It is kind of unbelievable that today (11/25/10), it has been two years since the birth and loss of our son, Ransom. His story is a long one, and I took some time today to reflect on it, and reread some of the things I wrote as it all was unfolding. I shared the story originally as it was happening, via emails and notes on Facebook. I had several people ask me, since that time, to compile them all in one place. That was the basic reason I created this blog. There are three posts containing all the writings from that time, including part 1, part 2, and part 3.
Since that time, so much has changed and happened. God has used our story to minister to many people, and through the story of the loss of our son, brought us many new friendships. I feel like I am starting to get an even bigger picture view of the purpose of my son's life and story. It is not just the chipped paint of a messed-up picture. The pain of that loss was not in vain. God used it to grow me and my family, and continues to use it in very unexpected ways.
Until death hit me this close to home, I can honestly say I had no clue how to deal with it. When a friend lost someone, I had absolutely no idea what to say or do. Unfortunately, that is sometimes still the case; however, I have learned that more than anything, just a willingness to be there and walk alongside someone in their season of loss is enough. The fact that I bear a similar scar almost instantly creates a kindred spirit and mutual understanding. Most recently, I have become part of a Bible study group with a few women who have all suffered loss. We are the Grief Girls, the Death Divas, the Drama Mamas, whatever... hahah. ;) That group has been so encouraging and so interesting at the same time. The group consists of Janice, who lost a brother to suicide and a best friend to breast cancer; Joy, whose husband was recently and unexpectedly taken from her in a tragic accident; Jennifer, whose father was taken to Jesus after battling illness; and me, giving birth to a little one who had gone on before me. We have talked and laughed about how we've covered all the bases as far as loss goes. We've lost siblings, friends, parents, spouses, and children. We've lost them to illness, accident, suicide, and in my case, probably a genetic "fluke." We've also dealt with our loss in very different, yet similar ways. Our little group is proof positive that there is no right way to grieve. In case you haven't gathered from my story or previous posts, I am a fighter. This even came into play when I found out that my baby had died. I suppose we all have that "fight or flight" mechanism that kicks in, and I am much more a fighter than I ever realized I would be. I seriously could not imagine how someone would even survive losing a baby, yet here I am. It is two years later. The story is a glorious one. God has received honor and praise from the loss. God has woven little Ransom into the hearts of many people, and woven my life into the lives of others through the loss. One of my consistent, recurring thoughts in those early days was that I wanted his life to matter. I wanted God to receive the glory. I didn't want to fall. I didn't want God to lose a single bit of honor that He could receive through that season and my son's life. That thought helped me to press on. It continues to help me.
Now as I look back, I honestly remember God more than I remember the pain. I remember God's palpable presence in delivery room #1 at St. Luke's Hospital. I remember Him lifting me up and carrying me through the moments. I remember Him drawing near. I know it was sad. I know how bad it hurt, but that pain rises to the top much less often. I mostly think back and remember it as a beautiful, special thing.
Ephraim remembers a little bit about Ransom, but since Joy's loss of her husband, Bryan, (Benjamin's Daddy, as far as Ephraim is concerned), he has had a lot of questions about his brother and death. I love that we have a perfect brother in Heaven to help us teach him about death. We put his ashes in a small container and put that container inside a Build-A-Bear. Ephraim calls it "Ransom bear" and cuddles with it often. I have a ring that contains a bit of his ashes as well, and his name is engraved upon it. I remember the first time I scratched it, I almost had a meltdown, but then I recognized that the loss of Ransom is part of our life. That story will have dents and dings throughout the years. It will settle in and make itself at home in our lives.
We also choose to remember Ransom by baking his special cake. It is a sweet baby carrot cake. This year, his birthday fell on Thanksgiving day, so we made the cake and added it to our smorgasbord. I feel like the cake is symbolic and more about remembering what God did for us than about Ransom himself. I hope that makes sense. I consider it like the way the Israelites set out a pile of stones to remember what God did for them. We use cake instead of stones, but it is a good tool for family discussion and teaching our children about how their heavenly Father loves them more than we ever will and that there is an eternity beyond this place.
We have some friends and family who are still a bit uncomfortable discussing him. We have others who speak freely. The pain of "wrong words" or "no words" is much more dull at this point. The past two years have given me the ability to have a greater empathy for those who just don't handle grief like me and have no idea what to say or who say the wrong things. The past two years have helped me to remember that I was once that person, and I still am sometimes.
The past two years have also brought us through the pregnancy and birth of another child, our promised little girl, Aspen Elzie. I was looking through our "Thanksgiving Book of Thanks," and it made my heart skip a beat when I saw that in Thanksgiving 2008, we were thankful for "hope for a baby girl." We were not pregnant. We were literally just days out from losing Ransom and saying goodbye to him. I had a dream the night we came home from the hospital, that was the same as my Ransom dream, but included a baby girl. I knew that night that a girl (a big girl with little bits of dark hair) was on the way. On January 13, 2010, she made her grand entrance. Today, she celebrated her first Thanksgiving. How AMAZING is our God!?!?! I am excited to write on this year's page that we are thankful for "OUR PROMISED BABY GIRL!!!" I know that some people who lose babies and have others soon after will sometimes say that they are so thankful for the loss because they never would have had the next child, had they not suffered the loss. I don't know if that's true. I sometimes just think that it would've been pretty cool to have Ransom and then just have Aspen later. ;) However, I would have missed out on a beautiful, amazing, once-in-a-lifetime story. The story, God's story, in which I've been allowed to play a part, is worth the pain.
I don't think I'll ever be quite the same. In fact, I hope I never will be quite the same. I hope that this story has dug its heels into my heart and changed me forever. I still have completely unexpected moments of grief, when the sadness suddenly appears and takes my breath away. That's okay, though. Sadness is good for us all sometimes. I don't want to live a life on the run from pain. I'm not saying I'll be seeking after it, but I won't shrink back. I will stand and fight. I will grieve well.
So on this Thanksgiving day, I am thankful for my son who has gone to be with Jesus. I am thankful for the acute pain of the days surrounding his birth. I am thankful for the chronic pain that will stay with me to some degree for all my days. I am thankful for the story. I am thankful for the beauty for ashes that I've received in my daughter. I am thankful for the lessons that I can teach my children through this loss. I am thankful that they have a perfect, heavenly brother. I am thankful for the friendships and ministry that have been birthed from this loss. I am thankful for a God who sees the beautiful mural when I am only able to see the chipping paint. I am thankful for a God who knows that even chipped paint is a beautiful thing.