Grief is hard.
The day we buried our son, Joshua Caleb, was a dismal, dreary day, at least from what I remember of it. Maybe that was just the way my heart felt when I look back on it.
I looked it up. Historical weather data confirms my memory. Cool and slightly windy. Overcast.
Yes. The same as my heart.
I’ve been sharing with you our experience in the loss of my firstborn son and how God grew my faith during that time. If you have just stumbled upon this post, please go back and read the entire series. This series is not meant, in any way to bring you down, or gain sympathy. If you will stick with me for a bit, you will see how God took what the enemy stole from us, and used it for so much good, and ultimately, His glory. I hope it encourages you in whatever struggle you may be experiencing.
Now, let me back up a bit. The day Joshua Caleb inherited his new home in Heaven, we said our good-byes to that sweet baby and we left the hospital, knowing we would not be back to visit him ever again.
I remember walking across the parking garage fighting my tears back as I passed others on their way in to see their children. My father decided we needed to go eat breakfast on the way home, and so… the five of us (my husband and I, my mom, my dad, and step-mom) went to eat.
My dad was never any good at dealing with hard emotions. His way of dealing with that difficult morning was to attempt to take our mind off of it with food and redirecting our attention.
It didn’t really work because it was during that breakfast that we had to make some tough decisions about what we needed to do with the rest of our day, and the ones to come. But the amazing thing that happened during that breakfast, was that we all laughed. As I recall, it was just for a moment, and I have no memory of why we did. But we did. Of course, the other amazing thing that had begun to happen was that my mom, dad, and step-mom sat at the same table and conversed. More on that later, but there was peace at that breakfast.
The Perfect Outfit
The funeral home had requested an outfit for Joshua, so my mom called Babies R Us to see if they had anything for a preemie, and was told they had a very small section, so off we went. Of course, I had a very hard time finding the “right” outfit, and everything my husband and Mom showed me was the wrong one. Everything. I began to get anxious about finding the outfit as I started at the beginning of the small preemie section to comb over it again.
I said a prayer.
Lord, I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t even know what the “right” outfit looks like. Please show it to me. Please tell me it’s the “right” one.
Literally, at that moment I saw a little blue outfit poking out from behind another one. I picked it up and it was the sweetest little one-piece, blue and white cotton outfit. It looked like the old 1920’s style baby clothes with suspenders. Noah’s ark with giraffes standing on the edge of the boat was embroidered across the white top. Do you know what? At the time, I was cross-stitching Noah’s Ark and just a few nights earlier, I had finally completed the two giraffes.
Yep! That was the outfit.
Crazy enough, I wasn’t done shopping. Since we didn’t know when we would be ready for another child, and we still needed the mobile to complete our nursery set, we decided to go ahead and get it while we were there.
Yeah. I know. I still can’t believe we did that. I just knew I wouldn’t want to go back into a baby store any time soon and didn’t want the mobile to be discontinued. So … yes. That happened.
Believe it or not…
I was still questioning my clothing choice a slight bit. When I look back, even after all that has happened, I was still questioning God’s faithfulness! I went to the register to pay and my husband and Mom walked away to wait on me while the cashier rang up my purchase.
She stated my total, and I didn’t think I heard her correctly, so I asked her to repeat it. She did. I stared at her, for what was probably a really uncomfortable period of time for her. Haha!
I just couldn’t believe that the total amount of my purchase was the same as the room number that they had moved Joshua too when he became sick. Yes, that’s right! I still get chills when I think about it. If you remove the decimal, the number was the same. Coincidence? Possibly, but I choose to believe that was God confirming to me that we are going to be okay.
Confirming to me that He hears me. Confirming to me that the little outfit is perfect … whatever that means.
We went to the funeral home and made the arrangements. Something nobody ever wants to do… for anybody. Ever.
The day of the funeral, people came. A lot of people came. There were so many people that we didn’t even know many of them, but they had been following my pregnancy and Joshua’s progress after birth. Remember that this was back in 1992, long before social media existed the way it does now. We were baffled.
Our prayer was that we could be strong enough to receive condolences. We were.
Our prayer was that God would give us peace… at least for those moments. He did.
So many kind words were spoken to us. So many prayers had gone to Heaven for us all. They were so needed and appreciated.
The interesting thing was that we found ourselves consoling people that day. That was ONLY God… NOT us.
I heard the words, “It’s not fair” from one of my dearest friends. She was right. It wasn’t fair. Nothing about this was fair. Nothing.
When it was time to go to the special Babyland Memorial Gardens for the service portion, I watched them put his little tiny 2-foot-long casket into that great big Hearse in front of our car. My heart broke all over again at that moment. I mean it felt like it shattered into a million pieces. It wasn’t fair. IT’S NOT FAIR!
I knew this was it. It’s final. Of course, it was already final. Long before that moment. But to me… I broke.
We pulled out of the funeral home parking lot and drove by the fire department, where all of the firemen were standing at attention along the side of the road, saluting, as we drove by. I will never forget that moment.
The Cemetery flew the flag at the entrance at half-staff in memory of Joshua Caleb. That was a special touch too. The graveside service was short and sweet, so we went back to my husband’s grandmother’s house where people from church had brought the family food. I was exhausted and broken-hearted, but as I looked around me, I knew I was blessed…I just didn’t know at the time how blessed.
Some time had passed, and I needed to go home for a moment. I saw my dad and told him I was going to my house (next door) for a bit. He asked me if I had seen my step-mom and as I looked around for her, I noticed my mom was nowhere either. I asked him if he’d seen Mom and he replied, “I’m coming with you.”
As we passed by the kitchen, we paused to look in the window. What we saw at that moment was a miracle that had begun right in front of our eyes. We stood and watched for several minutes as my mom and my step-mom washing dishes and talking. I don’t know how long they had been there, but I can tell you, that was NOT normal. That was the beginning of healing being birthed, right at my kitchen sink.
God was moving in our family. We just didn’t know to what extent at that moment.
Just a little something to ponder …
I firmly believe that God uses what the enemy means for our destruction. After all, we know that Satan only has one purpose in mind.
In John 10:10, the Bible says (and Jesus is talking here),
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
What a blessing!!
We have to choose to look for Him. We have to choose to go to Him first. We have to choose to do it consistently. Hindsight is 20/20. I’m telling you, we had no clue what He was doing in our lives, or in our family at that moment.
I can tell you that this was rough. Really. Really. Rough. I wanted to give up more times than I can count. I screamed at God. I cried. I pitched a royal fit more often than I like to admit. Yeah. I’m in no way perfect, nor have I cornered the market on how to grieve just right.
But then I prayed. I felt a peace that surpasses all understanding. I felt that. I did. I know that you can too. I know it’s real.
I know He’s real.
Keep on reading the next part. This story is not over yet.
If you are struggling with grief or loss, here are some resources to help you through your struggle.
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