I heard your voice today and it took me back a million years. A million years, but only two and a half in reality. Your sister and brother found the old mini tape recorder of yours from when you were 10 or 12 years old. They played the tapes and had great fun listening to it. I haven't heard your voice in so long. It made me cry. As desperately as I long to hear your voice, it's also excruciating because the reality is you're not here, and you're not coming back. And I don't know how long it will be before I see you again. Grief twisted my heart, and I can think of no other word that better fits the description than bittersweet. You sounded so happy on the tape, whispering how you were going to sneak up on your sister. I remember you recording any and every thing with that recorder! We laughed as we listened to your recording of me teaching one of your siblings to read, you narrating and interjecting sarcastic comments. So like you. I miss you more than words can say.
A million teardrops have fallen from my eyes since July 29, 2011. Never would I have thought it was possible to cry so much in my life. The effects of grief are more far-reaching than I ever imagined, also. It changes relationships, it changes friendships, it changes families. It changes routine, it changes life. Some of those changes are reversible, but most are not. Death of a child is a point of no return for the bereaved. It is a new beginning, unwanted and unfamiliar.
Eventually, however, it begins to look a bit less frightening, and you start to recognize the surroundings. If you're willing, you begin to rebuild. It is painstakingly slow work. It is paradoxical and solitary. Yet, simultaneously, it is crowded with fellow travelers. Earlier this week, I thought of a poem I had heard of before, many years ago. It's titled, "Welcome to Holland." Though it was written to describe the experience of being a parent of a child with disabilities, the journey of child loss has several similar reactions.
As my family continues on this road of loss with this drastically changed landscape, I am strengthened and encouraged by God's word, by the continued support of many, and by some incredibly gifted authors. Authors such as Joni Eareckson-Tada (A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty) and Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts). I am blessed by writers such as Kimberly Henderson. Her blog post, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, came at the exact moment the LORD knew I needed it. Only He had heard my heart's cry earlier this week when I had lamented silently to Him that I would give anything to hear Matt's voice again. And then Matt's brother and sister came downstairs unexpectedly with Matt's mini tape recorder shortly thereafter. Oh, the love of my Savior unto me! He is my help and stay. (Psalm 18:1,18)