One night, as I was taking a bath, I thought I heard and saw one of the kids at the bathroom door. They often get out of bed after being tucked in. But, I realized I was just imagining things. My mind ran away from me and began to draw pictures and create scenes…I wondered, if it were Audrey at my door, how tall would she be? Would her head now be doorknob-high or higher? I tried to imagine her standing there in her nightgown. What would it be like if I could still call her name out loud, even if I could call it in my “mom” voice? I’d say, “Audrey, why are you out of your bed? I just tucked you in.” And, she’d say something like, “Mommy, I’m really thirsty,”…to which I’d reply, “Go get yourself a sip of water, and then get back upstairs.” As she scuttled away, I’d yell after her, “I love you! I’ll be there to check on you in a few minutes!” Then, I’d go up in my nightgown and hug her one more time and smother her with kisses for good measure.
Coming back to my cold, hard reality that night, I began to ponder the passing of time and getting “old”. I do the same today. Today is Audrey’s Heavenly birthday. It is the day we struggle to celebrate, the day she entered glory and ran into Jesus’ embrace. Since Audrey’s death, three years have gone by against my will…three years of time and space traveling in the wrong direction. Three years far away from the time I could remember what it felt like to hold Audrey and hear her voice. Three years since I took care of her every need day in and day out. Three years since I saw her play with her sisters. Three years since I had three children and the world seemed right to me. And, contrary to the wisdom of the world, I am not one step closer to accepting her death. If you read my very first blog, then you know that last year, at the second anniversary of her death, we had not yet purchased a permanent marker for her grave. Another year has gone by, and still I cannot bring myself to buy one.
Sure, I can function. I eat and sleep…most of the time. I hold down the fort and even want to think about my future some days. I hope for more children. I figure if that doesn’t happen I can live with it. I find joy in things. I cry a lot, but I can manage it, even if I have to live this way for the rest of my life. I have loads of fun with Caroline and Mary Claire. I dream about Bryan and I finally moving along in the same groove for the same kingdom purpose, and I get excited about what God has in store. Nevertheless, I think to myself, “I would love to know what my life would be like now if the accident never happened.” When I start to try to imagine it, I feel defeated before I begin. It is a useless train of thought. Agitated, I begin to rage helplessly against time-- not because I care that I am getting wrinkles or that I can no longer tolerate caffeine after 4 p.m. if I want to get a good night’s sleep. I rage against these three years because they seem to have taken me farther and farther away from my baby. It’s like I was put on a boat I didn’t want to get on and set adrift, only to float far away from where I wanted to go.
They say “Time heals all wounds.” Uh, no it doesn’t. “D-U-E, duh!” Caroline recently said (and so hilariously misspelled). No, time has not healed this wound. And, I don’t think it will. I’m not being pessimistic or fatalistic. I’m just being honest. I know what people mean by this phrase. I have experienced other deaths in my life. And, to some extent, time has lessened the sting. But, those deaths were in the proper order of the universe. And, those people were not essential to the fulfillment of my every hope and dream. I have experienced other kinds of loss—even great loss—but so far I have had either the hope of earthly restoration or the promise that another dream will be able to fill the shoes of the one I could not have. Not so with my precious baby girl. Nobody, no thing can take her place. How is time supposed to make me more ok with this?
If time won’t heal this gaping wound, then what will? We know Jesus was a great healer. But, we probably recall how He made paralyzed people walk, gave sight to the blind, and even healed a woman who had been bleeding for years. That really isn’t the kind of healing I need. My heart is irrevocably broken. Good thing God remembered to mention that Jesus heals broken hearts, too. In fact, God says that is one of the reasons He sent Jesus in the first place. Isaiah 61:1 says, “The Spirit of the Lord God is on me (Jesus) because the Lord has…sent me to heal the brokenhearted…” That is good news. I don’t have to count on time to make things better. God has planned for a real, live person (a loving and omnipotent one at that) to take care of my heart. Psalm 30:2 says, “Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me.”
