I should be asleep right now. We are supposed to be getting pictures taken in the morning. But as I was putting Elisabeth to bed, she started sobbing, choking out that she misses Eliana. This happens, not frequently, but enough that (sadly) I am used to it. Used to it or not, it breaks my heart all over again each time it happens.

She talked more tonight than usual. She kept asking why Eliana had to die, and said how sad she was that the doctors couldn’t fix her. She cried about not getting to hold her more, and that she didn’t get to come see her more often at the hospital. She was so upset that Eliana was taken so soon after I had her. Her face was lined with pain when she told me she didn’t get to kiss Eliana goodbye at the funeral. To experience my child dying is the worst thing I have ever gone through. Watching my other child try to deal with her death is the second worst thing.

Toward the end of our talk, Elisabeth brought up having our pictures taken tomorrow. I asked her if she would like to take Eliana’s teddy bear with us to be in the picture, since Eliana can’t be here with us. She said she wanted to. It was something I had been thinking about doing all along, but it’s nice that it can be something to comfort Elisabeth too, not just make me feel better.

To be honest, I was having serious issues with the idea of having family pictures taken again. I know, I know, you don’t have to say it.  It’s something we need to do.  We have to do it for the girls.  I’ve heard all the admonitions. Perhaps unless you have lost a child you cannot really understand my strong resistance to having our photos done again.

My baby is not here. Eliana will not be in these pictures. Eliana will never be in any of our family photos again.  It seems so wrong sometimes to go on doing the normal everyday things that she cannot be a part of any longer. These thoughts race through my head, round and round without resolution. Motherly guilt and feelings of obligation compete with the gut-level conviction that I don’t want them done again……ever.

I’ve heard more than one person say that they have tried to complete a puzzle, only to discover that there is one piece missing. Do you know what they did with the puzzle? Donated it? Kept it and ignored the missing piece? No. They threw the puzzle away. I think there is something about being human that makes us hate an otherwise beautiful image that has one little missing piece. Just like I, motherly guilt and all, am going to, on one level, hate the otherwise beautiful image that is going to have one piece missing. The face that won’t be there is just as loved, and just as important, as the faces that will be there.

Elisabeth was able to go to sleep after letting her sorrow out. I’m not so lucky. Here I sit, typing away instead of getting my beauty sleep. I may look a little tired in those pictures tomorrow. The smile might be on my lips but not reach my eyes. At least I’ll have a good reason. Before I even see the proofs, I’ll know that there will be something wrong with them. I’ll get some anyway, but I’ll know that behind the image is a family grieving the loss of their daughter, their sister, and their granddaughter. It will be a picture of a family that is incomplete.

And always will be.

I thought this was just beautiful. It was written by Linn Keller, who recently read it as a eulogy for someone close to him who died. It paints such a heart-tugging picture, doesn’t it? Sadly, children are often end up being the forgotten grievers.

I am a child.img_3558-21
I stand alone on the playground in the gathering dusk.
I look around and I am sad, for my friend has been called home by a Wise and Loving Parent.
I know this — I know the Parent is both wise and loving, and I know my friend is safe and warm at home — and yes, I know I will see my friend again, in the dawning of the new day.
But I am a child.
A child understands one thing:
NOW!!
A child does not understand later, or perhaps, or tomorrow; a child exists in the moment, and I am a child.
I will see my friend again in the dawning of the new day, but to a child, tomorrow is forever, an eternity.
When one of our own is called in by that Wise and Loving Parent, we look around the playground and cry for them, for there is still light enough to play.  There is still light, there is time, but my friend is gone, and I must wait.

Happy New Year. What does that mean to me now? That at some arbitrary division of days I’m supposed to feel like I can just start over fresh? That since I have a new calendar I can forget whatever happened during the time the old one hung on my wall? Much like someone who moves to a new place to outrun their problems, I find that mine have followed me here. I’m still the exact same bereaved mom today in 2009 that I was yesterday in 2008.

