Countdown

I’ve developed a habit, like a mental tic. Every time I see a photo of Samuel, I calculate how much time he had left before he died. He was so happy in his turkey hat at the school Thanksgiving celebration, but he only had one week to live. Just 7 more mornings to wake up and get out of bed. At the beach last summer, as he dived in the water like a dolphin, he had less than 6 months. Our spring break trip to visit grandparents, 8 months. And the photos of our adoption trip are the saddest. In some of them he is happy, his round face smiling. Other pictures capture the confusion and sorrow that he was experiencing, even though he wasn’t two years old yet. He didn’t know, we didn’t know either, that we would be bringing him to the country where four short years later he would be buried in a frozen field. 

Lurking behind the countdown is a horrible thought. He would have been so scared if he had known what was coming. He would have cried, his eyes frightened, fought against it, asked me to stop it somehow. And I would have been powerless to change anything, or even to comfort him on this journey he would have to take all by himself. He couldn’t even tie his own shoes, but he had to face death all by himself. And I have to push these thoughts away because if I think about them I will break.

Second-guessing the past is torture. Should we have adopted him? If we had known, would we have chosen differently? Not for ourselves, but for his sake. His adoption didn’t give him life, it lead to his death. Would he still be alive if he had stayed, if he had never met us? 

I sit in the dark in the early morning and cry. I hold my coffee cup close to my cheek, getting a little comfort out of it’s warmth. But it soon chills on my face, as cold as the rest of the house. I can’t muster the energy to get off the couch and warm it up again. 

Scars

Jana and her friend were talking about a classmate that did something mean to her.

Her friend offered an interpretation, “Maybe he’s mean because he thinks you’re ugly from the accident, but I don’t think you are.” 

It was meant kindly.  I died inside. 

I couldn’t tell if Jana caught what was said or not.  She’s good at hiding things (a skill she unfortunately gets from me).

Do I mention it to her, bring it up and tell her about it if she didn’t hear it?  Risk letting it go unaddressed if she did notice?

Her friends were understandably shocked when they first saw her after the accident.  Her face was swollen, her eye closed, fresh surgery scars on her cheek and eyelid, and one massive yellow and purple bruise covering her face and neck.  She was unsteady on her feet and was exhausted by everything.  But she’s healed so much.  She hasn’t regained full movement in one eye, but most people can’t tell.  I only see it because the ophthalmologist showed me.  The bruising and swelling are gone.  The only obvious physical evidence left of the accident is a round pink scar on her cheek.  Surely her friends are used to her scar by now.

Jana isn’t bothered much by her scar, but mostly because she forgets, not because she’s actually OK with it.  She gets annoyed if I draw attention to it.  I hope she comes to peace with it, or maybe it will fade away.  I imagine when she’s a teenager, she won’t be happy with a constant reminder on her face of the accident and her brother’s death. 

God Has Something to Say

On Friday I had an email conversation with our pastor about what the Bible says about death and children.  I read some of the verses we talked about, and then somehow ended up reading the whole book of Ecclesiastes.  I couldn’t stop, it resonated with me in a new way.  It was pessimistic, but read from the darkness of grief, it was perfect.  We come from dust, we will return to dust.  Our days are numbered and we can’t take anything with us after we die, so constant seeking after money, success, and even wisdom are meaningless.  It’s better to go to a funeral than a feast.  The laughter of fools is meaningless (which I feel strongly, and which is why I avoid scrolling through my Facebook feed these days…too much laughter of fools).

And in the middle of the book some words jumped out at me.  Ecc 5:1-2 says “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.  Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” I’ve done a lot of ranting towards God lately, and I took this to mean that maybe I need to get quiet and listen.  

I mentioned this to Scott who told me those are the exact verses he’s preaching on this weekend.

Apparently God is telling me to go to church on Sunday.  And to listen.

I have not gone to a regular church service since the accident.  Too many memories, too many questions, too many happy praise songs that stick in my throat.  But I can’t brush this off as a coincidence.

And in a very kind gesture, Scott offered to keep the lights off in church on Sunday, so I can cry all I want and not worry about everyone staring at me.