The day true peace came to me was a day just like any other, as I lived out my new life bound up by grief and loss. Yes, peace came in waves throughout the previous year, as there was heartache and pain, but then miraculous intervention time after time. I just remember telling myself over and over. Trust Him. Trust Him. Trust Him. Some days were easier than others. But my daily affirmations reiterated my position with my whole heart.
Time passes by. It always does. Sometimes it passes quickly and sometimes it’s slow. But … it always keeps on passing. Good times and bad times. If you are just stopping by and haven’t been reading my testimony about the loss of my firstborn son and how God grew my faith in the process, please check it out here.
Christmas is one of my most favorite times of year, and in 1992, it came and went. It was our first Christmas as a married couple, and we made an attempt to make it special although the elephant in the room was the tremendous amount of loss we had both just experienced barely 2-3 weeks earlier.
Our son passed away on December 5th and my mother-in-law passed away just 10 days later, on December 15th. Yes, 10 days before Christmas. The pain was still so great that first Christmas.
It was not only our favorite holiday, but it was my mother-in-laws as well. Of course we missed out on all the baby’s first Christmas memories, but we expected that anyways. We missed Joyce’s presence and her smile and laughter at our family Christmas. It was tough.
It didn’t end there because New Years was around the corner. Joshua’s original due date was mid-January and it came along as just another reminder of our loss. Through God’s grace, we got through it too.
I recall the kindness (and well-meaning) of my friends and family that wanted to dismantle the nursery for us and pack it up. Nope. Didn’t let them. It was my job and I wanted to do it. I needed to touch his things and put them away. I needed to do it when I was ready.
I recall friends and family calling me and coming to check on us from time to time. I also remember getting phone calls from people I didn’t even know that wanted to be a shoulder for us. God gave us strength, and He sent people to stand in the gap for us and provide support. I’m so thankful.
Then there were the bills that kept coming…
However, I also remember sitting down to dinner with my husband and getting collection calls from the hospitals about the thousands we now owed. Yep. They poured in, what felt like, daily.
My husband was the only income since I had been placed on bedrest at 16 weeks of pregnancy. After insurance paid their part, we were still left with thousands left to pay. As I recall we had hospital bills from 3 hospitals, neonatologist, cardiologist, Emory Clinic, a genetics doctor, and the list goes on. We owed anywhere from $600 on up to $59,000 to each individual medical bill we received.
We were overwhelmed, and while people told us just pay $10 a month, not one of them seemed to want to accept that. So, they kept calling.
I got frustrated one particular evening that a collector called me about a $700 debt. This was just 2 months after Joshua passed away. He didn’t want to accept that I could only pay them $10 a month, and so he kept badgering me and making threats of garnishing my husband’s wages and such.
I remember telling him that his bill was the least of my concern, because I had a huge stack on my counter with much larger debts. In addition, I told him that I didn’t appreciate the way he was talking to me, as if I had gone and bought a new couch that I couldn’t afford. I told him I had a baby that needed a lot of care, and didn’t make it.
The phone went silent. He accepted my $10 and hung up. I really hope that our phone call changed the way he treated his next collection call.
Yes, even the bills were a constant reminder of what we no longer had in our arms.
They persisted for several years, but believe it or not, blessings came from those bills too. Someone in our church told our pastor to bring in our largest medical bill. We did and later learned that The Shriners had paid for it.
And then a miracle took place.
We paid for 3 years on the two Parkway Medical bills that totaled over $7000 after insurance. One month, I didn’t receive my statement so I called to request it. She explained they were changing over their billing company and she would send it right away. After a week or so, we still didn’t have it, so we went to the office to pay it in person. She accepted the payment.
The next month, the same thing happened. We went to the office to pay it and she told us it had been paid in full that we don’t owe anything else.
We told her we still owed over $3000 and she said, “No. You have a zero balance.”
We were dumbfounded.
After 3 years of paying that last debt, it was gone. Vanished. I have no idea what happened, other than God honored our faithfulness and the debt was paid. All in all, we (and the kind, completely unexpected donations of others) miraculously paid off over $70,000 in 3 years.
That was God. He is always faithful.
Six months had passed.
I honestly can’t remember much about the months following his passing with any great clarity. The only way I can describe it is that a cloudiness took over me. I functioned. Sometimes barely, but I did. I was somewhat of a rollercoaster.
I wrote in my journal. I prayed. I allowed myself to feel the emotions. I talked about him and how much I missed him. The unsettled broken heart remained. In my tears, and in my laughter. The broken heart was still wounded.
It still hurt. Too much.
I knew that Joshua was safe in Heaven, in the presence of an Almighty God. I knew that with everything that was in me, I also knew that he was whole. He had no pain. He was perfect in every way. I had peace in that knowledge and yet I missed him, and yet I still felt unsettled. I missed him. So. Much.
Then there was that one night that I went to bed crying because I missed out on getting to hold him in my arms, change his diaper, hear his cry, or even his little baby giggles. I woke up to the memory of the most beautiful vision I could have ever had. God showed me a 6-month-old red-headed, baby Joshua, sitting in a field of flowers, giggling.
Those beautiful bright blue eyes pierced my soul.
You know what else pierced my soul? His absolute and utter happiness. I heard his baby giggles, which is incredible because I never even heard his little baby noises or his crying. I memorized his eyes and his red curls. I saw the dimples in his cheeks.
Then more peace came.
And I knew. I just knew God has our Joshua Caleb exactly where he is supposed to be. His mission on Earth had been completed. I didn’t know what that was, at the time. But I knew that what Satan intended to kill, steal, and destroy, that God would use for my … whatever that meant. Time would tell.
I continued to have peace after that day. When I say peace, I don’t mean that I didn’t continue to grieve the loss of my son. I did. I still missed him daily. Even now. I still wondered what kind of boy he would be. I wondered what kind of man he would have grown to become. I still had all the wonders. But then there was my faith. And with every experience…
My faith grew.
Just a little something to ponder …
People say, “Times heals all wounds” and I’m not sure I believe it. Even now, as I approach 25 years later. I’m not sure I believe it. There will always be a wound in my heart that was created when Joshua Caleb’s spirit left this world. It doesn’t hurt the same though. It’s a scar now. You know how a scar feels after the wound has healed? There remains a numbness, but I can touch it and it doesn’t hurt as bad as it did in the beginning. My body remembers it though. So sometimes, when I tell his story, or when I think about it, my emotions come. It’s still not the same brokenness though. I love my story now. I love Joshua Caleb’s story…now.
Better yet, I love that God is giving me an opportunity to touch someone else through a testimony of what He did for us. And I love that I can see the good that came from such a heart-wrenching experience.
I kind of feel like I’ve always known that hard times produce good things, if you allow it. From the time I was 12 or 13, following the divorce of my parents, I clung to the verses in James 1:2-4 (ESV).
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I can tell you that looking back across my lifetime, and especially 1992 until now, these verses still hold true. Unfortunately, we don’t always get to see the goodness that is produced in our grief, or our storm. However, sometimes we absolutely do get to see it. Sometimes, we just have to open our eyes and look for it. This I do know. The storm always passes. Time always moves on. The sun is still shining above the clouds, you just can’t see it until you really start looking for it.
Sometimes you can’t see it until the storm passes. But it’s always there.
Faith. Trust Him. It’s a choice. That’s what I know.
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