I started thinking yesterday about what I was doing at this time last year. I was eight months pregnant, getting big and heavy and uncomfortable. I was torn between being desperate for the baby to come out, and terrified of how I was going to handle three kids once she was here. I was seeing my midwife, and chiropractor, and cleaning obsessively. I checked and double-checked my lists, and made double batches of food to freeze for later. You know, all the normal things an eight months preggo woman does. And the only thought that comes to mind with these mental pictures is “normal.” It was all so normal.

It’s like watching a horror movie. You hear the music start to change, you see the character heading toward danger, and you want to yell at them. You want to warn them about what’s lurking around the corner. You know what’s going to happen, and you want to scream for them to stop and go the other way. But they can’t hear you. The script is written, the scene has been shot, and there is nothing you can do to change the way it’s going to play out. You can only sit on the edge of your chair, biting your nails, waiting for the ax to fall.

The excitement, love, fear, drama, and pain of Eliana’s life and death have been carved into time, unchangeable, unerasable, uncorrectable. She’s a part of history now, instead of a part of our world. Screaming to the unsuspecting, naive woman of last year is utterly pointless. Trying to warn her of the impending disaster won’t change anything. Just like the new calendar on my wall doesn’t change anything.

Every day now is an anniversary of a day last year when I was looking forward to Eliana’s birth, instead of mourning her death. That wonderful time when I actually fretted over something so minor as how to fit two toddlers and a nursing baby on my lap all at once for story time. Before I knew that I should be on my face giving thanks for the gift of having them here in the first place, because they can be taken so suddenly. Oh, to be that clueless woman again.dsc_0045-1abw_filtered

So it’s a new year, but it’s the same old life. Full of the same sorrows and regrets of the last eight months, and the ugly reality that being wished a happy new year doesn’t mean it will be so. I can hope, but I no longer expect. I don’t really know if that is good or bad, but I do know that it makes me very sad. The woman from one year ago now walks around with an invisible broken heart. The show is over, and it was definitely a tear-jerker.

I was going through some of my old files a couple days ago, and I found this. I do not know who wrote it, so unfortunately I cannot give them credit. I’ll write more of my thoughts at the bottom, so you can read this first.

TO MY CHILD:
Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I
see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.
 
Just for this morning, I will let you choose what
you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.
 
Just for this morning, I am going to step over the
laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.
 
Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in
the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle 
of yours together.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone
and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the 
backyard and blow bubbles.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, 
not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine 
for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one 
if he comes by.
 
Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what 
you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess 
every decision I have made where you are concerned.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake 
cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will take us to
McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you 
can have both toys.
 
Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms
and tell you a story about how you were born and 
how much I love you.
 
Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the
tub and not get angry.
 
Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late
while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.
 
Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for
hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.
 
Just for this evening when I run my finger through 
your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful 
that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.
 
I will think about the mothers and fathers who are 
searching for their missing children, the mothers 
and fathers who are visiting their children's graves 
instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers 
who are in hospital rooms watching their children 
suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they 
can't handle it anymore.
 
And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a 
little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that 
I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing,
except one more day.............

I remember reading this years ago, and it always made me cry. The strange thing is, I didn’t shed a single tear when I read it this time. I don’t have to wonder in terror about how that would feel if it happened to me. It already has. I’ve experienced all the regrets, should haves, what ifs, fears, and pain, and grief. I live with it every day. Reading about it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t gone through it doesn’t seem to affect me now. I guess I’ve wept enough over the actual event that I don’t need to weep over the possibility of it happening. Imagination is much gentler than reality.

Every year we drive North to go play in the snow. Right now I’m recovering from this year’s trip. It’s a long drive, and during part of it I was sitting there just thinking about things. It occurred to me that I felt okay. As a matter of fact, I felt pretty good. My husband and I were getting along. The kids were excited to get there and play. My close friends were with us and sharing the fun. I had snacked for the last hour and my tummy was happy. I just sat there for a few moments in sheer wonder that I could feel this “okay.” And then I had to turn my face to the window because the tears started streaming down.

