Monday, 6 February 2017

Nine years ago. Thanksgiving as we remember.

Tomorrow, my daughter would have been nine. Can I even say that though? Psalm 139 is clear: 'All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be'. It doesn't seem right to say 'would have been' or 'should have been' because that suggests that her life was ever meant to be any longer than it was. Maybe to rephrase, nine years ago tomorrow, we celebrated the birth of our first child.

I've written before about how grief changes with time. The most read post on this blog was a 'wish list' I wrote seven years after her death. I've reflected on the amazing hope we have of eternity, and how there are many precious lessons which we take with us into every day. Sometimes I consider specific aspects of grief, for example how fathers are sometimes forgotten when it comes to miscarriage or infant death.

Tonight, I simply wanted to stop and reflect. We were told that when we had children, 'nothing would ever be the same again'; this was absolutely true, but not in the way we expected! Our perspective changed entirely, and through the juxtaposition of absolute joy and almost unspeakable grief, we came to understand the love of God in a new way. When we remember that God sent His only Son into this world to die for sinners like us, willingly, it almost blows us away. We understood a little more of what that might have cost, and what an amazing gift of grace it was.

So, nine years later, do I have anything different to say than I might have done after one, two or five years? Much is similar, but perhaps I'd emphasise some things more now.

1) We long to hang onto every memory. When she was ill, she lost the ability even to cry. I remember one day, realising that I couldn't remember her own particular cry. I couldn't remember my daughter's voice. And I felt loss. We used to use a particular baby lotion that had a lovely smell. For a while we still had a small pot of it, but after time it lost its scent. It seemed silly to buy another (it was available in South Africa, but not where we were now living). And with time, I forgot that smell. It's the small things like that, that with time, these memories fade.

2) We love to hear about how her life challenged people. I've said that before, but perhaps this element grows stronger with time. It's quite easy for everybody to be emotional and 'challenged' around the time of a death or a funeral, but with time many people go back to their 'normal' lives. When I hear stories of how people were changed forever, that gives me real joy. Several years after she died, we heard testimony from a young man who became a Christian at her funeral. That man is now an elder at our church in the UK, and recently preached a sermon which included that testimony. To us, that is one of the most encouraging things - that through her illness and death, some people came to salvation. I hold onto a mental picture of her greeting us in heaven and showing us all the ways her life brought glory to God, introducing us to people who heard the gospel through her life. Of course we have no idea what heaven will be like, but I am sure that we will know everything about things that have brought God glory. And that will be simply amazing.

3) It still hurts. Grief does change with time. At first, you don't think you can get through a day without feeling it all day, every day. Then one day you laugh again. And another day, it is not your first thought in the morning. But even with time, there can come waves of grief - perhaps triggered by a sight, a sound, a smell, perhaps relating to the experience of a friend or relative, or perhaps utterly inexplicable. It can be strange to try and explain it to others, and it can feel quite isolating. There are other days when it almost feels as though it was all something that happened to somebody else in a different life. There doesn't seem to be any clear reason why we might feel so differently one day to the next.

4) Anniversaries are precious. They are landmarks where you can stop and reflects. Time moves fast, and life gets busy. It's helpful to stop, reflect, remember, and give thanks. Sometimes people don't want to upset us by letting us know they remember these, but believe me, it means a lot, and probably more so as the years go by.

5) We would never have changed things for a minute. We are thankful for the gift that she was, are thankful that she is now rejoicing in heaven, are thankful that we could see God's goodness and grace through her life, are thankful that others heard the truth of the gospel, are thankful that God showed us where our priorities should lie, are thankful for the valuable lessons we learnt regarding what is most important for our other children. We see her whole life as a wonderful gift.

6) We still like to talk about her! I don't think that will ever change.

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