Whenever someone asks me how I am the answer is almost always, "Fine." I know I'm not alone in this. It's "fine," "well," or "good" for most of us, right? No matter what is going on. We could be ill, have just lost a loved one, flat broke, hungry, or contemplating suicide and if someone says "How are you?" our initial answer is "Fine." Because if they really want to know, they will probably ask a few follow up questions and, if they don't, we are going to totally freak them out if we say, "Suicidal."
I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not fine. No one who has survived the loss of a child is really fine. I say this because I run into people who think that because I can get out of bed in the morning, interact in social situations like a relatively normal person (on most days), and smile a lot that the death of my child doesn't bother me. That I don't grieve. That there aren't days when it is very nearly impossible for me to get out of bed. That the checker at Tom Thumb doesn't think I'm on drugs or brain damaged because I'm so spaced out that she has to ask me the same question multiple times (credit or debit should not require deep thought) and then I walk out without my groceries. I have bad days. Really, really bad days.
While this may seem paradoxical what with the whole blog thing and all, I am actually a very private person. I am outgoing and will talk your ear off. In fact, it is very hard to get a word in edge-wise. I will tell you most of the facts about my life with unflinching honesty. When it comes to my emotions, though, there are very few people with whom I will be an open book. Some friends and family have seen a glimpse, but it is mostly reserved for my husband. He knows sometimes I miss my baby so much that I am a raging lunatic.
I don't live there, though. God lifts me above it day in and day out, faithfully and consistently. I know people who live in that space, that crazy, all-consuming grief. My heart goes out to them because I know how it feels and I don't know how they survive it. Sometimes, when it hits me, I am caring for my children and I have to press past it somehow so that I can function. I pray and white-knuckle it through my day. I hate doing that though. I believe that when you repress grief it is just going to boomerang back at you and that, this time, it is going to be stronger. So when I can and the grief hits, I just sit with it. I just experience it, every gut-wrenching moment of it. I wish I could say it was cathartic, that afterwards I felt better, but it's not like that. After the wave is over, I just feel tired and a little sick to my stomach. Sometimes I have a headache. But I have found I have also bought myself a few days, sometimes weeks, of peace.
I think it is important to mention this because I don't want myself and others who are joyful, even in the face of horrific circumstances, to be misunderstood. It is through God alone that we are even standing. The fact that we are standing and smiling is evidence of His abundance alone. It is proof that the promises of the Bible are true and that if you will seek God, love Him, and submit to Him in everything He will bless you with faith, hope, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, strength, and joy overflowing. Before I had surrendered my life completely to God I couldn't stub my toe without making a federal case about it. I was a total drama queen. It is through Him and Him alone that I rise above the darkness and keep from falling off the cliff.
I love the Indigo Girls song "Closer to Fine." For several weeks after Eddie died, I heard it on the radio again and again. It was already many years old at that time so it really seemed like a message, like a touch from beyond. In the lyrics it says, "The best thing you've ever done for me is to help me take my life less seriously. It's only life, after all." I love that line. Eddie did that for me. Yesterday, on the DART rail coming home from the zoo, Baby Boy threw up all over me. When we got home, I washed my shorts...with my smartphone in the pocket. It was one of those days. But, then again, it was a great day. I didn't lose my temper or even bat an eye. Eddie threw up on me more times than I could possibly count and I would give anything to have him here. He could puke on me all over again and I would be nothing but grateful. And my phone is just a phone. It was a great day because I have perspective. I am grateful for the way in which I received this gift of perspective, but you don't have to have a child die to gain it.
You do have to have a Savior, though. He already came and died for you. During one of the first sermons I ever heard at my church, the pastor said if we really comprehended the gift of grace, we would be incapable of being anything but grateful. I love this; it stuck with me. Jesus died for me, so that every sin I have ever committed or am ever going to commit is forgiven. He said it Himself, repeatedly, that I don't have to worry about anything. Nothing. At all. That God is going to take care of me and my only job on this earth is to love God and love my neighbor. And when it is all over I get to join Him in heaven and have an eternity of incomprehensible joy. That is a sweet deal. Yet we Christians, in general, seem especially stressed out and high strung. The modern Christian image is not a person who radiates inner peace and enlightenment. I think it is because most of us are taking life, this earthly life, very, very seriously and lacking a healthy, heavenly perspective. It is within our power to change that. To spend less time on our careers and more time with God. To focus less on politics and more on love. It will definitely help us take our lives less seriously and maybe just move us a little closer to fine.