The crying didn’t last long, but it is a good example of how a bereaved parent can be so happy and so sad at the very same time. I wouldn’t trade my tentative feelings of normal for the utter despair I had in the beginning (and that still hits occasionally), but even the sense of normalcy seems surreal. How can anything be good, or happy, or okay, or normal, when my baby is dead? Even when I’m sitting there thinking about how nice it is to feel good, part of me is saying “I don’t really feel okay, do I? Do I really feel good? How is that possible?” It’s enough to make a person feel crazy.

So how can anything be good again when my baby is dead? I guess the only answer is …..that sometimes it just is. In the beginning I didn’t believe it was possible. Even while feeling it now, it seems strange and unbelievable. But it’s there nonetheless. I didn’t ask for it. For a while I didn’t even want it. It seemed like a betrayal that I might feel happy again without her. Guilt rending as it may be, though, I am grateful for it.

Her death and my grief don’t feel like the heavy chains they once were. Now they feel more like an old injury. There is an ugly scar, a dull ache I don’t notice all the time, and at times it acts up and is incredibly painful and debilitating. But I don’t feel constantly enslaved now. I’m not crippled under the weight, or chained to one spot, unable to move forward. Sometimes, even with my injuries, I can feel good.

I guess I need to give myself just as much permission to be happy as I do to immerse myself in the sorrow. I can agonize over the death of my precious child even while loving and caring for my family, and I can joyfully live my life, thankful for all the blessings in it, even while missing my Eliana terribly. Smiling and crying at the same time isn’t crazy, even if it might look that way to others. It’s just another step of this road of grief. I’ll keep allowing myself to smile, even if it makes me cry, because they are both okay.

And now, at the risk of sounding bi-polar, or schizophrenic, or whatever the correct term is these days, I’m going to write a post completely opposite of the last one. I don’t take pills, so please don’t suggest whatever the appropriate medication might be. 😉

I had errands to run today. I was already really tired, kinda cranky, emotionally drained, all the things you might expect a person to be after having a morning of dreams like the ones I described in the previous post. I was wishing I was anywhere but OUT, with all the in-your-face consumerism and fake holiday cheer that the stores try to seduce you with. Nevertheless, I ended up at Kmart, hoping to hunt down the ever-elusive *ADVERTISED SPECIAL*-the one that is usually so special that you can’t actually purchase it, but can only look at its picture in the ad and drool over the price. I wanted just one thing, and I was on a mission.

I had just walked into the store, planning my strategy for where to begin the search, when I heard someone behind me say something. I turned around and there was a woman walking toward me. To tell you the truth, I was in a hurry, and was not really in a mood to deal with whatever this person wanted from me. She walked up to me, I think she said “Here”, and handed me a $50 bill. I’m pretty sure she said something else that I can’t remember now, and I suspect that I was looking at her in shock with my mouth hanging open. I barely got out the words “Thank you” before she walked away. Then I started crying. My kids were looking at me like I was crazy, as I stood there bawling in the entrance to Kmart. They started asking me what was wrong, and I tried to tell them, but then they really started looking at me weird, because that seemed like a good thing to them, and they couldn’t understand why it made me cry.

When I started out this morning, I was trying to figure out what sorts of juggling would allow me to buy the things I needed to get. This woman’s gift was such a blessing, and so unexpected. It’s the sort of thing you may hear about when it happens to other people, but it never happens to you. As a matter of fact, I was just reading a news report about people doing this very thing in cities across the US. How amazing when it becomes more than just something I read about.

When I recovered enough to look around and start moving again, I tried to find the woman, but never did. I wanted to talk to her, to say something more than thank you, and let her know how much I appreciated what she was doing. And as strange as it sounds to say it, I think I wanted to cry with her. Maybe someone who would do something like that for a stranger is the kind of person who would be willing to listen to me try to explain why my emotions are so close to the surface. Maybe she would like to hear how much she touched the heart of someone who’s heart has been so recently broken. Maybe she would like to know that her gift was going to go to two little girls who are still suffering the consequences of losing their baby sister. I wish I could have just hugged her.

