Perhaps in those first, raw hours I did not believe that I could live another minute without my son and the thought of six months was more than I could bear. It could be that I was scared that life would move on without Webb and I wanted a witness to testify that she would never forget. Or maybe the pain that stood in front of my face was too deep a valley and too steep a mountain, so I shifted my gaze to the future. While staring at that future, perhaps panic arose that hours might turn to days that would roll into months. Months would pile on top of each other until they accumulated to form one half of a year.
Now I am days away from April 22, six months since my son leapt into God’s arms. Mysteriously, I am still here and miraculously, there is still life. This life now carries with it the grief that was born the day that Webb died. For when Webb quietly slid from earth to eternity, so began the labor pains from birthing this mighty Grief.
For the first weeks and months after Grief’s birth, caring for this infant was all I could do. Grief and I held each other tightly while tears pattered down, keeping time with longing’s sad lullaby. Grief called out in the night, and though I was totally depleted from carrying her all day, I could not ignore her cries in the dark. I would get up to rock her back to sleep, eventually finding the peace that leads to rest. When I took the first, brave steps out of the house with Grief strapped to my chest, it seemed that everywhere I went people commented on her presence. Such a short time ago, I was just myself, comfortable, easy and secure. But with Grief’s arrival, I became the “One who carries Grief” and it seemed that everywhere I went strangers knew me only by my new name.
This child was unpredictable. She would not be tamed by a schedule or pinned down to a routine, though I tried with might to enforce them. Just when I thought I had her under control, she would rear up and roar with a force that knocked me to my knees. I would fling open my Bible in desperation, looking for answers and instructions on how to mother this unruly child. Time and time again, I found that the Word offered me no instructions for control, but rather steps for surrender. And ultimately, prayer was the only cure to calm the colic.
Now this Grief is a six-month-old. She sits up all by herself, and though she never leaves my sight, she does not cling to me constantly. While I carry her with me as I take bigger, braver steps out of the house, she has shifted from being strapped to my chest to resting on my hip. I am now more accustomed to her cues and triggers and I know the places, the sounds, and the smells that will awake her. I don’t avoid these triggers, but shift Grief around a bit, finding the way to carry her most comfortably through them. She is still unpredictable, refusing to submit to any schedule or routine that I try to implement. But I am learning that this is simply her nature. No mothering will nurture it out of her. Though some days I do not think that I have the strength to care for all that this child asks of me, I am slowly learning that my weakness is the only true response to her demands.
It has been six months since Webb died. It has been six months since I first stared into Grief’s dark eyes. Six months ago I did not know how I would survive a minute, much less a half of a year without my beloved son. And even today, I am not sure that I know the answer. But what I do know is that resting deep in the cushions of a holy chair, I cradle the joy of Webb’s life with one arm while holding the pain of his death in the other. It is in the refining midst of this rocking that I begin to conceive of the possibility of a new child. Oh, if I am honest, I will admit that I do not yet know her face, but the smallest hope of her arrival is enough for today. For somehow, mysteriously and miraculously, pain and joy will come together to give birth to the most precious babe of Peace. And when I do finally hold Peace deep between my joy and my pain, I will know for sure that this indeed is a child of God.