the other side of fear
Today I turn 35.
For the first time in my life, I am not shocked to be here, still spinning on this precarious planet.
I am not overwhelmed by the weight of my own mortality. I am not surprised to find that I have been given the gift of another year, as has always been my birthday reaction in the past.
Instead I feel anchored more strongly to this world than ever. Despite the fact that most of my heart right now longs for what and who lies beyond.
In the days since Abby and Maggie died, I feel as if I have walked through a swirling storm which is now right behind my back. I am standing on firm rock at the edge of a cliff, looking out over a new world, washed raw and bare.
And everything is ahead of me.
I am standing on the other side of terror. The worst that life can bring – because I can’t tell you how many well-meaning people have felt the need to inform us that losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent – has happened. We have held two dying children and we have let them go.
And I am no longer afraid.
I feel for the first time in my life as if anything is possible. As if my ears have been opened to hear God’s voice in a new frequency. As if my life is finally unfolding into the fullness of what it was meant to be.
We could have another baby someday. We could sell our house and move our family halfway across the world. I could write all the books I have been dreaming to write. I could become the more compassionate human I always hoped I could be.
None of these changes will happen overnight, I know. And very likely the truth of where I am called next has not even presented itself to my imagination. I know the road before us will be long and winding and unexpected.
But on the other side of fear, anything is possible.
“…perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).” These words echoed in my head throughout my pregnancy. Never before had I dreamed I was capable of perfect love, until face-to-face with the worst fear, I felt this love gather around me and carry me through.
Because do you know what perfect love looks like?
It looks like hundreds of family and friends – and a thousand perfect strangers – surrounding you with prayer. From churches and grottoes, convents and monasteries, kitchens and classrooms, at home and abroad.
Be not afraid.
It looks like weeks of home cooked dinners arriving on your doorstep. Boxes of food sent across the miles from college friends who wish they lived next door. Strangers who bake bread to feed a family they have never met.
Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
It looks like a kitchen full of fresh flowers from every corner of the country. A mailbox spilling over with cards of loving words. Pastors who envelope your family in embraces when you show up at church late, tired, and weepy.
Perfect love looks like the Body of Christ.
And anything I thought I knew about this mystical truth at the center of our faith has been blown apart by the love that is carrying us through our loss.
There is no room for fear when we are all here together.
I am not naive enough to suppose that my life from this point will be free from anxiety. Worry always accompanies change and any worthy endeavor. I will surely struggle with whatever lies ahead. The ground we are on is still hard and rocky.
But for the first time in my life, I am unafraid. I feel the storm receding at my back, and I know that whatever comes next will be clearer and calmer for the hell we have passed through.
I cannot feel happy on today’s birthday. I have no taste for cake, no thrill for presents, no desire for dinner out on the town. We are thick in grief, and it is grueling work.
But I am deeply grateful to still be here. I feel the newborn strength of being anchored firmly to this life, perhaps for the first time.
And it is a mighty force.
Beautiful words, Thank you.
I continue to keep you in my prayers. Your sharing of your faith during grief brings glory to God here on earth. We are closer to the Lord, because of your sharing and because of your babes. Thank you.
You are in my payers. I too was told miscarriage is the worst, but I know some of that grief and peace you felt at the same time. Gods grace is awesome. StS Abby and Maggie pray for us.
Laura – we are praying for you and your family as you go through this time in your lives. A friend sent me your blog today as a resource for the future. February 18 2016 was the day that changed our lives forever. What had started out as a normal and uncomplicated pregnancy all crumbled into pieces during our routine 19 week ultrasound. On Monday, February 22 2016 after a second ultrasound, the doctor told us our baby would have no chance of survival after birth (he/she is due in July 2016). We lost a first pregnancy at 10 weeks, have a healthy happy toddler and are still a bit shell shocked.
Our little baby has bilateral renal agenesis – meaning no kidneys. This condition happens 1 in 5000 pregnancies. There is no measurable amniotic fluid because of this condition (baby pee creates the fluid at this point in pregnancy), which means that our baby’s lungs will not be able to develop enough for him/her to survive. Our baby is otherwise perfect and has an amazingly strong heart and a button nose just like our 18 month old son. We were told that because I have other complications (placenta previa which will require a C-section if we continue the pregnancy…) one option would be to terminate the pregnancy.
My husband and I are devastated, but with the support of our doctor we have decided to continue with the pregnancy and place our baby’s future in God’s hands. Reading your story about Maggie and Abby has made me less afraid for the future. Thank you for sharing.
I, too, experienced the same thing after the death of my son. A friend who has a degree in grief counseling said after the loss of a loved one, some people experience ptsd; others experience post traumatic growth. It is now almost 2 1/2 years since Sam’s death and my kids and I are thriving. I never would have thought this would be possible. God is amazing.
I hope that by the end of my life, I have even an ounce of the kind of grace, courage, and humility you are showing us now. God bless you, and thank you for allowing the experience of losing your beautiful daughters help you to understand love. Thank you for letting the suffering change you for the better.
Thank you so much for sharing along this journey. Happy Birthday.
Thank you for the authenticity in your words. Perfect love does cast out fear… May God continue to hold you and your family within His heart.