It seems like anymore someone can do the smallest kindness for me, and I just break down. Not always in front of them, but at some point. It feels strange to know that maybe I am that dependent on people just acting like they care a little bit. The downside of that is that I can also be hurt so very easily, because my heart is on my sleeve.

It got me to thinking though, about that feeling I had today. How incredibly grateful I was for what she did. Not just for the money, but for her wanting to do something for someone without getting anything in return. How grateful I was for the caring of someone I don’t even know.

I wonder if Eliana’s life is having that effect on people, too. Are these people, struggling with their own burdens, touched to the point of tears because a random stranger decided to help them? In addition to receiving the material stuff they need, are they getting some emotional needs taken care of too, just by the thought that someone out there cares enough to do something? I hope that some of the people who are helped because of Eliana feel some of what I felt today. It was a wonderful feeling, despite the fact that I couldn’t stop crying.

It made me realize that sometimes we must be willing to receive, because that is what recharges us to keep on giving, and reminds us of why we are doing it in the first place. I can’t speak for the men, but it seems that for a lot of moms, we have lost (or never learned) the art of gracious receiving. We know our job is to serve our families, so we end up feeling uncomfortable when one of them wants to do something special for us, pamper us, or do one of our duties for us. How many times has someone we loved tried to do something nice, only to hear “That’s okay. I can do it.” or “You don’t have to do that.” I’m sure they know they don’t have to do it, and us putting up a mock protest or refusing the gesture all together is sure to diminish some of the joy they might have felt over their attempt to love us. You know how wonderful it feels to do something great for someone? Well, we rob them of that feeling when we rebuff their efforts.

Giving to others is not just about providing for physical needs. It is a reminder that a person cares enough to do it. We may not all have the money to hand out to strangers like this kind woman did, but we do all have the ability to make someone (even a stranger) feel loved, and we all have the ability to happily accept when someone wants to do something for us. It might take some creativity. It might take getting out of our comfort zone. It might take some practice. But we can probably all get better at enthusiastically dancing the dance of give and take. We can all work on receiving as graciously as we give. Who knows, sometime it might save you from standing in the doorway of Kmart with your mouth hanging open, wishing you had said what you really wanted to say. =)

As if I wasn’t already having enough fun with all this, now I’m starting to have nightmares. And they’re not even about her. I would understand, and be able to deal with, and almost welcome, having dreams about Eliana. But I’m having them about my other kids. Horrible, scary dreams about them being hurt or killed, such as people breaking into our house while we’re sleeping or a nuclear explosion.

This morning it was me and them at a theme park of all things, on a volcanic island. Of course the volcano erupted, so I was running, running with my two kids, trying to outrace the lava. We were doing a pretty good job until somehow the effect of the volcano blowing caused a tidal wave/flood from the other direction. It was coming so fast there was nothing we could do. I woke up, managed to calm myself down, then drifted back to sleep, into the same spot in the dream. This time it wasn’t coming so fast, so we started running back the other way, trying to find the highest spot. We used the service “ladder?” on the biggest roller coaster and climbed to the top. A helicopter saw us and came down to get us. For whatever reason it couldn’t quite come down far enough, and had nothing to throw out to us, so I had to try to lift my daughter into it. She slipped, and fell to the ground. I had to try to get my second daughter into it, and then myself, after having just basically dropped the first one to her death. Not to be outdone, my brain went through it a third time. This time there was no helicopter, and the water got so high we all died anyway, even from the top of the roller coaster. In the dream, as I watched the water coming toward us, I prayed that He wouldn’t let my kids suffer. Then I woke up…again. I decided not to find out what scenario number four would be, so I got up. Half the time I can’t sleep, and when I do, I’m waking up three and four times a night with stuff like this. It’s exhausting.

I know that these kinds of nightmares are just ripe with possible interpretations. As interesting as it is for me to glean what I can from them, I do wish my mind would just find a better way of working through all the stuff up there. I can’t imagine a perpetual lack of sleep is going to be all that helpful for my health, or my journey through this grief. This is not healing, it’s annoying. Dealing with the (real) death of one child is hard enough without having to deal with the (dreamtime) deaths of the remaining two. Ugh. When will it be enough?

