For many weeks now I’ve tried to articulate some of the feelings and experiences that have accompanied our grief. But while words once served such therapeutic purposes, they seem to have gone away and left me no map, no trail of crumbs to seek them out. As much as I’ve longed for their return to aid me in my desire to process everything, I’ve had to learn to simply wait patiently. I cannot force their return, they must come back in their own time. Everything is still so raw and fresh – after all, it has only been a few months since we spoke through the tears our final earthly “I love you” to our precious boy. Perhaps part of the reason I must continue to wait is that while writing has always helped me to process, there is simply too much yet to try and work through. It’s simply too soon.
One of the hard (and ongoing) lessons we’ve experienced in this life is the idea of waiting on the Lord. And while there are lots of simplified phrases on this topic (often taken from out-of-context Bible verses and put onto a piece of wall art or on a picture accompanying a beautiful landscape), there is a very real and important concept of acknowledging the sovereign designs and actions of God and allowing Him to direct us, and not try to push things along to fit our timeline. Moses wanted to move things along and that ended in disaster before God led him in the wilderness for forty years until His time had come. So in the meantime we’ve been learning to sit in our grief (sit, not wallow) and trust that God is currently working as well as preparing us for whatever He will do in His time, and not try to rush things along ourselves. Much easier said than done. So quickly written, and yet so much depth behind a few simple sentences.
It is in the midst of the waiting we found ourselves on a much-needed getaway for us to spend time with each other and our other boys. Our boys who have waited patiently for the past couple of years for us to give them the attention they need. It was during this time that the memory of a picture brought back a flood of emotions, and with them a few of the words that have of late been so elusive.
In the fall of 2017 we had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving on the Gulf Coast – along the 30A corridor in the Florida panhandle, which has quickly become one of our favorite destinations. During this trip we went as a family for a daily excursion walking around the different areas of Panama City Beach, including the shops along the pier. It was at a moment during this trip that we took a picture of all three of the boys together – one that ended up on a canvas print hanging in our bedroom. A snapshot in time of three brothers spending time together. A memory of a family enjoying a day together. A memory of a cherished time captured in a photograph.
Fast forward to present day when, on our current getaway, we found ourselves once more at the shops by the pier in Panama City. As we walked, we came upon the very spot where we had taken the photo. It seemed like only a short time ago when we had all been together in that same spot. Now, walking by, it was if an arrow of emotions shot from the bow of that past memory pierced our hearts.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if the emotions aren’t always present. They are always there, lurking in the dark corners of our hearts and minds waiting for their chance to jump out and overcome us for a time before retreating to the background where the stay, waiting for their next opportunity. During those in-between moments we are able to more or less function through daily life, always aware of but not completely hindered by their presence. But when they decide to come out they are relentless and unstoppable. We can exhaust ourselves trying to fight them back for a moment, but have learned to let them have their way.
Now, our memories having been stirred, those emotions started creeping out again. Each one it’s own animal with origins rooted somewhere in our own personal past, the happiness we had, and the loss we now experience. Each emotion simultaneously fighting for our primary attention and working in harmony with the others to form a symphony of grief within us. Deep sadness at the absence of our dearly loved boy who should be with us, splashing through the surf and building sand castles. Anger that someone so precious and innocent should be ripped from our arms and robbed of these family moments. Guilt that we could even bring ourselves to have a vacation, let alone enjoy ourselves, when Finn is not with us. Regret of not throwing practicality to the wind and having more of these moments together as a family while we still could do so.
These are some of the more prominent feelings that are ever present, coming and going like the waves that crash upon the sandy beach we are on, then slowly recede back out to the ocean depths before coming back for more. It is in the midst of these waves we sit on the beach, knowing that the tides will come in and go out, the waves and the currents will sometimes be rough and sometimes be calm. At some point we will get up and walk along the surf, but for now we sit. Sit and wait for the Lord. Sit and remember a photograph. Sit on the beach.