For Cheryl

It was Saturday night when my phone rang, and I knew right away that something in our lives had changed. My pastor’s voice was low as he walked me through the news.

“She has no pulse.”

Transatlanticism was playing and my eyes were blurring as I tried to make sense of his words. Our dear friends’ youngest daughter had been found unresponsive in a pool during a family gathering. And all we could do was pray, and wait.

I need you so much closer.

I set down the phone, grabbed my keys, and picked up a bag I had yet to unpack from the day before. I know God never leaves me, but I needed to see Him through someone else’s eyes. I drove to a co-worker's home, as we waited for more news.

When daylight broke, our church quietly gathered and waited for Him to speak. All I could hear was the sound of my heart clawing at my ribs as it refused to drown in the tears.  We held hands and held hard conversations, and asked everyone to give us some grace. The whole world could not contain the weight of our hearts that day. 

I think this must be what God meant when He said we’d need a Heaven.

My sweet friend, I break to imagine the nightmarish scene. Your flesh and blood, this miraculous creation that grew inside of you, who knew your voice before you even saw her face. Her tiny hands and blue eyes and fearless independence. Your baby girl, lying lifeless on the ground.

I can only hope that Jesus shielded your eyes. Turned down the volume. Reminded you to breathe.

I imagine you looking at the spotted brain scan of your little girl, as doctors used words like “never” and “long-term.”  I wonder if you felt numb, or too much all at once as you tried to process the news. 

And in every minute of every day that goes from dawn to dusk, I hope you know that you’re surrounded by prayers for tiny laughs, school photos, and first dates. For full sentences and deep breaths and regular beats of the heart.

The passing days now hum in sync with the machines keeping her alive, and we continue to pray, and wait. But our hearts continue to grieve.

Is there a right or wrong way to deal with the pain? I know there is always grace enough for how we respond to tragedy, but too many times I’ve felt the weight of guilt for my grieving process not looking the same as others’.

Last weekend, I escaped to my best friend’s Los Angeles apartment, because in times like these you just want to feel known, with people who don’t ever need an explanation. We went bowling and cried at 2am when the night’s laughter couldn’t last.  I had a hard time finding my words and listened to the same song on repeat. I smoked too many cigarettes and took long showers and drank too many glasses of wine.

God, I don’t think you love me any less.

Your goodness cannot be determined by the world that we broke. And our goodness in Your eyes doesn’t change just because we respond in grief the only ways we know how.

If there is anything I’m learning, it’s that we’re not our best when we believe we’re alone. When we’re hurting, it becomes far too easy to fall into the trap of wondering where God’s gone to, and who could ever possibly love us in our most unlovable moments.

Some things we’ll just never understand this side of Heaven.