Four years. Four years since I was growing new life, four years since my bump was growing and was obvious to everyone. Four years since I could feel his kicks from the outside. Four years since I felt his kicks getting weaker and weaker. Four years since I was telling them that something was wrong. Four years since they didn’t listen. Four years since that dream where he was born and glowing, nursing then getting bigger and farther away, then he stopped and smiled at me…then he disappeared. Four years since I woke up from that dream, and felt one last kick and knew he was gone. Four years since I went into the OB clinic and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. Again. Four years since I clutched at my husband’s chest, sobbing loudly. Four years since I lost my second son halfway through my pregnancy. Four years since my world crashed down.
Four years since I held my sleeping James.
Some years, it’s happier than it’s sad. Some years, I hardly notice. I’m noticing this year. Maybe it’s because I just lost my father. Maybe it’s because all the abortion talk floating all over social media, where people think it’s ok to kill unborn and just born children. Maybe it’s because I should have a four year old running around and causing ruckus with his brother. It’s likely all of these.
Whatever it is, it hurts this year. So much.
Of all my pregnancies, that one felt so different. It had an ethereal, divine sense to it. And there was so much God in it. The roses that inexplicably starting appearing everywhere on our wedding anniversary. Hearing that still small voice the entire pregnancy. Knowing he was a boy because I was more intertwined with him than I had been with any other baby, as though he started out already half saint.
The sitting in the hospital bed, fretting over a name. Something that had to go well with John. Because my first son now had a brother with him in heaven. Opening my email that night and seeing the devotion from Blessed is She.
Then the mother of the sons of Zeb’edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”
James. James and John. My sons of thunder.
The priest came in that night, while I labored, on the last night of my 54-day rosary novena, after I told God I wasn’t finishing it that night since my baby was gone. The priest sat down and asked if he could pray with me. I agreed. He then sat next to me and prayed an entire rosary. When a nurse came in later, I asked who the priest was. She said there hadn’t been any priests on the ward that night and was confused.
The next morning when Father James came in to baptize my sleeping son, with his deep Irish accent, and he leaned over my bed. “I heard he put up quite a fight.” “Excuse me, Father?” He leaned in closer. “I heard he put up quite a fight. But, God wanted him home.” I wept. Later I would learn that it was nothing short of a miracle our James held on so long…if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have known about the clotting disorder and would not have our Joseph.
I held him so long. I slept with him on my chest. I didn’t want to let him go. I didn’t want to walk out of that hospital room empty-handed and empty inside. But we did. And then a few days later, we laid his sweet body to rest. My oldest daughter ran around, gathering up the rose petals that perfectly circled the burial shelter. So many rose petals.
Four years since that dark and terrible Lent. My stomach small, my heart shattered, my heart so empty. Four years since I spent a dark Good Friday feeling acutely the pain of His passion and death. Darkness enveloped me deeply, and I prayed for a glimpse of the resurrection on Easter.
Four years since that Easter Sunday when, during Holy Communion, a priest I’d never met put his hand on my shoulder as everything about him glowed. “Jesus will bless your family again!” I leaned in. Again. “Jesus will bless your family again!” I thanked him after Mass, his glow gone, and he had no idea what I was talking about. A year later, my Joseph was laid on my chest, screaming. I wept for an hour, too scared to move. Too scared to make sure he was a boy. I kept asking my husband to make sure, kept asking the doctors if he was indeed healthy.
The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Darkness subdued by the light. Grief overtaken by eternal joy. Death overcome by life. Suffering survivable by redemption.
Four years ago, I wept as my son flew to Heaven. Today, he and his siblings rejoice with my father at the feet of Jesus. Four years ago, death and suffering brought me to my knees and could have destroyed me. But He reached down, took me by the hand, and walked me through it. Four years ago, I held my sleeping son. Two thousand years ago, He came to die for us so that death would not win. Four years ago, I was crushed by death, but saw His the glory of His resurrection.
Four years ago, Heaven gained a saint, I lost my son, by my faith was strengthened. Four years ago, I came closer to God, mourned my son, and rejoiced for eternal life. For, he is not gone. James, John, Josephine. My father. They are not gone. Just gone from me. They are Home. God’s goodness always outweighs the suffering. He redeemed all loss, all death. I see it. I saw it.
Rest in peace, my sweet sons of thunder. Happy Heavenly birthday, James. Hug my dad for me.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.