Two days ago was Dasah’s 2nd birthday. It seemed like the day just crept up on us. Between caring for Jaden, the fullness of life as the holiday season approaches and increased lack of space in our lives, the space to grieve and even anticipate the grief was just not there. We had planned some simple things to do but my heart was somewhat disengaged in the reality of the day that was coming. Another birthday without my daughter here. One loss seems in a strange way emotionally manageable, having two consistently feels like too much.
A friend said earlier in the day “It doesn’t get easier does it.” No. not easier, just different. Each birthday carries with it it’s own set of grief, it’s own set of losses to mourn, of questions left unanswered, of joys from their lives that remind us of hope and a longing for eternity to come quickly. And from year to year, the circumstances in our lives change in such a way that also affects these days. This year included a little baby brother that occupies so much of my mind and space in my heart. I am joyous in that and sad as well. It is the joy and the pain that seem to always go together now.
There was joy as we celebrated Dasah’s life with a picnic with some close friends at the park we had her gender reveal carnival. We let off balloons, blew bubbles, made it rain rose petals and ate jar desserts Kevin had made in honor of the jar desserts we had on his daddy daughter date with Dasah. We went to her gravesite, and shed tears, longed for heaven, read from Romans 8. We watched her video with Jaden in our laps in and out of attention. The day was full of sweet moments but for me, a cloud of sadness was lingering over my heart that I truthfully didn’t quite know how to process. It was different then how I experienced Sophie’s birthday this year.
Perhaps the added heaviness of the day is because there has been additional grief in my heart in this season too. A little over a month ago, a hurricane that left my sisters home unlivable. So we rushed up to help them move their family of 5 to a new home God thankfully provided. But still it was weighty.
3 weeks ago a text from my mom;
“Dear Family, our dear Dawn has passed away. I am in tears. More info later.”
Dawn, cousin to my mom, second cousin to me. Vibrant, energetic, positive, filled with life Dawn. Though I didn’t know her well, I grew up seeing her at family reunions, the ones I could make it too. This past summer was the last time I saw her. I didn’t know it would be the last. We took our rafts off the pontoon boat that slowly drifted away, or we drifted away from it. We chatted about life, death, education, children for what seemed like hours until the non-floaters on the boat decided it was time to head in. You would not have known that she was battling cancer. Her spirit so alive. Her joy so evident. But her death was still quite sudden and unexpected and my heart wept and ached till it felt quite numb. I wept because I hate death and I know grief, and I knew that so many of my family was experiencing a pain I knew all too well. And I wept because I wish I’d spent more time with her, gotten to know her more. Then I felt numb because it felt like too much, this pain, this heartache. And I wondered, how do I enter in? How do I respond? Lord, will you carry this too?
I felt that heartache again this past week as our country responded to a surprising election result. There was and is an ache in my heart as I watched the internet explode with anger, pain, brokenness. I wept as I watched the hateful and hurtful responses, the hurting and fearful responses, the people speaking and not truly listening. We are truly a broken people. And I wonder, how do I enter in? How do I respond? Lord, will you carry this too?
This ache surfaced as I learned of a woman who lost a child after learning she has cancer, another whose child will not live once born, and as we stood at the gravesite of our girls, a new plot next to them. A little boy named Benjamin, born and passed away just a week ago. And the groan is deep and wide. I haven’t even included the countless stories I hear and read about of the brokenness happening in other countries. Have you stopped reading? Is it too much? We live in a world where life and death collide and where we have access to hearing and seeing stories not just from our friends and family, but people in our nation and in countries all around the world experiencing unimaginable heartbreak and brokenness. It draws my heart to deep sadness and also great numbness. And I wonder, does it do that with yours?
Numbness, it’s what I feel often now when I experience tragedy close or distant. Tears that overwhelm, if they come at all, and then I cannot sit in them too long for fear they will over take me. You may think that after losing 2 little girls, experiencing the weight of grief that my capacity to grieve may have grown. When in fact it has shrunk. My compassion and ache for those in pain has grown but my ability to enter into their grief as fully as I would like is so dismal. I can hardly handle the pain of my own loss much less that of the pain of others I so desperately want to enter into. It is too much for the human soul to carry.
It’s why our hearts ache at tragedy we hear of, read about, see on T.V but for a moment and then move on to the next story. The pain we just felt so quickly forgotten. It’s only when the pain hits close to home, or we allow ourselves to sit in the tension of the ache, that we must in fact recognize the weight of it all and give it to the one who can carry it for us.
Jesus, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”, who bore the weight of all the sin and tragedy of this world so that we would be free. Free to not be engulfed and overwhelmed by the sorrow but to enter in to it. What has grieving the loss of our 2 girls done for me but to recognize that the One who has carried our pain, carries the weight of the worlds pain. Imagine, you who grieve, you who know the depths of the pain that grief carries, that Jesus carried not only that grief, but the grief of the entire creation. It is no wonder his sweat became like drops of blood as He prayed in in agony “Take this cup from me, yet not my will by thine” before he willingly went to the cross and bore it ALL. This Jesus, the one who has comforted us, comforts you so that you can in turn comfort others. “Comfort each other with the comfort you have been given.” “Weep with those who weep.” And let the All Sufficient one carry what you can not.
“It grew harder and harder. Even within these four walls there was too much misery, too much seemingly pointless suffering. Every day something else failed to make sense, something else grew too heavy. “Will you carry this too, Lord Jesus?”
A woman named Corrie Ten Boom spoke those words in the midst of the endless tragedy, sorrow and hell she experienced at the hands of merciless officers in a Nazi Concentration camp. But it was only in the giving of the burden to the burden bearer that she could effectually enter into the pain of those around her. It is only when we give our pain to the one who came to “heal the broken hearted” that His healing power can flow through us and into the lives of others. Asking Him to carry this pain, this brokenness, ours and the worlds around us does not absolve us from entering into it. Heavens no! Quite the opposite. It frees us TO enter into it. We can only move forward when the weight that binds us down is lifted. Do we stay where we are when the weight that has kept us paralyzed is carried by another? Of course not. We move, we go, and we tell of the one who has lifted our weight so that theirs can be lifted too.
Do you scroll through facebook, or the news and feel like its too much… this pain, this brokenness? Have you lost a loved one and the thought of entering into anyone elses pain feels so absolutely daunting and overwhelming when you can hardly bear your own pain? Do you hear of broken stories over and over and you feel you should respond with greater compassion but your heart is numb because it simply is too much? Or like me, do you have days where the loss you have experience just feels like too much? Then tell Him, ask Him “Will you carry this too, Lord Jesus?” And discover the “YES” of his response the one that frees you to enter in… to your pain, and the pain of those around you. And perhaps in the asking we’ll discover what Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsie discovered in the most horrific of places, in the most difficult of circumstances, in a darkness most of us will never know;
“But as the rest of the world grew stranger, one thing became increasingly clear. And that was the reason the two of us were here. Why others should suffer we were not shown. As for us, from morning until lights-out, whenever we were not in ranks for roll call, our Bible was the center of an ever-widening circle of help and hope. Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword?… Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.’ I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerers. It was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute- poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be” We are! Life in Ravensbruck took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life we lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.” -excerpt from The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom