Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Spacious Place

It all started with a pair of pink ballet shoes. Or maybe it was the tutu, or the leotard, or the tights. Actually, it was probably the whole package: full ballet dress on one adorable three year old girl, who asked me in a small voice if I was going to come and watch her dance class. A little girl born just a few days after our precious Leah, a little girl Leah would have played with, and thus, a little girl who unfailingly makes me think of the little girl I am always missing.

Of course I was going to the class, how could I say no? Also, I had an ulterior motive - I wanted to hang out with her mom. Thus, I found myself in a parks and recreation department ballet/tap combo class, just like the one I attended at that age, watching a whole room full of three year old girls (and some who looked decidedly older) attempt to line their feet up in the correct positions and execute a plié. It was adorable. It was also very hard to watch.

It's funny how as time goes by and you work through your grief, certain things that were once intolerable, like holding babies or attending baby showers, become normal again. Others, like visiting maternity wards, do not. I have forced Jeff to deliver many a tiny baby blanket on my behalf, because I cannot stand the thought of going in. For the longest time I could not be around babies. At all. And I think that's fine. I've learned that perseverance is not the equivalent of rubbing salt in your wounds, perseverance is learning how to move forward in a healthy way in your new reality.

It's also funny how as you move further from loss, the things that sting change. Leah wouldn't still be a baby, so babies don't remind me of her. Three year old girls do, especially ones (like my friend's daughter) whom I imagine Leah would play with, or daughters of friends whose pregnancies coincided with or closely followed mine. It can be difficult at times to be around children that remind me of Leah, but it is no longer debilitating. My wounds are not fresh, and my life is so full of joy that when sadness surfaces it does not have time to linger.

In the book my Tuesday bible study is reading the author talks about an interview Barbara Bush gave in which she discussed the loss of her three year old daughter to cancer four decades prior, yet all those years later talking about the experience brought Bush to tears. The woman who conducted the interview concluded that even though she wasn't a parent, she believed that when someone loses a child they can never be totally happy again. The author agreed, writing, "Should any of my children precede me into heaven, I think I would always feel a touch of sadness, a wound in my soul, that in this life would never completely heal. Yes, I might have moments of laughter and fun - but every time I met someone with my child's name or came across something that reminded me of that child, I don't think the time would ever come when I would become callous and impervious to pain. Nor - and this may be the most significant statement yet - would I want to be."

I think that quote captures it perfectly. As time moves forward, life fills up with happiness. In our case, life overflows with it. But there are always those moments that get you, like ballet class got me. Last week Tommy was playing with a cute little girl at the zoo who was just slightly younger than him (and by "playing with" I mean coloring on both his art project and hers). As we were gathering his craft and preparing to leave, I heard her mom address her, "Leah..." and immediately I felt the tug on my heart, the touch of sadness. That's just how it is, and how it probably always will be.

I haven't decided what I think of the statement about "total happiness," maybe because I'm not sure what that really means. Yes, something is always missing. Yes, certain things will always be bittersweet. But no life is free of pain, or longing, or missing, or regret. If complete happiness requires a person who is whole, one who is unscathed, who would ever experience it?

We all have our scars.

A friend recently told me that she thought of me when she read the following verses in Psalm 66:

10 For You have tried us, O God;
    You have refined us as silver is refined.
11 You brought us into the net;
    You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
12 You made men ride over our heads;
    We went through fire and through water,
    Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.

I love the last line in verse 12, which other versions translate as "a land of plenty," "a fruitful place," "a place of wealth," or "a spacious place." There will always be sadness, but there will also be abundance. No matter what we suffer, God will bring us to a place that is fruitful. I know, because I live in a spacious place.


Nicole said...


I'm thankful for Leah, and love to read about what God is doing in your family now xox

Tom said...

I love you and pray and thank God that He is providing you a spacious place.

Chelsea Lee said...

i love you and your sweet words. thank you for sharing your heart.

Holly said...

Thank you for sharing about your sweet Leah and your heart. I felt encouraged and reminded of God's faithful and lasting love. Holly

Delia said...

...Love this and I'm encouraged by it. Thanks for sharing :)

Candi and Skeet said...

I love this post! You have such a way with words and you were able to say exactly what I feel!! Thank you!!