If Jesus heals the brokenhearted, though, then why do I still feel so awful? I know I belong to Him, and I have cried out to Him time and again to heal me. Why do I still grieve as I do? Why does it feel like I am walking along in life with a gaping hole blown through my chest? I think it is because I am. Other translations of Isaiah 61:1 read, “The Lord has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted.” And, Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Based on my personal experience, this wording makes more sense to me. Binding up a wound is a lot different than making it magically go away. Eventually, the wound closes up. The bleeding stops. Maybe the pain subsides a bit. But, at the very least, the scar remains. The bigger the original wound, the bigger the scar. I don’t know much about major injuries, but I don’t think I am wrong in assuming that sometimes, if you survive a terrible injury, you may have lifelong pain associated with it. It may not have killed you. The doctors may have wrapped it up, put it in a cast, or even performed surgeries. But, that wound may not be totally healed this side of Heaven. And, so it may be with a broken heart. At least it seems that way to me.
I really don’t mean that to be a downer. If God wanted to wave a magic wand and make my pain go away, I am sure He could. But, I am learning that if I can understand what God promises me—what I can count on Him to do—and what He doesn’t promise me, then I can live with less disappointment and bitterness and instead see God as loving and sovereign. I can see Him as someone who made plans to address my needs (and Audrey’s) and who has much bigger plans in mind for me than what I can perceive now.
Knowing what I do about God being the “binder of my wounds”, I still have a love/hate relationship with time. On the one hand, it has taken me far away from the dream I once had and has been the bearer of empty promises to heal me. But, on the other hand, time is the one thing taking me into the future God has in store for me. And, that future includes my baby girl! Though it is contrary to everything I can perceive and feel, the more time that passes, the closer I am to Audrey. Every day I live I am one day closer to seeing her again. One day closer to watching her walk through my doorway and hearing her ask me for something only I can provide. One day closer to seeing her daddy toss her in the air and kiss her cheek. One day closer to seeing Caroline’s and Mary Claire’s arms lovingly wrapped around Audrey’s neck so tight she cannot escape. One day closer to introducing her to adorable cousins who have been born since her death. One day closer to telling her everything I’ve wanted to say…like how desperately I tried to protect her, how sincerely I enjoyed her, how completely I wanted her, and how resolutely I am looking forward to everything God has planned for us…
When I consider that time is the only thing between me and my future with Audrey, time looks less and less like the hapless boat that took me away from her. Instead, the years ahead start to look like the hurdles I have to clear before I reach the finish line. Maybe someday I’ll be able to face the anniversary of Audrey’s death and see these hurdles in my rearview mirror as accomplishments instead of ominous reminders of what might have been.
Again, I let my mind wander. I imagine running and running, bounding over giant hurdles, year by year, sweat beading up on my forehead, gaining momentum with each step, all the while keeping my eyes on the prize: my beautiful little girl, smiling from ear to ear, shouting my name. She is waiting for me. She is cheering for me. Her arms are open wide.
Bring on the wrinkles!
I love you, Audrey. Happy Heavenly birthday! I am too weak of heart and mind to imagine all of the good things you are up to, too full of doubt to believe God in every moment as I would like, and too selfish to be as happy for you as I should. But, thankfully, God won’t let that keep you from enjoying His perfection until I get there and see it with my own eyes. Tell Thomas I’m jealous! Tell Jesus I need to touch His hands! Say a little prayer for Mommy. It’s hard waiting down here. But, there’s only time between me and you, and time is in God’s hands.
(This video was taken at Mary Claire's preschool Thanksgiving program just two days before Audrey died. Bryan said, "Audrey, sing Daddy a song." And, this is what she sang. Many, many of our friends and family members have enjoyed this video with us. I will always consider it a gift from God and a reminder that He is indeed "Strong!".)