June 16th, 2016
A couple of weeks ago, a picture fell off the wall in my Sunday school room.
I had been told the floor needed to be cleaned before women arrived,
but I didn’t expect to find such a large amount of shattered glass waiting for me.
As I knelt down to begin the work of making the floor safe again,
I couldn’t help but notice the picture right in front of me.
Jesus, inviting me to His table.
He understood what shattered lives feel like,
and He was right there in the mess with me………
just like He’s always been.
It was comforting knowing I wasn’t alone in the middle of so much brokenness.
Doesn’t God always show up when we need Him most?
On this particular day, He not only showed up but also reminded me of this:
We can only pick up one piece of brokenness at a time.
No matter how carefully I looked for tiny pieces of glass, though,
I would turn and find even more…………..
Tucked in the weaving of the carpet.
Waiting for a vulnerable, bare foot to pierce.
Brokenness has a way of hanging around and resurfacing in different ways on different days.
And no matter how hard I tried,
I knew I was missing some of the sources of future pain.
I realized in that moment that my own broken life continues to be a series of journeys across a carpet of shattered glass.
When I had done the best I could at picking up the shard pieces of the frame and had the help of someone with a vacuum cleaner, I found another Sunday school teacher who had a box I could use to carry everything to the dumpster.
My mom taught me to always think about the garbage man when throwing away broken things………..
so I labeled the box with all kinds of warnings.
I knew one wrong move and the hands of anyone reaching for this box could be damaged forever.
I saw myself as I wrote the warnings:
And I realized something as I placed the last piece of tape over the lid of the box.
Every grieving parent is a box of broken glass.
Trying to hold things together in a way that won’t hurt anyone else,
but often falling very short.
Forgive us if our pain has somehow hurt you too.
Today, I can’t stop thinking about the parents of the toddler whose life was taken so tragically just two days ago in Florida.
I feel my own breaths deepen as I try to somehow carry their pain in my own inhales and exhales.
I picked up my fork to take a bite of dinner last night, and
I was overwhelmed by the memory of trying to eat after losing my own children……..
when the only thing I wanted was them back.
I’d never eat again if I could just hear their voices…………see their smiles.
I read the first news story about the Disney incident while sitting on the beach yesterday.
The waves in front of me lost all their beauty as I pictured the tsunami of anguish overtaking every aspect of this mom and dad’s live as their vacation became a nightmare in just a matter of seconds.
A witness shared about hearing the sound of the mom screaming,
and I was reminded of all the neighbors opening their front doors the morning our daughter died……………..
as Tim ran down our street screaming with Adrienne in his arms.
One friend who lived on our street said, “I knew immediately someone had died.”
Sixteen years later, I ran through the field across from our house, screaming, after receiving the call from Tim that Nick’s cancer had spread to his lungs and back.
A friend ran to catch me.
In that moment I think she knew I was trying so hard to run away from life.
Nick was going to die.
Cancer was winning.
And all I could do was run.
It’s been 24 years since Adrienne died of SIDS and almost 8 years since we said goodbye to Nick,
and yet it feels like yesterday every single day.
The heart-wrenching pain of losing a child is something I wish on no one.
This week I’m on vacation in Myrtle Beach –
the first trip Tim and I have ever taken without children since becoming parents-
but my heart is in Florida with a mom and dad I will probably never meet.
I picture their suitcases and all the things they packed for a perfect trip.
I think of all they will face when they return home.
Do they have a calendar on their frig counting down the days?
I hated calendars for so long after losing my daughter and my son and still find myself second-guessing the making of too many plans.
Who am I to know what tomorrow will hold?
I remember the coroner going to our kitchen to find anything Adrienne had possibly consumed as he left with her to do the autopsy.
He turned and touched my hand as he walked out the door, saying,
“I’ll be gentle.”
Why that made me feel a little better, I do not know.
I do know this, though:
If you’ve never lost a child you’d better be quiet today, tomorrow, and the next day about any opinions you have of parents who have been forced to walk this road of grief.
You’d better hush about what you think of any parent who turns around to discover that life is filled with dangerous things and sometimes those things get a step ahead of us and shatter our world forever.
As a matter of fact, you’d better not voice any opinion about how they or I should be walking through life today because the truth is:
We, like you, are doing the best we can.
I’ve had an unsettling sense of anger bubbling just under my skin for some time now,
and this tragedy in Florida has removed the lid.
And I just have to say it:
I’m sick of people judging people.
I’m done with people trying to figure out how things could have been prevented yesterday when the only thing we can really control on this planet is our reaction to pain and suffering.
“In this world you will have trouble.”
A very wise man uttered those words a couple thousand years ago,
and they’re still true today.
The month after Adrienne died new research surfaced about the danger of having your baby sleep on his/her stomach.
New conversations began to emerge about the danger of mattresses being too soft or too many blankets in a crib leading to suffocation.
I had to navigate grief while being bombarded with news that left me feeling guilty,
wondering what I could have done differently so she never would have been taken from my world.
I’ve never been the same since her death.
My sons and husband were left with a broken, anxious, over-protective mom who tried her best to press on,
but inside I was broken and crumbling.
The births of two more sweet boys and the adoption of a precious little girl from India seemed to force me back into a busy, full life;
but underneath I was a mess.
Death became the silent visitor at every holiday gathering and every family reunion from that moment on.
And this poor mom and dad in Florida have been forced to now include him too.
When Nick began having headaches, the words “brain tumor” came out of my mouth before he’d even seen a doctor.
I remember the gasp of my friends when I said I was afraid he might have one,
but what they didn’t realize was this:
Once you’ve been forced to watch your husband carry one tiny coffin,
your mind has a way of wondering if the next worse thing is waiting right outside your door.
The truth is we can purchase every kind of lock and alarm.
We can buy every kind of safety equipment.
We can eat all the right foods and take all the right vitamins
and still find ourselves standing in a cemetery doing the unthinkable.
Burying our child.
So I’ve found myself feeling extremely angry the past two days,
because there’s a world of people out there thinking they could have prevented this tragedy had this been their child.
Maybe you could have kept Adrienne alive too or even Nick.
But I don’t think so.
And I definitely don’t want to know if it’s true.
What would it change about the pain of our loss except make it worse?
And does making a grieving mom or dad feel worse really make you feel better?
I hope not.
Be quiet, world.