This morning two years ago, I was propped up in a hospital bed trying to complete my substitute’s lesson plans because the pregnancy was failing and my baby was scheduled to be delivered 5 weeks early. The urgency kept my mind off the imminent c-section and the unknown beyond. We had no idea what was before us, and I think it was better that way. It took a long time to dawn on me how different James was and would be—at first because I was so medicated after the surgery, but later because we didn’t have a lot of information about his condition, and the docs were still trying to figure him out. But there was a gradual, fierce, protective love that grew for the little man in the glass box. He might be broken, but he was mine.
Last year we planned a big party for James’s first birthday, with an amazing cake and many friends and family. In fact, we wrote about his awesome birthday cake today on Cake Wrecks, our friend Jen’s blog. In hindsight I’m so thankful we had a big cake, so glad we got his picture professionally done, so glad we tried to celebrate his accomplishments without dwelling too much on his disabilities.
This year I couldn’t resist buying James a “2” candle, a small echo of his last birthday. I doubt they need birthdays in heaven, but it still feels right to celebrate his here. If James were still on earth, I wonder what he would be doing now. Would he be walking? sitting? eating? feeding himself? turning more pages in his books? Using more words? Would he have entered the terrible twos in an angry quest for independence that he would never attain? Would he have seen the beach, the forest, the mountains?
Last week I was looking for a videotape to record over, and I pulled an unlabeled one out of the bottom of the camera bag. I popped it in and was surprised to find a long recording of the underside of the kitchen sink. (At first I thought it was the bathtub plumbing, but that must have been a different tape.) At the time we had a slow leak that John was trying to find the source of, so he set up the camera to record the drips. I was about to rewind it to record over it when I saw the date was Dec. 31, 2007. I thought, James was home then. I wonder… I hit play, turned up the volume, and sure enough, I could hear my father singing to James in the background and James’s characteristic snort and coo. He never appears on the tape, but his precious sounds were such a gift to me this week.
Today we celebrate anew the joy we had in him, and how God used the weak to teach the strong. James is no longer ours, but he’s also no longer broken. He’s eternal and even more beautiful than he was in life.
Happy Birthday, Mister Cute. Mommy and Daddy love you, and we miss you.
Our Journey, Our Journey (chronological) | Comments (64)
Categories: Meditations on Scripture, Our Journey, Our Journey (chronological).
Every three or four hours James is reborn in the digital photo frame on my kitchen counter. He starts off hideously thin, huddled in his glass box, and slowly gains weight, begins smiling, comes home from the NICU, puts up with wearing various costumes, celebrates precious milestones, and grows into a little boy in our arms. All the last pictures are happy, but we are sad when we see them, knowing that soon he will be whisked back to the Winnie Palmer operating room to start again. From his first gasp to last days, we never tire of looking at and talking about the gift of his life.
On April 1st I was thinking about James and wondering what we were doing this day last year. It dawned on me that April 1st was when he got his hearing aid, and the memory of our anticipation, and his wondering reaction, came back in a welcome rush. The sound of raindrops outside reminded me of another time when Mom and I were taking James for a walk in the Baby Bjorn and it started raining. Trying to protect James from the rain, we jogged back to the house, but he giggled at all the bouncing he was getting and seemed unperturbed by the drops on his upturned face.
One memory that haunts me from time to time is the one from what we call “that morning”—holding James’s lifeless body in my arms for the last time at the hospital. I can remember a lot of details from that moment, and it is still freshly painful whenever it comes to mind. I don’t know why I think of it, or whether it sent by Satan as an attempt to discourage me, but there are two things I try to do to cope with it. First, I remind myself that at that moment the real, beautiful, eternal James was in heaven with the Savior, experiencing fullness of joy in His arms. I try to picture that instead. Second, I ask God to replace that sad memory with a happy one from James’s life.
Meditating on the meaning of Good Friday and Easter, I don’t think the cross has ever meant more to me than it does now. God’s sacrifice of His only Son, the Son’s suffering to accomplish peace with God and eternal life for those who believe (and those, like James and Dora, who are unable to make a choice due to extreme youth or incapacity)…it is inexpressibly sweet to my soul. We love to watch James’s life continually renewed on his photo frame, but his real rebirth is far more glorious, joyful, and fulfilling than we can imagine.
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7Meditations on Scripture, Our Journey, Our Journey (chronological) | Comments (14)