Anyway, here’s my super-quick dream analysis on myself.

#1-nothing I can do, just give up, we all die (what I rejected)

#2-do everything I can to save them, despite my best efforts one dies, have to keep functioning in order to save the one that’s left, have to save myself so I can keep taking care of her (what I’m doing)

#3-even when I give my best effort there’s nothing else I can do to save any of us, think my kids will probably suffer despite my prayer, we all die (what I fear)

And on that depressing note, I think I’ll stop, since I once again don’t seem to have much of a point. Except that even now, eight months after her death, I am still finding new ways that this whole thing just sucks. I miss my baby. And I miss the old me that didn’t have nightmares about whether the other two were going to die horrible deaths that I couldn’t do anything about. And I miss being able to take sleep for granted. I’m so tired of all of this.

So, my whole family has a cold right now. Those of you who know Eliana’s story probably remember this, but for those who don’t know, the very first step of this journey into h**l was…you guessed it-our whole family coming down with a cold. So many times in the last few days I’ve been talking to someone and said those exact words. “Our whole family has a cold.” It sounds so innocent, inconvenient at worst, but I feel the vise of grief squeeze my heart every time the words slip out of my mouth. What I thought was just a little cold started the downward spiral that eventually resulted in my baby dying.

The cold bug seems to have hit me the worst this time. I mentioned to my husband that I might end up sleeping in the recliner tonight because my nose is so stuffy that my head feels like it’s going to explode. As soon as I said it I almost collapsed on the floor in a heap. I just wanted to scream and cry until I couldn’t cry any more. This time practicality won out and I settled for a few tears. My nose is so stuffy it hurts to cry.

img_2312-2The reason I was so upset, though, is because that’s how Eliana and I spent our last week at home. Her poor little nose was clogged up too, so we spent our nights and nap times propped up in the recliner with pillows and a cushy blanket. She could breathe a lot easier being upright on my chest than she could on her back. Even though we were all sick, it is one of my favorite memories. I love that we got to snuggle and nurse and rock and sleep. I love that I have the picture in my head of us all cozy and safe and warm. And I love that I had that much time with her before our world got turned upside down.

As soon as I thought about sleeping in the recliner, I immediately realized that the last time I slept there, I was holding Eliana. I figured if I did sleep there I’d end up taking out her blanket and teddy bear and crying myself to sleep, and I got so scared; scared that I wouldn’t be able to stop the tears, scared that the physical re-creation of those tender moments would send me back into the pit, scared to let go the tenuous grasp I have on feeling somewhat okay.

Grief is sometimes a silent predator. It strikes when I least expect it, and am least equipped to deal with it. Out of the blue, it pounces, and tries to devour me. I know by now that it won’t succeed, but that doesn’t stop the pain that I feel while I wrestle with it. I still have the urge to run, but I know it wouldn’t do any good. Grief is an impatient opponent, and it waits for no one. I must face it or it will follow me wherever I go.img_2564

It’s time now to go sleep, and since my nose has not miraculously cleared up, I know where I’m headed. What used to be just a recliner is now a place of danger, fear, sadness, joy, tenderness, love, and heartbreak. I don’t know which emotion will win this time, but at least I have a blankie and teddy to help me through the fight.

Note: Just thought I’d add this humorous update on my night. Grief had some stiff competition last night…from my husband’s snoring. =)  I was sitting there trying to go to sleep and couldn’t because he was so loud. Frustration over that won out over the sadness. I had taken the same blanket that Eliana and I used out of the hall closet and used that to wrap up. I just basked in the memories of holding her under that same blanket, but didn’t break down like I expected. That doesn’t mean that tonight it won’t happen exactly as I feared, but for last night, I got a break.

dsc_0035-1abw_filteredI know for myself and a lot of other bereaved parents, that sometimes it’s very hard to be thankful for anything. The magnitude of our loss seems to overshadow everything else. It blinds us to the good things that might be right in front of us. No wonder, since what we have lost is a precious, longed for, loved child of our wombs and hearts. What is there to be thankful for when a child has died? Life seems to be a dichotomy: happy or sad, smiling or crying, thankful or thankless. If feels like there is no middle ground, and that we will spend the rest of our lives grieving as hard as we do in the beginning.

