This is a difficult one to write. I’ve started and stopped several times. It’s personal. It’s painful. And I don’t understand it all. I’d much rather write neat and tidy posts. This is not that. It is open-ended and very much still-in-process. It is the culmination of a 365 day conversation with God and wise counselors that I did not sign up to have and that is far from over. But I share it with you now with permission from the loved ones involved.
365 days ago we brought our fifth baby- and fourth boy- home from the hospital. Two hours later, we received a call from our dear friends saying they just lost their only son to a single lightening strike while on vacation. He was five years old and the best friend to our Sam. Our families had shared countless meals, playdates, burdens, laughs and adventures together. And now we shared loss.
Without warning- and with a newborn in tow and a move to a new State far from the support of familiar friends-I was ushered into a dark seasonof grief, confusion, guilt, tears, sleepless nights, loneliness and anger. Lots of anger. Why him? Why like that? Why now? How can we trust You now? Who will You take next? Will I ever again see the beauty of God in lightening, or just cruelty? Is the world safe? Are YOU safe? Like many others, I’ve found profound comfort in C.S. Lewis’s portrayal of Jesus as Aslan.
Yet I found nothing good in this. And the phrase I found myself repeating over and over was, “God, that was mean. Just mean.” Mean and merciless in so many ways.
We moved just weeks after Stephen’s death and I hated not being able to support my friend in the ways I wanted. To sit with her and cry together. To revisit the parks and playgrounds and memories. To pour myself into supporting her. Just mean and merciless.
A few years prior, Stephen was quite dramatically and miraculously diagnosed with seizures, thus sending his family on a long journey of seeking the best possible treatments. It involved hours and hours of driving to wellness practitioners, changes in diet and schedule and finances, researching medications, and a whole lot of effort. And we often said things like, “Thank God He saved Stephen from those seizures and for the treatment he’s receiving. What a mercy from God.”
But this gratitude turned upside down when, just as Stephen was entering renewed health and the height of boyhood, he was taken Home in such a manner. Lightening. On vacation with his family. Instant.
God, that was mean.
All those years devoted to his wellbeing just to have him leave the world like that? Mean and merciless. How can I trust a God who would do something like that? It just doesn’t make sense.
Last month, I made a road trip to visit my friend. We stood in Stephen’s room and poured over each toy, each article of clothing, each memory. We sat on his bed and cried. And prayed. And fell silent.
And through the heaviness, my friend shared what she was grateful for: the seizures. Those seizures that gave her countless hours with Stephen as they drove to their wellness center. Hours where they would talk as mom and son. She’d watch him from the rear view mirror as they chatted or as he fell asleep. Those seizures that meant, last summer, she had to watch him vigilantly as he was being weaned off of a medication and there was a higher risk of another episode. No dropping him off at swim practice and getting lost in conversations with others. No, she had to watch him. No bringing him to soccer practice and getting work done on the phone. No, she had to watch him. On that beach, on his last days on earth, she asked her husband to keep an eye on the other children so she could watch Stephen.
All those images of her carefree, healthy son enjoying his world. She didn’t miss them.
All the gratitude for those moments. Even while grieving.
All those memories.
All that mercy.
The Mysterious Mercy of God.
All the energy I spent accusing God of being mean. Perhaps it was mercy all along.
It still doesn’t ease the sadness; the loss. It doesn’t take away the confusion; the questions. But it brings fresh hope.
Last Fall my children heard a song that they instantly loved. Every time it comes on the radio they belt it out. It quickly became “Stephen’s Song.” It wasn’t until last month that I looked it up and noticed that the video’s opening scene is of lightening. The mysterious mercy of God. Wishing us all courage and hope in whatever we are called to endure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twL3v5r8s6o