I joined a club.
Not voluntarily, no. There was a kicking and screaming. I remember some wailing and some sobbing. Some punching and gritted teeth.
It's an exclusive club, though not as exclusive as some would like to believe.
It's a club of women. Beautiful, faithful, selfless, and strong women. Women for whom getting out of bed some days is a testimony to their faith and strength. They are truly the most shining souls I've ever met, but they're so humble they don't even know it. I'd go so far as to say they mostly match the mold Proverbs 31 carves out. I am both honored and blessed to be considered their friend, though truthfully the reason I met some of them is far from a blessing. I'd rather have never had a reason to know them.
You see, this club is one no one in their right mind actually wants to join. The members don't want anyone else to join either, we pray and work passionately so that no one will ever have to again. Nevertheless, we are quick to offer a warm hug, a simple text, or box of resources when someone does find themselves in our heavy shoes.
There isn't a word for what we are, and that fact tells a story about the real tragedy that we live every day. We are mothers living after the death of our child. Living isn't really the right word though. Our lives have been shattered by an unnatural ordering of death, and we're continually putting pieces together again.
Some of us cry daily because there's no way to keep it from coming. Some of us don't cry at all because we're terrified we'll never be put together again if we allow ourselves to break.
Some of us shy from the inevitably difficult questions about children and and ages and such. No need to show a complete stranger even a tiny fraction of the pain we live with every day, ya know. Some of us bare our souls each time we're asked about our kids; it's a wonderful way to share the Gospel...but truth be told, I would give my last breath to never have had a reason to answer those difficult questions.
Some of us are doers and planners and fundraisers for the causes that are now branded on our hearts. Some of us do our best just to do and plan and care for ourselves on a daily basis.
Bereavement looks different on each mother it touches, but we also have similarities. We are all living for something this world can no longer give us. Our eyes have been opened to what a truly broken, hateful world we live in, and we are haunted by it. We want Jesus to come fix it in a way that couldn't have been fathomed before our deepest pain snatched our babies away. Homesickness for Heaven has hijacked our thoughts. Our own deaths no longer scare us, but the thought of Death coming for of any more of our children brings crippling anxiety.
When I look at pictures of Luke, I have an indescribable urge to reach into the picture and hold him. There are no words to describe how bad I want to put my hands on him and pick him up, I've tried. To feel that soft, strawberry fuzz on his head. To smell that sweet baby smell that I'm so terrified that I'll forget. I read another mother write about the pain of knowing her baby was just a few feet below her in a grave, and all she could think about was how much she wanted to reach out and touch her fingers.
I don't know why I'm writing this really. I just felt like you should know the beauty that lies in all of the women I have come to love in the past seven months. And as fervently as we pray for them to be spared that pain, more mothers are added to this "club" every. single. day.
When Luke went to heaven, grieving mothers of all kinds reached out to me. They jumped through hoops to get my number just so they could send a text to let me know they're there. They took a break from their grief to help me carry some of mine. They traveled miles upon miles to sit with me, fully aware that I may not even speak during the visit. They showed up because they knew that that's what is needed most.
Anyway, I just thought you ought to know about them. About us. About this club.
They don't seem like much, but those two little words hold a whole lot of weight for me.
I know you don't mean it when you say it, but all I can think about is that little blue casket that will hold my baby's earthly form...little forever.
"Can't I keep you little?"
"Oh, how I wish I could stop time."
The list goes on. And on. And. On.
I, too, have noticed how quickly time passes when you watch your child grow, but I wouldn't stop it. Not for a moment. Not for all the gold in Heaven's streets.
I've watched time stand still. It's nothing anyone wants to witness. Ever. For us, the world kept going around us but we just stood there. There was CPR, his tiny feet bouncing under the weight of chest compressions, nurses running, doctors calling orders. It seemed like it took an eternity waiting for the telltale beep of the heart monitor, but we got nothing.
No more Luke. For him...for us, time did stop. Trust me, you have no idea what you're asking for.
Next time you're overwhelmed with how fast your baby is growing, do me a favor.
Hit your knees and praise God for allowing you to witness it for another day.
Take that baby who is growing like a weed outside, so he can pick you a chubby fist full of weeds. Put those "flowers" in a vase and declare how you have never seen a more beautiful arrangement. Watch it make him smile all over.
Give him a slice of pound cake at Mimi's house and take the time to notice how he'll now only eat the crusty top, just like his picky daddy. When you get home, write it in your journal of things you're scared you'll forget.
Marvel at that baby's need to watch the movie for the twelve thousandth time only to beg you to turn it off right before the bad part. Smile because you know he got that from you; heaven knows you've watched Steel Magnolias at least a thousand times, but you've only seen the part where Shelby collapses a grand total of three times.
Savor the giggles and notice how his grin wrinkles up his cute little nose. Smile at the way his eyes close to slits every time because he smiles with his entire face. Take a picture of it, but just for yourself...don't share it all on social media.
Smell his little head just one more time, and notice how his baby scent is slowly fading into the scent of dirt and sweat. Treasure it in your heart.
When you drop him off at kindergarten, sit in your car and cry because your baby is sitting in a classroom then thank God for allowing you to experience it. When he brings a bad note home for pushing his teacher to see exactly what his limits are with her, discipline him to the fullest extent but then laugh with his daddy about his spunk when he's not looking.
Cheer for that first hit he gets without the tee. Treasure the sweaty, dirty, and oh-so-happy red faced grin he gives you when he sees how proud you are of him. Don't miss it because you're looking at someone else's life on social media.
These moments are beautiful, precious gifts. Gifts we don't all get with all of our children. Gifts that some of us were anticipating with joyful hearts, but then we had them snatched away. Enjoy them. Every milestone your child reaches should be met with bittersweet celebration, but don't dread it. Mourn the end of every day because your baby will be a bit older tomorrow, but then pour your thankful heart out to God asking him to give you so much more to experience with those babies.
And do not ever wish for it to stop.
You have no idea what you're asking for.