As far back as I can remember I have been an avid reader. There are books that have shaped me and made me who I am today. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith is one of those books. This is a captivating story of a young girl (Francie) and her family. Francie is immersed in hardship throughout the book and yet like the tree outside her window that always survives she too is able to persevere. This beautiful story captured me as a young adolescent and has stuck with me all of these years. When I sat down to write this post about my sister-in-law, the vision of young Francie is what came to mind. If you have not read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn please go buy a copy and read it.
A little over a year ago my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were pregnant with their second baby. I sat by the phone day after day waiting for the call to come that their beautiful baby had arrived. The gorgeous 7lb 8oz baby boy with blue eyes and dark brown hair was finally here and we could start the drive down to see him. Instead we were awakened in the middle of night with a phone call of a whole other kind. A horrific call that one hopes never to receive when waiting for a birth. Samantha had gone into labor and just a few short hours before his arrival Asher had died in the womb. I can't explain to you what the next hours and days were like. No one should have to endure these things. The only words that come to mind are deep soul wrenching sadness. Overwhelmed by grief and helplessness I did the only thing I knew to do, I prayed and as I prayed my prayers turned to song. "I Surrender All" was the hymn that came to mind. This is the song Jeremiah and I had chosen just weeks earlier to sing at Eli and Kate's family covenant service (otherwise known as a baby dedication). We chose it to remind ourselves that our children are not ours and that we have been given them as gifts for a short time. We as parents have a responsibility to raise them up and to ultimately trust (or surrender) them back to the One who gave them to us. As I sang it in my moment of solitude I remember singing it as a prayer for my sister-in-law and her husband. I prayed that they would be able to continuously surrender all of their hopes and dreams for Asher, their love, and pain and agony.
As we journeyed South for the funeral I had never felt so burdened with some one else's pain. I embraced the pain as I cried. At the funeral I wept not because of the songs or what the pastor said, but it hit me when I heard a train tooting it's whistle and I realized that Asher would never hear that noise and yell "Train, train, train" as my own son often does. I remember driving away from the burial site and as I sat next to Jeremiah in the front seat with my kids in the back seat the tears streaming down my face I yelled. I yelled at nothing and no one and I yelled at everything and everyone. I felt so horribly guilty that my beautiful baby girl was asleep in her car seat and their gorgeous baby boy was asleep forever in his tiny infant casket. It just wasn't fair. And later as I sat with Samantha and she shared her birth story with me I endured one of the most painful experiences of my life. I knew that my reliving of the story through her eyes was nothing compared to her pain. I prayed for the strength to stay as the story washed over me in all of its horror. I prayed that she would receive some healing and that in some small, or even insignificant way she was allowing me to carry a portion of her burden.
Now, months later it is comforting to see that the healing has begun. I believe that all things in the end can be used for good. In the midst of our horrible gut wrenching pain we can't see past our outstretched fingertips but somewhere down the road our struggles and our pain will be turned over and the beauty will rise from the ashes. In February this beauty came in the form of Nolan and Samantha's third baby. A beautiful baby girl named Eden. I was able to spend a few short hours with them just a week after Eden arrived.
Vera and Eden
If you would like to read more about Samantha's journey through grief visit her blog at http://ashersmemory.blogspot.com