Lately I had been feeling exhausted. Maybe that’s the wrong word. Deflated?
The new year started and instead of everything being fresh and new the first few weeks forcefully reminded me of sickness and death, struggle and stalemate. Just because we decide to label a certain time of the year with a theme doesn’t mean that time of the year will follow the theme.
Why do we start the year in the dead of winter? Why celebrate newness when snow and leaves and grass all flake dry and cold? Even the wind these days feels cruel. I find myself longing for spring.
Change is conceived long before it is born. Life starts long before birth.
A friend recently gave birth to a beautiful boy. Outside the womb for less than two weeks, his life was important, impactful, and way too short.
I never saw him after he was born, but I realized I spent time near him for months. Near and far I talked to him and about him, a little spring bud curled in the rounded belly of his mama. I shared in the excitement of his coming birth and imagined the friendship he might share with his older brother and maybe even my own children. He gave me reason to anticipate, to be excited, to celebrate. He gave me ideas to imagination and experiences to long for. What beautiful gifts, like the spring. And all before he was even born.
When I heard he was born, he gave me cause for joy, an invitation to celebrate the gift of life. The end of waiting for his entry into the world was like a cool and fragrant breeze during the intensity and vigor of summer, that spring bud now in full bloom. What beautiful gifts, like the summer. And all because he was simply born.
But for this one autumn came too soon. Some health issues became apparent and the bright colors of this one’s life flamed bright and fast. He made me grateful for the healing, hope, and time I do have. He brought me to my knees, longing for healing, for hope, for time, for him. He gave me reason to turn to a gentle and compassionate God instead of frantically trying to control the uncontrollable. Like the beauty of flame colored fall foliage he gave me the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy moments of brightness and connection despite outcomes unknown. What beautiful gifts, like the autumn. And all in the first few days of his life.
He fought for two weeks before his winter came, the cold shock like a slap in the face. As if frozen my body felt numb and I hated the bareness of the branches of the trees and the paleness of the milky sky. It felt like an anomaly, a mistake, an accident. I don’t like to think about death as a part of life. It feels like a trick. Why would all these beautiful seasons lead to this? Which is why I couldn’t even bring myself to go to the memorial service. It felt too real, I felt it too deep. Yet I remembered.
I let my inner self sink into that place of deep sorrow I sensed Emmanuel, the God who is With Us. The God who makes his home with the wretched and hurting. The God who settles into discomfort and pain and weeps with us there. Here at his end, this child gave me reflection, soul searching, and grief. He also gave me the opportunity to see a side of God I had only heard about before and never experienced myself. He made a bare, broken, uncomfortable space for me and countless others to understand God and the seasons of life like never before. He also reminded me that because of the story of God that Jesus revealed in his lifetime isn’t a story that ends with life here on earth, and because of this there is always, always, hope. Even after the cruelest and longest of cold winters we can hold onto the hope of feeling the warmth of spring again. What beautiful gifts, even through the darkest winter. All because of him.
So thank you, sweet child, for everything. Your life mattered, your life changed me, and I will cherish the gifts your life lavished upon me. I will see you after all my seasons are finished, and I know I will live out my seasons better because of you.