As more time passes, though, it is becoming easier to gives thanks for what I have, while still mourning for my sweet Eliana who is no longer here. I have come to understand that opposing emotions are rarely mutually exclusive. I can smile through my tears, laugh even in my sadness, and see beauty even through the pain. So, on this first Thanksgiving without my baby, I would like to share some things that I am thankful for.

I am thankful that Eliana has given me the courage to speak up, when before I would have stayed silent.

I am thankful that losing her has given me the wisdom to be quiet and just listen, when before I would have said something totally unhelpful, or even worse, have avoided the person because I just didn’t know what to say.

I am thankful that it will always be impossible now to take my other children for granted, since I know what it’s like to lose one of them.

I am thankful that I know how badly this hurts, so I can be more compassionate to others in pain.

I am thankful that so many people have received help because of Eliana-much needed items at the hospital, love and support from MISS after losing a child, food from the food bank, and the encouragement that they are not alone.

I am thankful that I now know what my priorities in life are.

I am thankful for all the people who surrounded me with love and support during the most horrible time of my life.

I am thankful for all the people who continue to help me on this journey, long after the majority believe I should be over it.

I am thankful for all the ways I have to remember my child that most people never had: photographs, hand and foot prints, an online memorial site, scrapbooks, and video clips.

I am thankful for this blog, where I can share my feelings with friends and strangers alike.

I am thankful for the month I had with Eliana at home, for the month I had with her in the hospital, and for the time I had with her after they took her off the machines.

I am thankful that I now know what I’m willing to die for, and that death is less scary, because I will get to join her.

I am thankful for all the people who have cried with me over Eliana, people who let my little girl into their hearts and allowed themselves to feel the pain of her absence.

I am thankful that at any given moment, people at the hospital, children at a school, someone across the world at their computer, or a friend right down the road, might be thinking about my baby or saying her name.

I am thankful that I was able to see, hear, feel, smell, hold, and love Eliana before she died.

I am thankful that I have a God big enough to handle my anger and fears.

I am thankful for the depth of my sorrow, because it is a testament to the depth of my love, and I’m thankful for joy, because that is also a testament to the depth of my love.

I am thankful for the knowledge of God, love, hope, and happiness, even during the times when they can’t be felt.img_23062

I am thankful that the moments of deepest despair do not last forever.

I am thankful that I had the joy of knowing such a sweet, gentle, and brave little person, my precious Eliana.

Wishing you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving, and if it can’t be happy yet, then I wish you the comfort of knowing that the pain will not always be quite this bad. I know that is hard to believe in the beginning. But that is something else I’m thankful for: that all the people who said that to me turned out to be right, even though I didn’t believe them at the time either. Love to all of you, Deanna

A few posts ago I mentioned my friend who had a tumor removed. The doctors believe they got all of it, and said that the lymph nodes were clean. At the end of the email that was sent out with this update, the person writing it said “Praise His Name for answering prayers.” I’m sure back when I was normal that would have been my first reaction as well. But I’m not “normal” by any means at this point, and any relief or rejoicing I feel is tinged with confusion and jealousy.

In this new reality I live in, I wonder “Why wasn’t Eliana healed?” Don’t get me wrong. Of course I am happy and thankful that my friend’s prognosis is good. But if God is truly in the business of dabbling in our physical world, then why does He heal some, and let others suffer and die? I don’t understand it. I will never understand it. And I suppose the truth is that we are not meant to understand it. People have been brooding over the question of human suffering since the beginning of time, and I doubt that me blogging about it is going to reveal any brilliant insights. Nevertheless, writing is my outlet, so I’ll go ahead and share my thoughts, even if none of us end up with any better answers to the questions as a result.

