She caught me in the church parking lot a few weeks back, waved at me as I was unlocking the car door, walked over to say hello. It had been some time since I’d seen her last and she had never met Katie, so she commented on her smile and her amazing infant Mohawk and the dimples in her thighs. She asked me how life was treating me these days, and I responded with my usual answer: that we are blessed, that being home with my daughter is a joy and and privilege, that things are good. She paused then, held my eyes with a knowing look, smiled.
“I knew it!” she said. “I knew it. Back last year, when you were sending those updates out, asking for prayer – I knew it! I knew God had something good coming, that you just needed to wait. You were so sad, so heartbroken in your emails, but I knew it wasn’t the end of the story, that God was doing something!”
I offered a half-smile, made some noncommittal noise, reiterated my statement that we are grateful for this sweet little girl who has taken up residence in our arms and in our hearts. This wasn’t the first such comment to be made, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.
A bit of honesty: I do not always know how to respond to such statements. I try not to read into them, but my heart has such conflicted feelings, such a mix of emotions even now, nearly fifteen months later, that expressing my thoughts in a short, simple conversation (or even a short, simple blog post) seems nigh unto impossible.
Still, an attempt:
I am ever so thankful that the deep, deep pain in my life was followed by deep, deep joy, for I know it does not always happen this way. Most days, I can recognize His hand in the timing of Katie’s conception despite all of the conflicting emotions I felt when it happened (which is a story for another time). I have been given so much, been entrusted with so much. My life is full, and the last thing I want is to seem ungrateful or bitter in any way.
And yet, there’s a part of my heart that rebels against the underlying ideas, the hidden messages in what my friend expressed, though it was offered with the best of intentions from someone who loves me. There is joy, much joy, in my life now, but that does not negate the suffering. That suffering, that pain, that deep confusion about why things ended the way they did? They are still valid, and real, and important. The questions matter. The hurt matters. The wrestling matters. The good that came into my life does not explain the bad that preceded it; to imply that it does devalues the sorrow, forgets the pain.
Katie will never, could never, replace A, just as no future child could possibly replace Katie, because Katie and A are not “just babies” to me, not just little ones to care for – they are my daughters. Every child is unique. Precious. Irreplaceable.
And so it comes to this: most days, I do believe that God brought this precious child into my life to love and to hold, that she is, indeed, a blessing and a gift. Last August was not the end of my story, was not the end of A’s story either. Neither is today.
But Katie being brought into my life does not explain A being taken from it, does not erase the heartbreak of losing her, does not answer the questions that swirl in my mind regarding divine will and a fallen world and the power of prayer, and I am trying hard to walk this tightrope, to find the balance between remembering past sorrows and rejoicing in present joys, between clinging to faith and allowing room for hard questions.
I have not reached the end of the story. There are pages yet to be written, chapters of joy and chapters of sorrow, tales of defeat and tales of victory. In each moment, may I choose to remember, to value the good and the bad, to continue to wrestle and to question and to grow. Who I am today has been shaped and molded by the experiences of my past; may I not cheapen them by settling for quick explanations or easy answers.
A note of clarification: I was not offended, and am not offended, by the comments people make, and I know they are only offered in love. I try hard not to read into them. People want to see reason, to see happy endings – and Katie certainly seems to provide those things. I don’t begrudge them that, nor do I think they necessarily mean to discount the heartbreak we experienced. But something in me rebels whenever I hear a “look what God has done!” kind of statement, and I needed to work through why that might be.