By Guest Blogger Sarah Jenkins
The first year of the last decade held the most devastating moments I have ever walked through.
I began 2010 thrilled to be expecting our second child. By St. Patrick’s Day, our hearts were shattered with the knowledge that our baby would not live. In the early morning hours of the 5th of July, Violet Grace was born. Thirty-two hours later, as I held her on my chest, and my husband held us both in his arms, she died.
In those hours, I saw the face of God … His power, His Grace, His love. I did not believe that I could survive the ripping of my heart. I did not believe that a shattered soul could sustain life. Yet somehow, the spirit can endure of its own volition.
The days and weeks that followed were filled with an ache that cannot be explained to those who have never had to feel its sting, yet in them, somehow, there were also flickers of unexpected light. We came home from the hospital with empty arms that should have been full. My body hurt when milk came and there was no one to drink it, but then our first born, McKinley, two at the time, made me laugh through tears as she crawled into bed with me, placing a cabbage leaf on her tiny chest to match the ones I’d turned to in desperate need of relief … and then taking tiny bites of her leaf every minute or two. The sound of laughter was both foreign and familiar. No, we would never be the same, but yes, we would live again.
That October, I turned 30. I couldn’t celebrate because I had envisioned that day as one filled with joy, surrounded by family and friends, with me holding my infant in my arms, but she wasn’t here. My husband and I fell and somehow got back up again. Sometimes we could carry each other’s weight. Sometimes we could not. We weren’t the parents we had been for McKinley. Those people were gone, but yet, she continued to grow … like Queen Anne’s Lace, beauty breaking through the jagged, rocky terrain. The light she shone in our darkness was a balm to our brokenness.
And there were others … people who loved us well. When there was nothing they could do to take away our pain or to make it worse, they simply stood beside us. They mowed our grass and left coffee on our porch. They fed us. They kept calling or texting even though I never answered. They prayed. They let us show up in their yards and play with their dogs even when I couldn’t be around other people. They took us as we were, as unpredictable as that could be, and they stood in the gap for us. Some of these angels are still in our lives. Others have come and gone. To each, I will always be grateful.
Life went on. McKinley turned three and started preschool. I spent much of each morning she was gone crying for what was and what could never be. I wanted to leave my skin and the pain of this world behind, but my heart kept beating. “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” God spoke those words to Job, and I claimed them as my own, but I did not see the way from here to there. One breath. One step. One day. Time marched. Time flew. Time crept. I lost my bearings. I lost my margins so each nerve was exposed. I felt everything more, and at times, it was blinding. Other times, things were clearer than they had ever been. The beauty in this world shone brighter. The unnecessary slipped away. We survived. Most days, that’s all we could do.
Then hope crept in.
I didn’t find out until years later that he was called a rainbow baby, but we found out nine years ago, on New Year’s Eve 2010, that Gait was going to join our family. It is easy to misunderstand the term and think that having a rainbow baby means that the storm has passed and only joy remains. That is too much to put on such tiny shoulders. No, the storms still come, but rainbows, and these babies, remind us of the promise that, though the water shall rise, we shall not be overcome. Even in the deepest dark, there is still room for light. This is what my third child has shone me. No, he wasn’t the one who made me a mother and taught me the depth of loving another heart that is both a part of me and beyond my reach, and he’s not the one whose soul print remains forever on my chest where she breathed her last breaths, but he is the one who showed me that my heart could learn new love again. That life is unexpected and beyond my control, but that just when I feel I cannot go any further, I can turn the corner and see home on the horizon.
I’d like to say that the other nine years of this past decade have been smooth and so filled with God’s bountiful blessings that it is easy to see His plan as it unfolds, but those words would not be true.
Yes, there have been blessings. Watching Gait and McKinley grow and spread their light in this world is a joy and a miracle. Feeling deep connection with other souls, in joy and in sorrow, has filled me with a love for humanity and a glimpse of God’s grace that leaves me speechless. Having the love of my husband and for my husband that has withstood trials we could never have believed is a gift beyond what we could have imagined when we promised our lives to each other. Though it’s not always easy, I have learned to laugh again.
But there has been darkness too. This world of ours is just so broken. We’ve lost friends and family. We’ve been hurt by people we love, and I am sure we have hurt others as well. We have gone through physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual trials. We have had to watch our children walk through pain we could not take from them. It doesn’t feel right after the loss we have sustained, and sometimes I have been filled with anger over the things I cannot change.
Sometimes I have been embittered as the darkness in this world closes in, but then, just at the last second, a spark of light catches my eye. A friend with a kind word. A warm breeze on my skin. The laughter of my children. Unexpected Grace. Forgiveness. The sunshine. The thunderstorms. The rainbows.
I don’t know what this coming decade will bring. I grieve all that I have lost in the last one, even as I celebrate all I have been given. I dare not imagine the next ten years. How could I even begin to after the things I have seen and come to know? But I am here, and I am as ready as I can be in this human body of mine. And I choose Joy. I choose Grace. I choose Light. I choose Love. I choose to walk by faith even when I cannot see.
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