I am a very….detail-oriented person. I’ll skip the description I usually give, to keep this family-friendly and let you avoid a possible conversation with your child about Freud and his interesting theories. =) Anyway, when naming my children, I go through all sorts of mental gymnastics because I want the name to be perfect. What are the origins, the meanings, the possible nicknames? What does it rhyme with? How does it sound with the other kid’s names? Are the styles and lengths similar? How does it sound with our last name, with possible middle names? Um, yeah, I’m an….I mean detail-oriented. With the first two kid’s names, it was easy, and they fit all my criteria just fine.

Then I got pregnant with our third. I had a hard time finding the perfect name. Nothing seemed just right. I had a list of possibles, and my husband and I went over them repeatedly. I ended up favoring Eliana because of it’s meaning. It didn’t really “fit” with the other girls names, but I felt like I had to have that name. The meaning is “God answered” or “God has answered.” I didn’t know why I had to have that meaning, or what He was going to end up answering. And then for the middle name, we chose to name her after my grandpa’s middle name. He died many years ago.

The other strange thing was that I needed to pray for this baby’s health. I admit I was pretty careless about praying for the other two. I just took it for granted that they were fine. But with this one I had to pray. And I did, daily, for her physical and mental health, and her birth. Nevertheless, I had the feeling through most of my pregnancy that she was going to die. Then I didn’t miscarry, and she wasn’t stillborn, and she didn’t die at birth, so I though I must have been just paranoid.

A month later she gets sick, and then dies. And I am sitting here wondering what in the world this all means. “God answered.”  What am I supposed to do with that? I realize that perhaps early on in grief is not an objective point-of-view to be trying to answer this question, but I have to ask it anyway. Letting my child die was His answer? What awful question was it that I don’t even remember asking, that He decided to answer by taking my baby? Or I could get really superstitious and think that it was bad luck to name her after a dead relative. Maybe I should stick to living family member’s names. Or was it that I jinxed her by saying the words out loud. I should have kept my mouth shut and everything would have been fine. And if God was the one who “told” me that there was something wrong, why not just fix whatever was wrong? I didn’t want a warning. I wanted my baby!

Well, to get back to what this post started out with, I certainly don’t mean to imply that we should not praise God for my friend getting better. Regardless of whether God healed her or she just got lucky, having a thankful attitude about the good things in life is something to strive for. But those are still very hard words for bereaved parents to hear. “Praise His Name for answering prayer.” Why didn’t He answer my prayer? Why does He let die the loved children of good parents, and let live and suffer the unwanted babies of abusers who would never even think to pray for their children in the first place? If babies have to be miscarried or stillborn, why not those who will know only suffering at the hands of their own parents? If He’s merciful, why not let those children escape their awful fate? I just don’t understand.

I know I’ve created here one big, giant ramble with no good conclusion. I wish I had answers. I wish things were different. I think to close I’ll share a quote that a friend sent to me one morning. It seems appropriate here. It was found written on a wall in one of the concentration camps.

“I believe in the sun even if it isn’t shining.

I believe in love even when I am alone.

I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Then my friend wrote, “I just thought that if someone in such circumstances had this positive outlook about God we shouldn’t give up.”  And she is right. Rather than give up on God, I choose to admit that some of the pat answers I’ve always believed don’t make sense anymore. God doesn’t make sense anymore. But He’s God. He doesn’t have to. He’d be a pretty lame God if us pitiful little humans could understand everything about Him. If He were that easy to understand, perhaps He wouldn’t be a God worth serving.

Maybe if we here on Earth spent more time trying to do the right thing, than in trying to come up with the right answers, there would be less of this confusing human suffering for us to ponder. Instead of asking why people are suffering, maybe we should ask ourselves what we can do to help them. Maybe the answer to prayer is found in other people’s compassion, and by doing nothing, we are the ones that cause some prayers to seemingly go unanswered. Death is something we’ll always have to deal with. But there is a lot of unnecessary pain in this world that we all have the power to put a stop to. Pick a cause, and go answer someone’s prayer.

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