In my life, grief and gifts have often come hand in hand.
On Monday it will be 21 years since my son Christopher passed away, and this time of year I always like to think about him and honour him a bit on this blog.
But when I remember him, it’s not just with grief. A whole lot of things are intertwined.
A few weeks after Christopher died we threw a party for my mother. It was her tenth anniversary from her cancer surgery, and so I had a “glad you’re not dead” party. Many thought the title of the party was in poor taste, but I couldn’t figure out what they were objecting to. Should we have had a “wish you were dead” party?
It was strange to be celebrating my mother’s life just as we were mourning my son’s death, but such is the stuff of life. And I was so glad that she was there to help walk me through it.
The real life-death dichotomy came for me, though, because I got pregnant with Katie just 10 weeks after Christopher died. She was born July 27; his birthday would have been August 6.
We asked the ultrasound technician what sex she was while I was pregnant, because I so desperately wanted a boy, and I wanted to be prepared before her birth if she wasn’t. When they told me she was a girl I was disappointed, but not for long. And today I just can’t picture anybody but my Katie. I’m so glad God gave me another little girl.
My girls are good friends, too, probably better than they would have been had she been a boy. And she was never a replacement baby.
It was strange to be nursing one child while crying for the one that was missing, and yet it was wonderful just the same. Katie never replaced Christopher; what she did was give me someone to hug when I was lonely. And Katie came out of the womb an affectionate baby. She always wanted to be hugged, quite the opposite of Rebecca. I felt that she was God’s gift to me.
She realized the significance of her birthday when she was about 10 .
She said to me, “Mommy, if Christopher had lived, I wouldn’t have been born, would I?”. That was a tough one, because the truth is no, she wouldn’t. But I said to her what I see as the truth: I said,
God gave you to me as my gift, and I am so grateful for you.
As a child she liked coming to the graveyard and putting flowers on the grave of the brother she never knew. When she was eleven I heard her introducing herself to another girl and saying, “I have one sister here and one brother in heaven.” I hadn’t know she talked about Christopher like that, but it was nice to hear her say it.
I often think of the song, “Blessed Be Your Name”, and the Bridge, “you give and take away”.
For me it’s always been the opposite: God takes away and then He gives. He has always taken away first.
My fiance broke up with me; then he came back and we married. I miscarried; then I had Rebecca. Christopher died; then I had Katie. But I keep coming back to that: God takes away and He gives. And If I can praise Him in both, then I have learned a lot indeed.
I’ve written a lot about Christopher over the years, and if you’d like to read some of those remembrances, they’re right here:
- Why I’m okay twenty years after my son died (basically my whole faith journey, and what grief taught me)
- Remembering…(My story of the last day of his life. I just had to get it on paper–or at least in writing. This still brings me to tears.)
- Grief: You don’t just get over it (What people often misunderstand about grief)
In my store, I also have my ebook How Big Is Your Umbrella, about the things that we yell at God when life is tough, and what God whispers back, paired with an audio download of one of my talks where I share my story. I’m going to put it on major sale now through Christopher’s birthday on September 4.