Lament for Sundays

by Todd Foley

Sunday was my favorite day.

We had the liberty of sleeping in. Taking turns, rather. One of us would get up with our (almost) two-year-old daughter while the other slept for an hour, and then we would trade. We then enjoyed breakfast together as a family, got dressed and headed to church.

Once there, we greeted the familiar faces and settled into our seats. We sang songs, listened to the sermon and were filled with hope. We would occasionally squeeze each other’s hand, make eye contact and smile. We smiled because we had a secret that few knew of. A beautiful secret that was growing inside my wife. Each Sunday, we marked one more week of development, and marked one less week until we met this little miracle.

Sunday was the best day.

/ / /

At the 10-week mark, there still weren’t too many visible signs (apart from my wife’s excruciating nausea, which unfortunately is a wonderful sign of health, development and normalcy). There was the slightest bump, which we watched with such wonder. Who was in there? Who would they be? What funny quirks would develop? How would they engage with their older sister?

While we continued to speculate, we anticipated the latest notification from the What To Expect When Expecting app that was delivered each Sunday, featuring a video that walked us through the stages of development, and the current “fruit” size (at 10 weeks, it was the size of a plum). Never before had fruit seemed so precious.

We also would occasionally go into the spare bedroom, trying to picture what color would look best and what furniture we would need. This was our store-everything-we-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-yet room. It was messy, unorganized and chaotic, but it was a room of anticipation. Imagining the frustrated attempts at “tummy time,” looking at the birds out the window, gazing at the mountains behind the other townhouses. Smelling that fresh, wonderful newborn smell.

/ / /

It was 11 weeks that Sunday morning. We stayed home from church and went out to experience God’s beautiful creation on a sunny, crisp November day. We played at the park, chased our giddy little girl, gave each other that smile of anticipating the forthcoming child. The nausea had begun to subside, which meant that mornings were far more enjoyable for my wife. Then we went inside to head over to a family get-together.

Everything was beautifully ordinary. Aside from a subtle cramp, and a small spot.

We weren’t that alarmed, so we went on to the family gathering. Unbeknownst to me, there were more subtle cramps, and more spots. We headed home, and thought it best to consult our midwife. My wife went in for an exam. They couldn’t quite find a heartbeat, but that isn’t too rare at 11 weeks. She told us to prepare ourselves for anything, so we went home and we waited. We watched episode after episode of The Good Wife and Arrested Development. We were distracted.

Then we turned off the TV and got ready for bed. We were quiet. We were thinking thoughts to ourselves. My wife went and got one of the new blankets her mother had made for the baby. She held it. I hugged her and we held the blanket between us. We prayed. We hoped. We begged our God to perform a miracle of which only He is capable.

/ / /

She woke me up at 1:30 in the morning. There was so much excruciating pain. Her mother immediately came over to stay with our daughter as we rushed to the hospital. We returned home hours later, but with no answers.

/ / /

An ultrasound was scheduled for that same afternoon. Six hours crawled so slowly. We made our way back to the hospital for the ultrasound. We sat with our books in the waiting room, trying to silence our thoughts. Sitting across from us were an expectant mother, her expecting friend and a couple older women. They were glowing, talking loudly of their due dates (both of which appeared to be quite soon), sharing stories. We looked down as we waited, praying with everything we had for our fears to be diminished by some miraculous news.

Except that our fears had come true.

We walked hand in hand back to our car, silent, feeling the cool breeze on this beautifully sunny day.

We got into the car. We sat. I turned to my wife, held her, and we wept. And we wept. And we wept.

/ / /

We made the phone calls to our loved ones who knew. We put the maternity clothes back into storage. We deleted the future Facebook announcement pictures from our camera. We closed the door to that messy spare bedroom. We hugged and kissed our daughter. We held each other. We got acquainted with this new part of our hearts known as grief.

/ / /

I haven’t used the “m” word yet. It’s too clinical, too removed, as if we’re talking about fumbling a football. We lost someone.

I didn’t know you could mourn something that hadn’t been. I hadn’t yet held it in my arms. And that’s what hurts the most: dreaming of what still should have been. All of those “firsts,” their future, their presence in our lives. They had been given their wings far, far too soon. Our grief may not last forever, but our loss will.

We’ve remained steadfast in our faith. That doesn’t mean we weren’t devastated. Shocked. Hurting. Angry. Weeping. Aching. Disappointed with God. We still feel these emotions, and we’re allowing ourselves to experience them. As the character Joy admits in Pixar’s Inside Out, “You’ve met Sadness. She…well, she…I’m not actually sure what she does. And I’ve checked, there’s no place for her to go.”

And so I keep singing this song over and over:

 

/ / /

At what would have been 14 weeks, a Sunday, we finally brought ourselves to go to church. We found seats at the very back in the balcony. We made it through the service okay, until the closing song.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
Let me walk upon the waters, wherever You will call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander,
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior”

Then we sang another song.

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roar,
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,

Even so, it is well with my soul”

I couldn’t sing. I could only cry. Someday, I’ll be able to say that it is well with my soul. I’m not there yet. But I rejoice that my God is big enough for me to bring Him my disappointment, sadness, frustrations and anger, and Who will stay with me while I wait for it to be well.

Sundays are now the hardest days.

/ / /

It’s now the fifth day of Advent, what usually is a joyous season. We’re less joyous this year, but we still will do all those Christmas things.

We’ll eat the waxy chocolates from our $.99 calendars.

We’ll watch Hallmark movies.

We’ll drink hot chocolate.

We’ll walk to see the bright lights.

We’ll treasure the incredible gift of our precious, spirited daughter and all the joy she brings into our home.

We’ll think of our beautiful angel in Heaven looking down on us.

We’ll dream of all that could (and should) have been.

We’ll cling to each other.

We’ll grieve.

We’ll hope.

We’ll tune into a different side of Advent. The anticipation of light, of redemption, of reconciliation, of healing.

We’ll sing about Emmanuel, “God with us.”

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel”

And while Sundays will never be the same, we’ll eventually be able to say that it is well with our souls.

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