I was out with my children the other day at the store, and I saw you, like so many other people and times before, counting. Counting my kids as they walked by. Yes, I have a lot of children. But what you didn't know was that that wasn't all of them. I wanted to stop and tell you about each one of these precious gifts I have been given. I wanted to tell you how incredibly blessed I am for each and every one of them. I wanted to tell you that every disparaging comment I receive about the large number of children I have is worth it. I saw the look of bewilderment on your face, the unasked questions blinking in your eyes like a flashing billboard. But I didn't have time to stop and chat, and I've learned to just smile politely and keep moving. Much like I do when asked how many children I have.
The question doesn't torment me like it first did, when grief was fresh and the wound of child loss gaping and raw. For now, the question gives opportunity to speak about all of my kids, including the one who was made perfect in heaven at the age of 16. Like most parents, I love to talk about my kids, the ones with me and the one in heaven. I realize this makes people uncomfortable, and most don't know what to say. Many are simply too shocked to respond. How I wish I didn't have to shock you with the news that my child died, but Matt is a part of our family. And yes, I said is. He is no longer with us, but we were blessed with 16 years. The absence of my child does not erase his existence. Matt continues to be a part of our daily lives through the memories we cherish of him. We talk of him often, and that is yet another "hard" of grief, that as the years go by fewer and fewer people mention him.
Of course, this is reality. Life changes, people move on. Friends come and go. New friends have no history with Matt or memories of him, no clue of his personality or mannerisms. Longtime friends remember our history, but their lives, like ours, sail relentlessly forward in life's current. What was remains then, while what is drifts swiftly by. I want to tell you, dear Onlooker, that I, too, was once where you were. I, too, saw the "outside" of people. I thought I knew about them just by looking at them. I didn't know their stories. I had no clue of the invisible scars people bore. I gave no thought to the fact that scars are forever.
I never realized my child-loss scar would be forever. From day one of our son's death, I thought that healing meant complete, whole, that things would be the way they were before. And I thought that complete and whole meant unscarred, smooth, without blemish. I now know that healing means bearing a scar, a scar that isn't visible to most. It's a scar that will remain until I, too, am made perfect in heaven like Matt.
I wanted to tell you my story, dear Onlooker, because we too soon forget that this life is short. We take our days and time here for granted. Sharing my story is a chance to remind you that this life is a gift. Savor it, and make sure that the foundation of your life is built on Jesus Christ. Because some day, you will, if you haven't already, face situations that leave you scarred, as well. And I daresay that there are only two choices when your world crumbles: be bitter or better. A foundation built on the rock of Christ will stand, and what is rebuilt will be an even better abode. Bitterness destroys a foundation. It is a poison that permeates from the inside out, contaminating not only the container, but everyone it comes in contact with.
The scars we bear are not pretty. But to quote Chris Cleaves: "A scar means, 'I survived'." A scar means there's a story to tell. Yet not everyone desires to tell their story. Some hide their story behind the "fine" smile (Feelings I'm Not Expressing). Others grab a megaphone, blaring ripe for someone, anyone, to hear it. Some want their stories to just go away. But I'm betting we all just want our story to matter, to make sense, to count for something. We want to know that our scars are not in vain, that they serve a purpose.
Dear Onlooker, you didn't see my scar or know of the ache in my heart as I walked past you. For I, too, was counting my children, missing my firstborn. You only saw a mom of many with her hands full. But I know that my scar bears witness of God's faithfulness, of His unfailing love and goodness. This scar keeps me relying on Christ, turning to Him daily for grace and peace. The scar is permanent, but so is Jesus.