In just a couple of days, we will hit the twins’ first birthday. It will mark the end of one laborious year of hospital stays and surgeries for Asher and one year of soul-crushing grief after losing Luke. Sara and I are so incredibly thankful to God for how He has protected Asher through some harrowing times that included a bowel perforation and ileostomy, a brain bleed, a blood transfusion for extreme anemia, sepsis from a UTI, an ileostomy reversal surgery, and two major bouts with a virus. As I sit here and type, he’s sitting on the floor playing with toys as if he has the perfect life. He’s the happiest baby we’ve ever had despite the things he has gone through in his short little life. He has made so many great strides that most people would probably never know what he has dealt with. We just love him to death. For us, as parents, each event was emotionally stressful, but with each successive trial we learned to be more calm and at peace, knowing that God was in control of everything. We learned to trust hard and pray hard. He’s had so many people faithfully praying for him I believe that the throne room of God was flooded with his name (and ours) over and over again. I am incredibly thankful for the support we have received from our families, our amazing church family, and people from as far as halfway across the globe.
Even though the grief of losing a child can make you feel as alone as Elijah (1 Kings 19:10), I know we were never alone in the least. For those who read this that have been a part of our lives over the last year, I thank you from the depths of my soul for the way you have ministered to us during our hardest times. You may never know what even the smallest act or word of encouragement meant to us.
On one side of the coin is indescribable joy over Asher making it to his first birthday. Though he has some hurdles to overcome still, we count it a monumental blessing to head into year two with this little nugget. On the other side, though, is the profound grief over the loss of his brother, Luke. Parents who have endured the loss of a child know that there is nothing in life that can compare to such an upheaval of the natural order.
For Luke’s funeral, I penned a poem that attempts to describe one aspect of that loss:
I dreamed some dreams for you, my son
Of your life with us once it had begun
I dreamed of singing and cuddling you at bedtime
And of the midnight bonding between your heart and mine
I dreamed those dreams of holding your hand
Of walking on my feet and learning to stand
I dreamed of fixing boo boos with a kiss
And of long-held hugs I can’t bear to miss
I dreamed some dreams of ice cream and bikes
Of learning to read and camping and hikes
I dreamed of graduations and wedding bells
And of singing together and unprompted “I Love You’s”
I dreamed those dreams of watching yours come true
Of you having children and loving them as I do you
I dreamed of you coming to know Christ as Lord
And of serving Him together and loving His Word
I have come to realize that those dreams are not yours; they are mine.
I have come see that my plans are not God’s; they are but mine.
God planned a plan for you, my little love
He planned for you to show the comfort from Heaven above
God designed you to display His mercy to all who come
He designed your story to lift up those who have come undone
God worked a work for you, my baby boy
He worked your time here into a season of joy
God intended you to show the peace we can have
He intended you to be a grand flourish of his love
God purposed a purpose for you, my son
He purposed your life to inspire faith where there is none
God knew you in the womb and long before
He knew you could bring sinners to Jesus’ door
I will love you forever, though I see you no more
I will embrace you forever, when we meet at Heaven’s door
That…is the daily struggle…living every moment pulled between the joy of Asher and the grief of what was lost with Luke. With the loss of a child, it is not just the loss of their company. It is the loss of the life you had planned with them. In every moment, it is almost impossible to look at one and not think, “There should be two.” One of the biggest struggles I have had as a father is in being able to hold Asher. Babies naturally want and need Mom more than Dad in the first couple of years. That’s nothing new. However, I can remember so many times thinking to myself as we sat in church or on the couch in the evenings and looked over at Sara holding Asher (after he refused to be held by me) and thinking, “If Luke was here I’d get to hold my baby, too.” There just aren’t many things sweeter than a baby sleeping on your chest.
Those are the little dreams throughout life that I miss. I have learned over this last year to focus more on the second half of that poem. If God’s Word is true, and I know that it is, then I have to believe that God is using our son to shape us into what He wants us to be (Rom 8:28). As painful as it may be at times, God can and will use this tragedy to both become more like Christ and lead people to Him in the process. Sometimes it is hard to see how that is working, but I know that it is. That, in itself, is the greatest comfort anyone could ask for. As I have pointed out from James to my Bible study class, we should rejoice during our trials because we know God is working in our lives. That doesn’t mean I have to like what happened and be happy about that, but it does give me something to rejoice about in the middle of it. It is during these times that we have the greatest potential to draw closer to Him.
As I look back at our first year with Asher and without Luke, I have to marvel at the perspective I have gained in that time and the personal growth I have gone though. It has been arduous at times, to be sure; but if I look at who I was at this time last year and who I am as I am about to step into Year Two, I have to praise God. None of it has been easy and much of it has been painful, but I believe I am a better husband, a better father, a better Bible teacher, and a better servant than I was on September 26, 2017. I hope you’ll continue to pray and grow with Sara and I as we do our best to walk with God through Sep 27, 2017 and on.