Yesterday marked 730 sunrises and sunsets since that fateful day we had to say our final goodbye to Bernadette – in this life. 730 days since I stood at our laundry room window with Estelle at my side and watched two total strangers carry my baby in a white blanket and put her in the back of their ugly black car and drive away without worrying about buckling up her seatbelt because she didn’t need one. 730 days since the last time I saw her. 730 days since I heard her voice. 730 days since the last time I kissed her cheek, caressed her hair, and told her I loved her. 730 days since Dr. Weicker packed up all the medication into a big box and took it home with him because Bernadette didn’t need it any more. 730 days since Catherine cried inconsolably and broke out in a red rash from head to toe that took months to go away. Funny how it all feels just like yesterday and yet it was 730 days ago.
In the early months I remember vaguely questioning the statement I’d read, “You’ll never be the same again.” Now, two years later, I find myself almost laughing at how little I understood in those early days. It’s been two full years and we’re still waiting for the pain to subside. We’re still waiting for some sense of normalcy. Still waiting to be able to talk about Bernadette without fighting back tears. If there is one thing Marc and I have discovered it is that the wound goes much deeper and the impact of losing Bernadette is far far more reaching than we ever dreamed or imagined it would be. I can’t say for certain for Marc, but for me it permeates every breath I take, every though I think, every decision I make, every dream I no longer dream. I catch myself so often saying, ‘back when life was good’ if we’re talking about a memory that happened before Thanksgiving 2014. Back when there was an innocence we didn’t know we had but now we realize we’ve lost forever.
I’m not saying that nothing has changed in the last 730 days because a lot has. We are putting one foot in front of the other and taking baby steps every day. Laughter has returned to our family – how can it not with Zoe around! Our calendar seems to fill up at little more each month. Marc has rediscovered his enjoyment in coffee houses – four in the last couple weeks! Catherine is working hard at violin and her and Johanna are learning songs they can play together. Zoe is growing up to be an extremely social and happy child. The big kids are moving forward. The Lord is blessing our family with new members as Paul and Christina’s new baby is due to arrive any day. On the surface some might be tempted to think that life has indeed returned to ‘normal’. But they wouldn’t see that just below the surface a storm is still raging with 100ft/50ft/10ft waves that still assail us without warning. A few friends have unintentionally scratched that surface and unfortunately experienced a bit of the storm from time to time.
And that storm is because the last 730 days hasn’t been just about missing Bernadette, it’s been about life and death too. The reality that death is a reality it wasn’t before. It always was a reality in the sense that people around us die all the time, some closer to us than others. But when it’s someone with that deep bond: parent, spouse, sibling, child, or someone else very close, death’s usual sucker punch to our gut misses the gut because its aim is a little higher and a hundred times harder and it’s the broken ribs it causes that pierces the heart and leaves permanent damage. And when that happened I found I feared death more because now I know just how devastatingly painful it’s going to be to go through again. And I know that fear is real because every time the car pulls up and Marc is home safe or Marc and the girls returned safe and sound, I catch myself letting out my breath and relaxing.
And there is also the struggle of how to go on living. Where once we thought we were walking on solid ground, we’ve now discover it was actually sand! What we once thought to be so important, now we realize is trivial. Almost everything we believed was a house of cards washed out to sea by a tsunami – including the God we made in our own image! It’s also been about learning to let go of everything so as to regain what we didn’t even know we’d lost – belief and trust in the unconditional love of God – the God who said, “Me too!”
And that’s the grace that helps us continue to move forward. Discovering that there is far more to God than we’d ever dared dream of and finding ourselves thirsting for more. Not focusing on longing for who and what we can never have again, or the fear of losing another loved one, but on enjoying our loved ones in the now. Doing our best to drag ourselves back to the present moment when we step out of the eye of the storm. Listening and being aware of God’s presence in everything and everyone and believing and totally trusting in His infinite love to help us get through each day.
All this newness takes time to adjust to. One moment at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time, one month at a time. Next thing we know another 730 days will have past and we’ll continue to marvel that with God’s help we made it this far.