Thursday, September 7, 2017

Redemption

I am often asked what it's like to have another little boy, when my first boy went to heaven. It's different than I expected, and much, much better.

I remember meeting with a lovely bereaved mom while I was pregnant with Andrew. Her two young daughters died tragically. She had a sweet toddler boy at home, and was hoping and praying that she and her husband would someday be able to have another girl as well. I didn't really understand what she meant when she talked about wanting to use the girls' bikes in the garage, and their hair ditties up in the bathroom again. That sounded painful to me.

And wasn't the joy of a new baby, regardless of gender, what was important?

I didn't get it.

In fact, I secretly wondered if the little boy I was carrying, who might, gulp, look a lot like his big brother, would hurt my heart more than a baby girl would. Just accepting that I had an unplanned pregnancy at this age and would be starting the whole parenting journey over again was MIGHTY SCARY-- did we really need to it be more difficult in another way too?

I get what that mama was saying now.

I experience it daily, and the closest word I can come up with is REDEMPTION.

For more than four years, I couldn't walk by the boys' section of Target without aching. It didn't matter if my eyes landed on a toddler outfit, or something for a teen-- my heart seized with pain as I missed Jack at every stage, even the ones he never got to.

Now, I hold up little boy shorts and ponder whether they will fit around Andrew's prodigious belly. I shudder to think of going into the toy aisle again, not because Jack died, but because it's mind-numbingly boring, yet I know I'll go there with Andrew. I see super hero paraphernalia on an end-cap and wonder if I'll need to learn the good guys' and the bad guys' names for the very first time.

Andrew shifts me to today. To next week. To the future.  He doesn't take away or diminish the past, but he somehow redeems much of it. I can think about Jack's love of baseball now, and try to guess whether Andrew will play, or whether soccer will be his game. Each stage Andrew is in takes me back to Jack and Margaret and the happy memories of their childhoods. Instead of tears, there is the remembrance of their own quirky cuteness, the chaos, and their snuggly love. It was a sacred time, even though I didn't know it then.

There is also a joy that comes from experiencing life through a toddler's eyes. Margaret and I've noticed we get excited about the little things-- a butterfly, a turtle, a fire truck, a helicopter-- when  we wouldn't have paid attention to them just a year ago. He has brought wonder back into our lives.

My delight in Andrew is not because he's a boy, or because he looks a bit like Jack, but his being a boy has been somehow healing.

I remember a sad scene in the movie Finding Neverland, with Johnny Depp playing J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. Depp's character says the one time his mother ever truly looked at him with delight, was when he walked into a room dressed in his dead brother's clothes.

Ouch.

Andrew may wear a few of Jack's things that I had saved for grand kids, or play with Jack's toys, but Andrew is Andrew, and we see him, love him and delight in him. Ok, not so much in the middle of the night, but you know what I mean.

Somehow Andrew helps us look at the past and remember it with joy not sadness, and he helps us look ahead at the possibilities that await us in this weird, exhausting, wonderful life. If he has also taken the sting out of Legos, toy cars, boy clothes, and Target, I am grateful for that.

And I know any joy, gratitude and hope that we have makes my first boy happy too.





23 comments:

Jen said...

You put this so well. That's how I feel with our son Lars after we lost our son Axel. It reframes things and while it's odd and hard to imagine it does help.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Beautiful, your words speak hope to all who are suffering. I'm so delighted that God blessed you with Andrew.

Jennie Goutet said...

I understand now that you explain it and I find it all t so full of wonder. That's the best way I can express it.

Anonymous said...

I can relate to the mix of emotions that comes with having a much younger boy, after losing a boy. My seven-year-old, Asher, reminds of his big brother, Kade, and sometimes I have wondered if all these new little boy experiences are "erasing" or "crowding out" my memories of Kade's boyhood. Early after Kade died, I lamented that my new little was a not a girl, to more easily separate those memories and mental pictures.

But then I wouldn't get those moments, that unearth the memories, when Asher moves in just such a way that Kade did. A flash of a movement so subtle I couldn't explain it to another person. Or when he lost his teeth and his adult teeth began to grow in, in the same fashion that his big brother's did...a not so subtle similarity that my mom and even my aunts noticed and mentioned. Which was awesome.

