp. An excellent book. Mike and I had been to a intensive that they held at church for leaders and we had been wanting to go through the book more slowly to get more out of it. So, I heard through the grapevine that a group of ladies was going to be going through the book in the morning, so I thought I’d join them. I already knew about the book and I knew that it would be hard. It’s an honest, real book about suffering, grace and Jesus. It didn’t sugar coat the Gospel or suffering, and it talked about real life. The hardness of it and the grace that only Jesus can give us to get through it.
So, Mike and I talked about it and I jumped in with both feet.
The first few chapters are about suffering and the Heat of our world. The struggles. The pain. I felt like I knew that part too well.
As the middle of April approached, I ws getting more and more anxious for Eli’s birthday. Once the month turnsedover to April 1, I felt my anxiety sky rocket. Questions like, what should we do? Should we go out to dinner? Should we go away for the weekend? Should Mike and I crawl into a hole? Do I want to be by myself? and on and on…
Eli’s birthday was on a Friday that year, and we met for our Bible Study on Thursday mornings. The ladies in my smaller group knew that the next day was Eli’s birthday. One kind friend brought a book and a card for me. I felt like I could make it through. I kept thinking, “I can do this. No problem. Just stay focused. Don’t cry. No one else needs to know.”
As we left our smaller group and going into our larger one, I thought that I would be just fine. The heartfelt, gut wrenching, honest talks were over. The rest would be a breeze.
We sang a couple of songs, before we started and the first one was “It is Well”. I love that hymn. Love it. It’s been a favorite since I was in high school and the words are amazing. It was also sung at Eli’s service. It was played. It was sung and I started to get angry. I thought, “Unbelieveable! Of all days! We have to sing this?!”
Then I thought, “Ok. It was just a song. Only 30 more minutes and I can jet out of here. I’ll be ok.”
We started talking about how life is hard. How we struggle. The heat of life. The heaviness of it. I’m sitting there thinking, “You have no idea!” My heartache. My pain that day was so great and so heavy. I was trying my darndest to not let anyone see. I was ready to escape. To jet. To go buy another motorhome, pack up the kids, pick up Mike from work and GET OUT!
The study was coming to a close and I was thinking that I was almost free to run. But then, it was read. II Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” This verse was on the cover of the program for Eli’s service.
I couldn’t control myself any longer. I broke into heartwrenching, gut-like sobs in front of 20+ women. Most of whom didn’t know about Eli and were probably wondering why I had suddenly lost it. My heart was broken into to tiny pieces. I was mad. Furious really. Why would THIS song be sung and THIS verse be read on THAT day? Didn’t they know?!
Not one of those ladies had been at Eli’s service (at least I don’t think they were….if you were please forgive me…). None of them knew what had been sung or read. Not one. There was no way I could hold a grudge against them. It wasn’t fair. It was a battle within myself.
I was on my way home and I called a friend. A dear friend. Not one that I talk to often, but one who knows pain. After the “how are you’s?” she said, “How are you really? I know that tomorrow is Eli’s birthday.” I went off! A whole, “You wouldn’t believe” story, about what had just happened. A bunch of, “Why today?”, “I don’t get it’s”. “It’s not fairs”…and the list goes on. She listened quietly. Patiently. Lovingly. Then she said, “You know, I think Jesus is trying to tell you something. I think He’s trying to tell you that He remembers. He remembers Eli. He’s holding him for you today and He knows how much you’re hurting. He loves you very much.” I was silent. I was stunned and I let it sink in. I let it sink in deep. I thought about that for a long time. Throughout the rest of the day it rolled around in my head. It wasn’t anything profound. I “knew” it already, but somehow that day I was GETTING it.
The next day, Eli’s birthday, some friends were coming over to watch the kids, so Mike and I could get away for the night and stay in Seattle and spend Saturday together. I woke up, and I was at peace. I hurt and I was broken, but I was at peace. All day. Peace. Contentment. Certainty. Grace. Jesus. It was all Jesus.
Mike and I left that evening and had a great overnight and day on Saturday. We walked around Seattle. We talked. We held hands. We were silent. We listened. We laughed. It was a nice sunny day in April. (That doesn’t always happen around here.) We even ended the day with a BBQ at a friends house with the family and Josiah went fishing.
We need to grieve when our children have died. When a loved one dies. It’s not an easy fix. It’s not something that we can just “get over”. It’s an experience that is branded in our hearts forever. It is something that is carried like a backpack full of rocks on our back. There are days that are hard. Excruciatingly hard. There are days that are lighter, but they’re still hard. Jesus is there every step of the way, but for me, it was that one day. That one moment. When my dear friends said those words to me, I knew that it wasn’t going to get easier, but I’d be ok. There’s still junk that I have to work out and work on, but I know where Eli is and I know that I will see him again. I also know that Eli has a nice group of friends, because I know their mammas and I love them dearly. I like to think that maybe we’ll say hi to Jesus and then He’ll put our children back in our arms and we’ll all share a beautiful moment of reunion together. Parents and their children back together again. Pure joy. Joy that our Savior has saved us and we’re with Him forever and joy that families are reunited. I don’t know how theologically sound that is, but it’s a nice thought.
When I hear It is Well or Solid Rock or read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, I don’t get angry anymore. I listen to the painful, yet hopeful words and I rest. I rest, because I’m reminded again that Eli is safe. He’s with Jesus. Jesus just reminded me of that. I like to be reminded of that. It’s kinda comforting. It’s ok.
It is Well with My Soul by Horatio G. Spafford
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I guess my point is that the loss is real. It’s very very real. And it hurts more then words can express, but at some point Jesus lessens the pain. And it’s only He who can comfort. It’s hard in the thick of it. In the beginning. Somehow it gets a little better and I think it’s different for everyone. When that moment will be is between the hurting and Jesus.