Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."
~Jeremiah 1:4, 5 (NASB)
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb...
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them."
~Psalm 139:13 & 16 (NASB)
On September 27, 2002, I became a mom to our firstborn, Keren Elyse. But on the day of her tenth birthday last fall, our celebration was one of remembrance, because it was Keren's fourth birthday in Heaven. Today marks the fourth anniversary of the day she left us. We aren't celebrating, and it's hard sometimes to know how best to handle this day.
I am not swamped with grief today. Kraig said yesterday that the tears were close to the surface for him this weekend, and that was true for me, too. But for me, that's not debilitating grief. It's poignant, but I am thankful for it, because it means I haven't forgotten our girl. No, the grief I hate is the dead depression that hits me now and then without warning. It's bound to hit at some point in January, and this year it came right after a wonderful, but also highly stressful, Christmas. I can blame some of that on the post-Christmas blues, but it was definitely more than that. I think it was that realization that January was here...again...and I'd have to get through the 28th, along with many other days of remembrance that mark this cold, bleak month. I know God is in control of these days, and that there is beauty amidst the grief, mainly because I know that He understands our suffering and walks through it with us. He lets me pound my fists on His chest and ask, "How long? When can we be done with this broken world?" He closes me in His arms and weeps with me, and I am comforted.
For some reason this year it has hit me more forcefully than usual how close the day of Keren's death is to the date of Roe vs. Wade. It seems fitting to remember how precious her life was, and how much she taught us about what "quality of life" truly means in light of that day that now marks more than 50,000,000 deaths to children who never got a chance for life. I know Kraig and I are counter-cultural. Why in the world would we have wanted a child who could do nothing for herself? Who would never contribute to society, and if anything be a drain on that society? Why would we want to give up our dreams and goals to give her life? But we did. Because it was the only right thing to do. If we believed God and took Him at His word, then there was no gray. Our choice was black and white. Each life, no matter how long it exists, is one formed by God and set into place with purpose. It is not for us to end it.
Keren had six years, four months and a day. That was longer than we'd been led to expect, and shorter than we had hoped. But they were the exact number of days that God had ordained, and her life had and has eternal effect. For one thing, she taught us that even those who will never be independent can teach us much about unconditional love. She forced us, simply by being, to look beyond our own dreams and let God guide us--and we have lived with that principle since. Her death has helped us understand others' grieving in loss, and so we can encourage each other and lift each other up as a result. Sometimes I wonder if I'm able to relate well enough to others because for the most part my life has charged on and I don't burst into tears every time I hear of another death. God is stretching our family and growing us in new ways, teaching us new things. But then I talk with a friend who has lost someone close, and I realize that I can relate and in my own way grieve with her. I am still learning how all that works--that strange dance of grief and joy.
So how do I remember Keren today? With this post, for what it's worth. It is a word cast out into the world to affirm life, to affirm Christ and His work, and to affirm my trust that God has His hand on each day of my life and of the lives of those around me.