I just realized that 13 years ago today I gave birth to my first child.
That sounds so very odd to say because celebrating your first born entering their teenage years is typically a pretty big deal.
I guess it's just not when that 13 year old has been missing for 13 of those years.
He's not here to remind us with his adolescent boy presence. I'm not reminding him to go shower and to hang up his towel when he's finished. I'm not wondering how on earth I'm going to keep him fed during his growth spurts. I'm not wondering how my little boy got taller than me so quickly, or assuring him no one notices when his voice cracks, or begin to see glimpses of the man he would become.
I don't do those things. So when this day roles around, it doesn't come with a birthday morning hug, it doesn't come with cake and candles, it doesn't come with me tucking him in the night before thinking "this will be the last time I see him as a 12 year old".
Rather, it generally sneaks up on me. There is an awareness every Spring that this is indeed his month, that Memorial Day long weekend was memorialised for me 13 years ago....but then life goes on. The days clip by, life is lived, five children are tucked into beds every night, and fed breakfast each morning. His birthday came as a quick check on the date on my watch after everyone had gone to bed... and a sudden realization that this is his birthday. The. Day. The day he was born. The day he died. The day I held him. The day I said my final goodbye. One day. It's been 13 years since that day.
I've been a Mother for 13 years...but I'm pretty sure I was a Mommy before he was actually born, and continued to be a Mommy even when I ceased to have a child. I first felt that fierce mother's heart when I realized that I would die to save the baby kicking inside me. But I couldn't. I lived and he died.
I carried in my body a child who I knew would not be mine for long. His life was short, but I have no doubts that the ripples of that in tiny life continue far beyond my view. His feet may have been small, but they left a print on this world.
The One who knit him together in my womb was not asleep the day he was born, He wasn't powerless while half my sons heart wasn't forming, and He didn't make a mistake when his chromosomes included one extra. There is not a rogue atom in this universe that escapes the view of God. I am confident of this, and rest completely in that assurance.
At the same time the sting of death, the complete and utter sorrow that is a mother burying her child reminds us that this is not what was once declared "good". There's no way to escape the wrongness of it. There is no "silver lining" when one of my children is missing from the dinner table for 13 years. When you hold your own dead child there is no pretending that death is just a "natural" part of life. There is no white washing the sorrows that this sin corrupted, fallen world brings ...but there is hope beyond it...and our Hope came down into it. "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; (Isaiah 53:4) ", and he has victory over it (Isaiah 25:8). Death does not have the final word. The sorrows of this world may not be good, but He is.
"Therefore we do not lost heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Cor. 4:16-18
In the weight of all eternity.... affliction now will seem so light and momentary.
In his faithfulness, 13 years ago, He afflicted me with a grief I thought I couldn't bear...and I discovered I didn't have to.
Thirteen years later, I thank God for it, and for bringing so much beauty from ashes.
So today, there may not have been a brand new teenager blowing out his candles...but there was celebration of life.
There was sunshine, laughter, and playing.
We ate our lunch next to dear friends out on fresh new green grass.
There was a clown and balloons and a big walking sun.
We even ate cake, and ice cream.
(and ribbons won for potato sack races)
We may not have taken the time to specifically celebrate or solemnly remember Samuel...or ended up anywhere near a cemetery....
but maybe a day spent enjoying life, soaking up the sweetest things, worshipping together with friends, and loving deeply is the best way to remember my first born.
Happy 13th Birthday precious one. Right now, as I remember the weight of you in my arms and looking into your eyes, I wish could give you a big hug around your neck and tell you that in person.
"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not pus to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been give to us." Romans 5:1-5
Sli Deo Gloria,