It’s mid-morning on November 16th. We pull into the hospital parking lot. My phone dings.
It’s my sister telling me she’s nervous. A feeling she shares with Casey, who asks me to pray. I’m cautiously optimistic.
We meet with M, our interpreter, in the waiting room. Casey’s anxious, so I use a technique I learned from Pastor Jaime to pull her attention to something else. It helps a bit, and we’re called back.
In the lab, my eyes race across the screen, searching and probing for the heart rate readout while the ultrasound is being done. Not finding it, I switch my attention to the lab tech, and start to read her like a book. Body language gives a lot away.
The bad thing about reading people is knowing almost as soon as they do. “Father…”, I silently plead. There’s no heartbeat. Squiggles died at 8 weeks.
“The doctor will see you in his office.”
Then it hit the other two.
In the office, the doctor looked at us, and sighed. “Father…”, I plead again as he confirmed what we knew. On his wall, I noted two plaques for Most Compassionate Doctor, awarded to him. He lived up to it, listening, answering questions, walking through the next steps without pushing for a decision. Then he laid out the long-term plan. He wasn’t giving up.
As we quietly walked out, the lab tech hugged my wife. In the hall she broke down. M reached for her and embraced her, letting her cry. In the elevator I cradled her, processing the news and next steps. After a final hug from M, and my thanks, we slowly walked to the truck.
I text everyone that I had told. Then after climbing into the truck, the tears ran freely, emotions whipping like a maelstrom. Crying, sadness, and anger. I text my boss, telling him that I wouldn’t be in that day. Pastor Jaime called while I was driving back, asking what could she do.
I couldn’t think of anything.
At home, we weighed the options given. I focused on the mental health aspects, there’s enough junk in our heads. No sense adding to it. We chose a D&C.
After scheduling the surgery, I broke open my Bible to the account that came to mind when I fasted and prayed the previous week. I was really identifying with King David now.
David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground…When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions, and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate.
David replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:16; 19-20; 22-23 NLT
Then I went into the book of Job. A lot of people who are suffering go to that book for answers. Job was saying how I was feeling in that moment.
He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
How can anyone accept that?
His wife said to him, “Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.”
But Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” So in all this, Job said nothing wrong.
There are lessons in this, but it’s too raw for me to see them clearly. One thing did come to mind, God the Father lost His Son, too. He’s been there, and it gave me perspective. I wasn’t an ant in a mean kid’s ant farm.
I continued through Job. His statement, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”, fit my mood perfectly.
A cross reference took me to the third chapter of Lamentations. It’s about Jeremiah’s grief over Israel, but I could identify with the emotions in verses 22-24 and 31-33.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him…For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
Hungry, and not in the mood to cook, we ordered pizza. Then I started to keep myself preoccupied. Printing off journal insights to look into for blog post material and finishing notes, stopping to occasionally answer my wife’s questions. GriefShare prepared me for that.
The phone rang. Pastor Jaime checking in on us, making sure we’re eating. Asked if we wanted company. I couldn’t say we were alone in this. Our other friends had been texting me as well.
After she left for church, I got back to my preoccupation. Problem was, I couldn’t concentrate, and who could expect me to. I knew it was one of the ways grief manifests.
Still, I tried, looking at my journal insights and seeing potential posts among the words. I just wasn’t sure how to connect the thoughts together. I gave up trying to think and settled for the noise of YouTube videos.
What Was Going To Change?
Today had felt like a bad dream. Grief changes you, especially when it’s close to home. This was the fourth death of the year and I had no idea what was going to change this time.
The next morning we had to get the car from the shop. On the way home, alone in my truck, I asked Jesus one question.
The thing about being a theology nerd is I knew the concept of middle knowledge that came to mind. God is all-knowing, which means He knows every possible world and outcome. It’s a choose-your-own adventure that’s picked flawlessly because you know every possibility.
It didn’t answer my question. It just reminded me that for whatever reason, it’ll be worked out for good (Romans 8:28). I just couldn’t see it then, and it still hurt.
Then, while driving, I felt a band of warmth encircle my arms and torso. It was like having two big arms wrapped around me. It was a hug, and it helped.
Not long after we got home, we both realized neither of us was fit to go to work. I called in for both of us. Then I revisited my GriefShare workbook, taking notes and filing them. Doing whatever to get through the day; tomorrow was the surgery.
The next day in the waiting room, my phone dinged with Pastor Jaime’s unique tone. She was held up and trying to hurry. Looking up from my phone, I saw Pastor Tyler walk into the waiting room. He had come to see us.
We spoke briefly, with me interpreting. He told us that Pastor Rod ‘was praying religiously for you.’ Then we prayed, and the nurse who walked up mid-prayer agreed in Jesus’ name. Then she took us back.
We went for another ultrasound to be absolutely sure. Our doctor, his nurse, and the lab tech, all staring and hoping in that little room. No heartbeat.
When we got back, Pastor Jaime was there. She was willing to be both pastor and interpreter that day. Which was good, because I needed to talk. Bottling it up hasn’t helped me before.
The three of us made the most of a bad day. Like the hospital’s attempt to use a video relay service to communicate. They accidentally dialed tech support, who couldn’t transfer the call, and ended up confusing us all.
Epic fail. Just hire an interpreter. Save that device for emergencies.
The Waiting Room
While Casey was in surgery, we sat in the waiting room, speaking of this and that. I spoke of the reason we decided on the surgery, and my question for Jesus. Sometimes I would lapse into silence.
“Yeah. Just thinking. My mind is like an internet browser with 11 tabs open and some weird music coming from somewhere.”
Pastor Jaime liked our doctor because he was staying involved, he’s taking a course of action. I told her he wasn’t even supposed to be our doctor.
“Only God,” she said.
Another Door Closes
When it was over, I took Casey to a restaurant of her choosing. While there I thought to myself, as much as this completely sucks, it wasn’t the worst we had faced. As odd as it may sound, there’s a cold comfort to that.
It still hurt. I cried while walking out of the restaurant. In a convenience store, tears streamed down my face as I stared at a shelf. I’ve never cried this much before.
I don’t cry. My eyes get wet and then the tears retreat. Not this week.
Facing Loss Yet Feeling Loved
We got home to find flowers from our church on our doorstep. They sit on the coffee table as a reminder. An hour later, Pastor Wilmoth called to check on us. We had a healthy church family surrounding us, encouraging us (Hebrews 10:24-26). We didn’t feel alone that day…especially after Casey told Facebook.
The day had been so surreal. If I hadn’t been writing about it throughout the day in my journal, I wouldn’t have believed it. Now it’s time to grieve, to cope, and learn. I’ll find the lessons in it, in time.