Elizabeth Ryan said...

So beautifully written - most touching. Redemption does fit perfectly.
Blessings to you and your family.

Flo said...

Oh Anna, the way you write things is amazing. You create empathy even from persons who didn't have to overcome this kind of grief. It is all so simple and so true! Thanks for looking that deep inside yourself and sharing it, it is beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad to read this. May your healing and joy continute. I know tomorrow is a tough day for your family. Prayers now and always.

Gigi said...

What a beautiful post, Anna. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you and Jack today, Anna - I am so glad Andrew has helped and brought joy to you. It's strange - I said to Carlene sometime during the year that Jack died - "I don't know how, but Anna will write a book and she will have another child". I thought maybe, at the time, by adoption. Either way, I'm so happy my prediction came true. Love you guys, Nancy Lee

VCI Team said...

Wonderful post, Anna! Hoping Andrew sleeps through the night :)

Anonymous said...

Leave it to you to make us smile! We've been praying lots this week. I was upset it rained yesterday and yet glad it didn't today. Thank you for being you! Love you, Karen

Jennifer Carr said...

Every year, it's a different sting. With Andrew in your life now, I see joy and happiness again. That doesn't take away Jack or his place in your family. But it can provide comfort in knowing Jack would be and is so happy watching you love this little boy and through it life is feeling a little better for you all. The little things. Jack, we miss you and will NEVER forget you. Thank you for the gifts you gave to me and to our family. 💙

Anonymous said...

I was born exactly 2 years to the day after my older brother died as an infant. I was given his first name as my middle name. His death was mentioned on EVERY birthday. It took me YEARS to get over the feeling that I was a "replacement part." If you need redemption get therapy, not a replacement.

Anonymous said...

Jack and your family are on my mind and in my heart today. Thank you for the gift of your writing that brought Jack into our lives. Love to you.

Susie - Recovering Church Lady said...

You have answered a question I had about you and your little cutie. I am so happy to get this beautiful answer! Redemption, transforming a memory or item from bad to good is a truly beautlfil thing!

Shannon Sequeira said...

Yes. Absolutely. Andrew honors you all. Your post made me cry. I am sure Jack is happy for you all. He shares in your joy and wonderment.

I loved what you said about their young years as being a sacred time. I was talking to my older daughter just this morning about that time we shared together when it was just her, me, and Duke, our beloved Boston Terrier. Megan and I were alone talking this morning, looking at our two Boston Terriers, Waverley and Tate, and I told her it was like old times -- just her and me. She was born in late June of 1999; she is three months younger than Jack. I think of Jack and where he would be, too. I know he is never far from you, Anna, and from Tim, Margaret, and Andrew.

Your purpose is healing others. I just know it.

Know that you have the love and support of so many.

Hugs, love, and friendship always.

Unknown said...

This was beautiful and poignant. And though I have not experienced a loss like yours, it gives me hope as I move though my own grief. Thank you for sharing.

Steph said...

Thank you for continuing to share your beautiful story. Your writing explains your experience of the healing power of redemption so poignantly. I too believe your joy makes Jack happy.

Joan said...

Lovely, Anna -- so happy for you.
-- Joan in PA

Anonymous said...

Anna, I will be attending a remembrance ceremony for another family this morning. I will make sure to include Jack in my prayers. God Bless you and your family.
Falls Church neighbor

connie said...

Beautiful post. Thank you.

kristine said...

So beautifully written. Love that you keep it real. On a side note, I just bought your book to give to a coworker whose son was killed in a car accident. I read it this summer. I lost my unborn son 6 years ago, and there were many things I could relate to in the book. Thank you for having the strength to write it.

Melinda said...

I love your voice. When you write, I feel like you are speaking to us. I'm so happy for you to have Andrew. And Margaret. And that you got to experience those 12 years with Jack. I'm so happy and heartbroken for you every time I get to read your words. I have three boys. My oldest is 12. I pray for you all so often. Thank you for sharing so much, your heartbreak, your joys, your regular life.