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 both 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 from the beginning.
Christmas is one of my most favorite times of the 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 a few 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-law’s as well. Of course, we missed out on all the “Baby’s First Christmas” memories, but we expected that anyway since Joshua Caleb was born so premature and needed to remain in the NICU. We missed Joyce’s presence and her smile and laughter at our family Christmas too, though and it was tough as my husband began dealing with losing him and his son in a 10-day span.
The grief 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 that date 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 they reached out to us. I certainly didn’t want to reach out to anybody at the time though.
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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, the neonatal special care ambulance service, and the list goes on. We owed anywhere from $285 on up to $59,000 to each individual medical bill we received. The total due was close to $100,000, which seemed like a million dollars to us.
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. If you have ever been called by a collector then you know that many of them act like vultures with little to no compassion.
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 amounts. And actually, his was near the top of my list for the mere fact that his bill was a more manageable bill. Of course, he had a few in front of him so he would have to wait his turn.
In addition, I told him that I didn’t appreciate the rude 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.
Those kinds of calls 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 so they could take care of it. We did and later learned that The Shriners had paid for it. Several co-workers of my husband collected almost a thousand dollars and donated it to us to help us pay some of the bills. My precious Mom helped with a few as well. Little bit by little bit, we began chipping away at the bills.
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 in me, and I also knew that he was whole. He had no pain and was perfect in every way. I had peace in that knowledge and yet I missed him so incredibly much. I still felt unsettled. At times, the hurt was too 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. I had a dream overnight. God showed me a 6-month-old red-headed, baby Joshua Caleb, 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, just like his daddy’s dimples.
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 simply KNEW that what Satan intended to kill, steal, and destroy, that God would use for His Glory and my good … whatever that meant. I trusted and hoped that eventually, time would show me meaning in such a seemingly cruel and devastating twist of fate.
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. It’s been 25 years! I still wonder at times, what kind of boy he would have been. I also 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, and as time passed …
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 it’s been 25 years, the scars are still there. 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. I’ll be the first to admit that it took me a long while to get there.
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 from 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 the in raging 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, even when you just can’t see it. But when you start looking for it, sometimes you can get a glimpse of a glimmer streaming through.
Even still, sometimes you can’t see it until the storm passes completely. But it’s always there.
Grief is hard. Trust the process.
Faith. Trust Him. It’s a choice. That’s what I know.
If you are struggling with grief or loss, here are some resources to help you through your struggle.
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