Each of my kids have unique requests of me at bedtime. When I say goodnight to them in their beds, one will ask for my specific prayer over something, one asks for a back rub. I get requests to “way down wiff me?” or “wock me in the wocking chair?”
Mason’s request, as the house was quieting and calming at the end of the day, tucked in his bed with his favorite blankie, was to sing a song together.
As loudly as we possibly could.
He liked it to be really quiet first and then we would start by screaming out, “Go tell it on the mountain…!” And after coughing a bit after yelling the loudest at “Jesus Christ is Born!” we would do his all time favorite song. “Mom, now let’s sing New Day Dawning.”
I don’t ever hear that song now and not think of Mason. (Granted, I am never not thinking of him…) But when I hear it, I am transported back to that little boy’s bed, singing at the top of my lungs, hearing his satisfied, naughty laugh when, from down the hall we would hear, “Be quiet!” “I’m trying to sleep!” “Stop doing that! It’s so obnoxious!”
I still hear him singing along any time it came on the radio or saying the chorus to someone when they would ask, “What song is New Day Dawning?”
“Bless the Lord Oh my soul. O. O. O. my soul? That one?” he would answer quickly with a duh look on his face. (After all, who doesn’t know New Day Dawning?)
When I hear that song, I also think of that Sunday morning Mason died. He left this earth as a new day dawned outside that hospital window. As the sun came up and we sat alone in that hospital room, I was overwhelmed with shock and disbelief and pain and emotions that do not even have words.
Sometimes, when a new day is dawning, I think, “How am I going to make it through another day?” and I hear Mason’s favorite song in my head and I pray, “Lord, please help me to still be singing when the evening comes.” And I am reminded that the Lord has been faithful each and every second since Mason left this earth and His name is great and His heart is kind. And His mercies are new everyday.
People often ask if it gets easier. That perhaps losing a child is similar to phasing out of an addiction. As time goes on, you crave that thing less and less. It becomes a distant memory from long ago.
But I think losing a child is more similar to needing water. The longer you go without it, the more you long for it. The thirst grows and the silence created by the absence becomes deafening.
The memories of Mason do not fade. I have not slowly adjusted into being ok with a family of 5. Every time I set the table or count out how many chairs we need at church, or when someone asks me, “How many kids do you have?” my heart physically hurts. There just is no new normal or being “ok” with Mason being gone. I do not forget him or get used to life without him.
But that absence in my heart, that missing part of my very being, has caused me to cling to Jesus more than ever before in my life. That in itself is a gift which brings beautiful clarity to the realities of this world.
This long journey of grief has brought along with it a necessity to slow down in life. There is no additional energy for things beyond the basics… just meeting my kids needs. And breathing.
I do not look to fill my days with activities or other interests. My schedule is: what do the kids need? And God gives me the strength for whatever that is.
Grief has forced me into a season of quiet. Of a season of being a homebody. And I am thankful for the slower pace. All I want most days is quiet and nothing on the calendar.
What has become so beautiful as a result of this quiet, is hearing God in the midst of it. An inability to fall back to sleep when anxiety wakes me in the pre-dawn hours, brings me out where I read God’s word and pour over truth. I journal the things God is teaching me, the memories He brings me of Mason. I spend much more focused time in prayer for the needs of my family and my own struggles.
God is not a supplement to my life. He is my life. His presence and power have sustained me, guided me, and protected me through this valley of the shadow of death. I have feared no evil because He has truly been with me.
And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.
And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13
Often the Lord’s power and presence is not what we expect. We want Him to move mightily, but instead He speaks gently, softly. So softly, we must be very still to hear Him.
Not just hear him, but to be in His presence. To know Him.
The still, scary quiet of life is actually a gift. It opens our ears to the whisper of God.
As I have sat in the quiet before the Lord this last year and half, through His word, I have heard God as never before. I know Him in a way I never expected.
In the stillness that has been created, my moments in the presence of God have multiplied. My reliance on the Lord has increased. My perspective of the things of the world has been refined and clarified. My faith has strengthened. My hope has grown.
My view of God and my understanding of His power has become richer and more meaningful than I could ever imagine.
Not because of a burning bush, His audible voice or the parting of a sea. But because His still quiet voice has breathed truth into my life.
Trials in life can bring us to a point of desperation. We cry out to God and sometimes, in our impatience, expect His quick and powerful answer. We want a burning bush, an explosive storm, an earthquake. We want to see loaves and fish multiplied and the walls of Jericho crumble before us.
But we often miss that God sometimes speaks most clearly and most powerfully when we are silent and still before Him, immersing ourselves in His word, waiting with the patience and confidence that comes from trusting in the assurance of His sovereignty.
The earth may not quake, lightning may not flash. But God speaks. God is at work.
For me, the last 18 months has been hearing the whispers of God in the silence. And I cannot imagine a more powerful way to hear him.
So… before this day dawned, I lay in bed, wide awake thinking of that day exactly 18 months ago. Griffin, who is a faithful, very welcome arrival every night into my bed, was snuggled next to me. I held him tight in the dark and felt his warm body and breathed in his skin and I thought, how has it been a year and a half? How have I made it each and every day of this awful journey?
No one signs up for this stuff. No one says, “Oh, I’m strong enough to handle the loss of a child. Pick me, God!” No one ever thinks it will be their story.
And yet, here I am.
And when I think back to my life before this horrific nightmare began, I see the old me. The blissfully ignorant woman whose greatest trial may or may not have been a decade of sleep deprivation. I loved the Lord. I trusted Him. I saw Him as sovereign over my life. But these past 18 months have changed me so beautifully.
Deep, searing pain opens the heart to a need for deep, soothing hope.
I have seen God in ways I never knew Him before. I have grown and as a result, my understanding of Him has grown. I never before knew these depths of His peace and kindness. I never experienced the heights of joy and strength that come only from God. And I have never before had such longing to quiet myself and expectantly wait for those whispers from a God who loves me so faithfully. I have learned, whatever may pass and whatever lies before me… to sing, like never before… bless the Lord, oh my soul.