This sounds absolutely horrible. But it’s real. And it’s raw. And let’s just be honest, we probably all have some thoughts like this. Sometimes when I see photos of hospital rooms, I just breathe a sigh of relief.
I’m so thankful that’s over for me. I’m done there. I’m no longer calling a hospital home. I’m not friends with the nurses or cleaning ladies or texting the doctor friends in the middle of the night. I’ve done my time and it took my child. And I’m done. I have to live this way forever now, remembering that one time we lived in the hospital.
This sounds angry and bitter and so many, many things. What it truly is, though, is fear.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” – C.S. Lewis
Fear of this world and what it can do to me and my family. It’s fear that creeps in during the middle of the night ailments. It’s fear that takes hold at every doctor’s appointment, every paper that asks for my children’s medical history. Every time someone asks me to introduce myself.
“And how many kids do you have?”
The normal becomes painful, the shallow becomes deep. The silence becomes deafening. And I fumble. I fumble around for words to answer just the simplest question. The question that is, to me, an identity. I’m a mother to children. How many children?
At times I’ve answered simply, motioning with my hands to the littles at my feet, “All these are mine.”
Or sometimes I just say, “Right now we have four at home. Right now.” Alluding to more children, grown or gone or to come, perhaps? I let them wonder. I leave it shallow for fear of going deep.
But yet, deep is what I yearn for. Ask me more.
And then in that rare moment when my heart just can’t handle any more hidden secrets. When I feel as though I have forsaken the one I love so dearly when I leave out his name. The invisible pain shifts to my eyes, and I tell them, “These are my children and Thao. He’s in Heaven. He was five. He’s my oldest, my firstborn. It’s painful and hard, but I just cannot leave him out. He made me a mother.” I choke out the words and feel the tension rise. The comfortable becoming uncomfortable.
How long has it been? Five years. It shouldn’t feel this raw, maybe that’s what they are thinking. Hasn’t she moved on? Maybe they just don’t say anything at all. Or maybe they apologize. And the words fall off tongues, “I’m sorry for your loss,” because that’s what they are supposed to do. Be sorry. Have compassion, empathy. But until that loss has a name, how can we feel anything at all?
In life after loss, the little things become big things. The doctor’s appointments, the family tree, the introductions, the new. But the big things, the things that used to consume me, my goals and dreams, those somehow shrink. And life is put into perspective.
And I sigh. The hospital didn’t take my son. The sickness did.
The amazing nurses and kind doctors and gentle cleaning staff fought hard against . . . against death and disease and every single obstacle. But still, I fear. The first fever after Thao died sent me into panic attacks and tears. The first ER visit. The last ER visit. The unknowns. The smells of the hospital. The feeling of being completely and utterly out of control.
The Lord says not to fear. And He tells me He is in control. And I rest. I breathe. I sigh.
This world. It’s far from over, all the chaos and the noise. All the trouble this earth will bring. It’s far from over because I am still living and breathing, and the Lord, well, He’s not finished with me yet. But He tells me He’s making all things new. That He will restore my soul. And He’s preparing a beautiful place for me. A place where I will see Thao and Jesus.
My fears will turn to courage and my mourning to dancing. My tears will turn to joy because He will redeem and restore. He will make all things new.
Although I’d really like to think I’ve paid my price and done my time in the hospital with sick kids. That is not promised. It is not promised I will be free from horrible things like sickness or loss or sorrow, it is only promised that He will be with me through it. So I push back these fears, I push back the lies of safety and contentment being the only good thing. I push back with truth. Truth from His word, truth He has written on my soul, in my heart. When the darkness threatens to overtake, I will be overwhelmed by Him alone.
“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help, my King and my God for to you I pray” (Psalm 5:1-2).
Previously published on the author’s blog