Sunday, September 27, 2015

Death and Life Don't Mix

Today, technically, I became the mother of a teenager.

I have to qualify it with "technically" because Keren has been dead for six-and-a-half years. Her next sibling recently turned ten, and while we often feel that hormones have hit us, there is an awful lot we don't know about living with a teen. Even if Keren were here we wouldn't really know. She would probably still be giving us bone-cracking hugs and squealing excitedly in our ears. It's quite likely we would have added dealing with periods, but with diapers. And food would still go down a tube. Our lives would be a blend of doctor visits and therapy, all juggled around the crazy schedules of three younger siblings. We'd be in Michigan and Kraig would still be at his consulting job, and I'd be fully integrated with a thriving Trisomy community, discussing scoliosis and feeding and special education with friends I've known for thirteen years, and new acquaintances added each year.

At least, I suppose this is what our world would be like if Keren were still here on earth instead of celebrating her thirteenth birthday in Heaven. How does one celebrate a heavenly birthday? I have no idea. I doubt it's important when one is living in eternity. It's only here that the years tick by with significance.

I'm sure some who read this will feel guilty that they didn't remember it was Keren's birthday or remember to reach out and let us know they remembered. Trust me, we don't hold it against you. I'll be more annoyed that you feel guilty about it. It's hard enough to remember the birthdays of family members and friends who are living than the date of one who is no longer here. I remembered because it's etched in my body and brain, it's part of me...and Keren's picture is on this date on our family calendar. But I don't remember all of the time. My remembering comes in moments.

I remembered this past week as those September dates in the twenties ticked by.

I remembered last night when a friend asked if today was Keren's birthday.

I remembered this morning when Jon ran out to show me that his top front tooth finally fell out. We did a happy dance and I told him it was pretty cool it had fallen out on Keren's thirteenth birthday.

I remembered when we were driving home from church and the kids were talking about snow. I remembered a day full of sunlight and snow-bright air a year after Keren died when friends and teachers and family came together to remember. It's not a sad memory because it's so infused with light.

I remembered when I felt a bit depressed riding home today, Kraig and I silent in separate thoughts, and I wondered if it was because it was Keren's birthday.

I remembered when my Mom sent a note to say she was thinking of us and thanking the Lord for the gift Keren was.

I remembered when Jon and I made a chocolate birthday cake and we all enjoyed it and sang "Happy Birthday!" It was good cake. Keren might have deigned to taste a crumb.

There was a moment this week when I focused and thought about Keren. Really thought. But I wasn't thinking about her living self. I was thinking of the loss of her and the other losses that came because we lost her. I thought of the teachers whom we loved so much. We tried to keep connected, but life and time distanced us (not all on our side). I thought of the Trisomy friends whom I still "see" in Facebook posts. Some still have living kids, and I love to see their posts. But I don't get excited about discussions on feedings and doctors; it's not my world any more. I thought of the pain of losing Keren--that awful day. But I didn't stay on that thought for long. I can dredge it up and the grief will surge up with it, and to what purpose? To feel grief? I know it's there and I can tap into it as needed. I don't need to go looking for it.

And I guess that's the point I've come to. My life is full of life right now. I am continuing to learn and grow. God is stretching our family in completely new ways in our life here in Guadalajara and Kraig's new work of teaching. I am busy each day with kids who ask questions, test boundaries, throw tantrums, giggle uncontrollably, and lose teeth every time we turn around. If I spend my days refreshing the grief that death brought us it will paralyze me and I'll be of no use to the living. Life moves on, and I am moving with it. God has brought us to a new place. Death and Life don't mix, and "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13).

Above all this, death is not the end. For that truth, I'll keep living.
I believe in the holy shores of uncreated light
I believe there is power in the blood
And all of the death that ever was,
If you set it next to life
I believe it would barely fill a cup
'Cause I believe there's power in the blood.
            ~Andrew Peterson, "Lay Me Down"