It has been nine months since I wrote my last post. Nine months ago I was grieving, empty, fighting daily to find joy and hope in a world where our precious first baby no longer existed.
Nine months later, I hold the gift of healing, of answered prayers and silent tears wiped away. When we buried our baby God gave us a name: Hope, a "confident expectation of good." We had no idea what came next in our story, if we would struggle to conceive or never have children or immediately get pregnant again. But we knew that, regardless of circumstantial outcomes, God was GOOD. And just two months after we said goodbye to Hope, I was pregnant with our Elissa - "promised of God." Now she is here, and perfect, and we love her more than we ever thought possible. We couldn't know it at the time, but she is the good that God promised in our time of despair.
I typed these words on September 30, 2014, five days before my husband was killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the interstate. He had been working night shift and got sent home early, around 3 am, to enjoy his day off with me and our newborn baby girl. He didn't suffer, the sheriff told us - one moment he was on the highway and the next he was standing in the presence of God. My world has been shattered. What I've always known to be true about God is no doubt still true, yet it has been unspeakably difficult to connect what I believe to what has happened to me.
When I initially started this blog, I spent weeks thinking of a creative and meaningful title. One day the name "Taste and See," came to me so clearly that I knew it was God-inspired. Psalm 34:8 says, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!" I so named my blog and started posting away, with no idea that my belief in and acceptance of God's goodness would soon be tested to the extreme.
I spent much of 2013, a year defined by dashed dreams, relearning what the definition of God's goodness really meant. My last blog post, written over a year ago, describes the fight for hope after our first baby had been laid to rest under a memorial stone in our back garden. Yet in the wake of our baby's death, Nate and I found comfort and genuine joy in just being together. Our favorite saying that year became, "at least we have each other." Now, under this cruel and crippling loss, I can never say that again. I don't have him. He has been taken from me, and I am left to assemble the broken pieces of our life into some crude and horrifying new normality.
I've largely avoided deep and intimate conversations since October 5. I dread questions about how I'm doing. Trying to put a world without Nathan into words feels ludicrous and trite; the most apt phrases are gross understatements. My world is a sea of constantly fluctuating emotions; one minute I feel okay and the next I have no idea how I will keep breathing. Many days I wake up and all I have to look forward to is when it will be time to sleep again. I both dread and anticipate time's passing: in one sense I hate the relentless days and weeks that move Nate further and further into my past, into "what once was." In another sense time flies so quickly and each new day is another step towards that final cliff I long to walk off of into an eternity with him.
The future takes my breath away in its numb bleakness. Life, which held all I wanted as long as I had my Nate, now seems like a long dark threshold that must be crossed before I can be with him again. Yet in the midst of my sorrow, the unfairness of being left on this earth without the better part of my self, there are things that I know that I know that I know to be true. These truths enable me to make it through the next five minutes, to love my daughter and fight the fears of losing her, too. These truths lift my eyes from the dreary road I'm left to walk alone and offer me hope if I choose to grab hold of it:
- On October 5, the day Nathan was killed, the verse of the day was Psalm 34:8.
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
God intentionally reminded me of His unchanging character and goodness when my life lay in broken pieces at my feet. God is who He says He is. My personal circumstances do not alter His character and His promises.
- Nathan, at this moment and for every moment of eternity, is being overwhelmed by Love. And God doesn't love him any more now that he's in heaven - that same unconditional, all-satisfying Love is available to me now.
- Nathan is not dead. He is alive in heaven, waiting and interceding for me, and he is completely free. He is uninhibited by sin and human limitations; he is fully himself as he was always meant to be and fulfilling the eternal purpose he was created for.
- God has never promised me answers. He doesn't owe me anything (when Job's life was shattered he reasoned, "shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?"). I will never grasp with my finite human understanding why Nate was only given 26 earthly years. What God has promised me is a peace that will surpass all understanding.
- Nate's early dismissal from night shift did not surprise God. Neither did a drunk driver screaming down the wrong side of the highway in his lane. All his days were divinely ordained, before one of them came to be. And God never turned His back - He was right there, with open arms, welcoming Nate into Paradise.
- Nathan is home. He has everything he ever wanted, and infinitely more. He was created for fellowship and union with God, and when I join him on eternity's shore we will be in the presence of God together, forever.
These truths don't annihilate the pain. Every day is a fight to believe and to trust when I just want to sleep and wake up on the other side. I've had to make decisions regarding my grieving, my perspective, and my relationship with God. On January 2, Nathan's 27th birthday, I chose to press into the Lord when it felt the most unnatural. The circumstances surrounding Nathan's departure from earth were not random; they did not happen by chance. They were allowed by a God who has surgically removed so many things from my life already. On October 5 He cut out my heart. It makes no logical sense for me to run into His arms. But if I push Him away, this loss will destroy and define me. I am doing my best to imagine Nathan's now eternal perspective and adopt it as my own. If he could say one thing to me now it would be, "just wait, this is all so worth it." He would tell me to finish strong, to never give up, that God is so much more wonderful then anyone could ever imagine. Nathan spent his birthday worshipping in the presence of the Lord, so we did too. His family and closest friends and me, united by our pain, laid our souls bare before the Lord and worshipped - like Job, who, when his entire world was torn from him, fell on his face and worshipped.
Elissa Rose both breaks my heart and comforts me. She has so much of Nathan in her, and I can't begin to imagine raising his child without him. She will miss out on so many traits that made him the best man I've ever known. Thank God that He promises to be a Father to the fatherless. And, in her own baby way, I think she knows. Every picture that she's ever seen of Nate she talks to, reaches for and kisses. She will grow up to bedtime stories of her daddy, and his face will be the first thing she sees when she wakes. She has given me purpose in a world now largely devoid of meaning; she is a tangible piece of Nathan's legacy and will grow to do amazing things. Already she is my dream girl - content and happy and full of personality and so beautiful. We are the best of friends and I am so grateful for her. I just hope Nathan can see how much comfort he has left me through her.
Every ounce of my "normal" has been obliterated, yet I am keenly aware of the ocean of prayers that has borne me up with a supernatural buoyancy. I am floundering, but I have not drowned. I am crippled by grief, but not destroyed. This is in no way of credit to me. Navigating a cross-country move, mothering a newborn, dealing with a mountain of financial and practical and legal matters while trying to wrap my head around my new role as a 26-year-old widow is not humanly possible. Elisabeth Elliot said that those whose loss is greatest receive the greatest share of grace, mercy and peace. This has certainly been true in my case, and much of that grace has been in the form of prayers and gifts (of time, money and practical assistance) from countless friends and strangers. God knew that I could not do this alone, and He has rallied the troops to surround and lift me up in ways that I could never have imagined. Friends, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.