I vividly remember this day last year. I remember waking up, and George singing 'happy birthday' to Nan. I remember Clay coming home from working out of town and us packing up the car. I remember us both crying as we left George at my parents' house. I remember the minute Nan entered this world. I remember her crazy, jet black hair. And I will never forget holding her as she left us.
I remember leaving the hospital the next day, without a baby in the back seat. I remember the first time I got to see George, and struggling to find the words to explain to him that he would never meet his baby sister. I remember planning our daughter's funeral, and I remember when we laid our sweet girl to rest.
I also remember the glimmer of mercy and love that was intertwined in those impossibly hard memories. I remember walking into our house from the hospital to a counter-full of food, movies, wine, toys for George, and a refrigerator full of meals for us. I remember people just showing up- either to be with us in our den as we grieved, bringing us meals, cutting our grass, or anything and everything in between. I remember being blown away that people wanted to enter into our unspeakable grief- not just witness it from the outside. Those friendships have shown me more of Christ than I have ever experienced in this life, and it has changed the way I view friendships altogether.
So, what is at the end of that suffering, pain, and grief? When I came to the end of myself- when I stopped fighting the reality of our life- I found Jesus, waiting for me. I know that sounds like the 'churchy answer' to give, but it is true. Finding Jesus at the end of myself didn't make our life less sad, and it didn't make all the pain go away or make our life easier, but He gave me cause to be present in this life again.
I remember our first counseling appointment, and our counselor said to us, "I am here to help you learn how to carry this grief for the rest of your life." To which I responded, "Ugh! That sounds exhausting. I want to know how to get past this. I just want everything to go back to normal." I've realized through the course of this year, that healing is not something we ever obtain in this life. I know the Lord has been so faithful to us, and we have experienced so much of His healing. But, we will always carry Nan with us. Simple questions like, "how many kids do you have?" will always, for the rest of my life, conjure up the memory of my daughter.
But thinking about Nan doesn't make me sad anymore. And I have to say that is largely in part to George. If you've ever been pregnant while you have a small child, you know you talk about the new baby for at least six months prior to the arrival of that baby. Clay and I talked with George about the baby, and then we named her Nan, and we would pray for her every single day. And George has talked about Nan every single day since she was born. He has taught me how to talk about her with people, and he has given Clay and I the gift of laughter this year when we needed it most.
Clay stayed home with George and I today. We went to breakfast, took flowers to Nan's grave, went on a hike, and now we're all enjoying naptime. We were talking this morning how often Romans 8:28 is taken out of context.
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Probably at some point during my pregnancy, I clung to this verse, thinking that the only 'good' scenario would be Nan being born totally healthy and we would be the happy, cute family of four.
But here is what I've learned this year: Nan having a short life was for our good. It was the Lord's best for our family. 'Good' doesn't mean 'what we want' or what would be convenient for us. What is 'good' is what glorifies God, and brings honor to His Name. And we have experienced that in our little family. We have seen God increase in our family, and we have become less. I see seeds of faith in George that would not be there, if Nan wasn't with the Lord. I love Clay deeper because of the rock he has been to our family- when everything fell apart. The Lord used him to hold us together, and I have never respected or loved him more than I do today. These are good, and eternal things. And I cannot wait to celebrate with our Savior, and my daughter when Jesus calls us home. So today, we will celebrate Nan's life, and God's faithfulness to us, because in the midst of this suffering, there is much to be celebrated!
At Nan's funeral, our pastor spoke on Romans 8:18. He ended the funeral with this:
"What are we to do with the suffering in this life: know this: it may be great, but the glory, oh the glory is so much greater!"