Five years ago Lilly went to be with Jesus. Five years. I keep picturing tally marks–one set down an eternity to go. How many will there be before I see her again? If I am completely honest, I would have to say that this past year has been difficult. I don’t know if it’s because I was blessed with another beautiful, healthy baby or if it’s because I attended so many funerals for precious little ones last year. Whatever the reason, I have dealt with so much anger, frustration, and doubt that I didn’t have in the beginning. I used to pride myself on being so strong and not struggling with the those “crisis of faith” issues that so many grieving people deal with. Somehow I felt more spiritual, like I had it all figured out. Grief is a strange and powerful emotion. It doesn’t always play by the rules, and those five stages of grief you’ve heard so much about don’t happen in perfect order and you can flow in out of stages year after year. Anyway, I haven’t got it all figured out. All the questions I’ve had this past year remain unanswered. It’s just hard. It just sucks and that’s okay.
Five years seems so significant to me for some reason. The whole tally mark thing, I guess. A specific block of time. So much has happened in the past five years–moves, babies, new church, new friends. So many of the people in my life now didn’t know Lilly, didn’t know us back then. Five years seems to be enough time that people say things to me now that they never would have said to me a few years ago. It’s like people forget. Not that they forget really. They just don’t think about it. Most often these comments have to do with the birth order of my children. Like they will refer to Emory as my “second” child or Archer as “third.” I’m obviously not talking about people who don’t know our story. Truthfully, there are very few people I’m acquainted with who don’t know I have a daughter who passed away since I talk about it openly and probably too frequently for some people.
I often wonder if I should stop publicly marking every anniversary and birthday. I know these are important dates I want to remember and celebrate (if celebration is an appropriate term here), but obviously everyone else is far less attached to these dates. Here is why I continue to do it–to remind my friends of our sweet girl’s life and of our grief, because I don’t want you to forget. I don’t want you to forget that Lilly was my SECOND child, my second daughter. I don’t want you to forget that I have FOUR kids. I don’t want you to forget that while her life was brief, it was brilliant. I don’t want to to forget her, even if you didn’t actually get to meet her. I don’t want you to forget that this is a loss I will carry forever. More than anything, I want to be able to talk about her like I talk about my living children. I want to tell stories about her and I want you to listen, just like I would listen if you were telling me a story about your child. I also continue to mark these occasions for the sake of my other children–for Liberty who knew her and cared for her and for Emory and Archer who know their sister only through our memories.
Today I remember her. I let myself think about all the painful memories from this day five years ago–those memories I keep tucked away so I can breathe. I remember the hospital, the nurses, the smells, the decisions, and the doctors. I remember what it was like to hold her when she took her last breath. I remember the words I said to Liberty when I had to explain that Jesus came to get Lilly. I also remember everything in between. How it was raining the day she was born. How she wanted me to hold her while she slept. How I sat with her in her hospital bed and read to her from my text books. How doctors and nurses were uncharacteristically attached to her. How soft her skin was. How perfect her lips were. How her little body was scarred from surgeries and needles. How much Liberty loved her. How she defied odds. And, how so very much I loved being her mommy.
Thank you for remembering with me. Thank you for letting us share our lives with you and for loving us along the way. This day always carries with it some sadness and if this was all there was to the story, it would be sad indeed. Thankfully, there is so much more.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV)
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.