I wrote this a week before Christmas, when my arms were feeling empty even when they were (and are) so very full.
“You know, often when God takes something from us He plans to give us something else. It might be something we can see or it might be part of our character, our walk with God…” his voice trailed off, perhaps in response to my clenched jaw and fists.
I was 16, staring down into a grave scraped out of the frozen earth where my beloved Labrador was buried, her back still arched with the internal havoc the poison had wrought on her four year old body. None of us knew how she had ingested the cause of her death, if it had been intended by someone or simply found in the earth, a dead rat, some rotten food. I didn’t understand why she was there in the ground and my stomach boiled with anger at the words attempting to comfort me. They came from a family friend who had helped to dig the grave - quite a feat in the Rocky Mountains, especially the day before a snowy Thanksgiving. I choked down my bitter thoughts along with the tears that wouldn’t stop for days.
I never saw exactly what I gained from my puppy’s death. She had been the answer to my childhood dream of having my own dog and to have it end so prematurely seemed deeply unfair at the time. I suppose I gained character, as our friend had said, and looking back now I know that I did although I couldn’t put an exact name to it.
That was many years ago.
There was a package in the mail last week from my sister. I smiled as I unwrapped a tiny pair of blue and green crocheted booties just right for the little feet busily kicking the air in my lap. And then, a much smaller pair, wrapped in white tissue with a note: “December Baby”. Tiny little booties, crocheted from white cotton, too small to fit anyone meant for this world. I gasped and a wrenching sob escaped from a deep place inside that I thought had shut.
It all came back. The loss two days before Christmas, the weeks of bleeding, mornings when I didn’t want to get out of bed to face another day, an internal battle mentally beating myself up wondering what was wrong that something so many others face would affect me so deeply, how I took three pregnancy tests two months later in disbelief and then for months swung between the joy of another pregnancy and the desperate fear that my baby would be taken from me again.
As I sat there with these two pairs of shoes, one in each hand, I looked at the tiny person in my lap and realized what had happened. This little man, with his big hazel eyes, expressive mouth, decided opinions and big smiles, he wouldn’t exist had his brother or sister continued to grow. Although it wasn’t my choice, it was God’s plan.
I bowed my head, kissing a smooth baby forehead, thanking God because I know He doesn’t always, but this time He has given me something visible and tangible in place of what He had taken. It’s a strange thing, but this gift, my little Ethan, would not have been possible without loss.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!