I listen as Ryan sings to our children before bed, and they sing along, loud and wild, and I realize we are not broken, not really.  We are a strong family with an undercurrent of great sorrow and great joy. These past six months have stretched me, they have challenged everything I believe and made me reexamine everything I know.  Not because what I believed or knew was wrong, but because it was incomplete, it wasn’t deep enough. It never can be, but I feel the stretching even though it is too soon for me to coherently express what is changing in me.

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“In my wrestling and in my doubts / In my failures you won’t walk out / Your great love will lead me through /You are the peace in my troubled sea. / You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

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The sorrow has made more more compassionate, and it has made me hold everything here on earth a little more loosely.  I see these things in my children too, and I’m glad. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have this kind of deep struggle in my life at such a young age.  They ask hard questions about God, questions I didn’t ask at nine, and we answer the best we can, but we are a little quicker to admit that there are things we just don’t know, but we tell them we always want them to ask, and we assure them that we will never lie to them. Then there are the questions I can answer, but not in a way that will build understanding.  Elijah asked me today, “Why isn’t Joel in your tummy?” he patted my tummy and looked at Zoe.  I told him that Joel isn’t in my tummy because he is in heaven, and then Elijah quickly declared, “Joel’s not in church!” I tried to explain again, knowing that it still would not be something he could understand, knowing I would spend the next few years re-explaining again and again. I hope he’s not still trying to find Joel, to discover where he has gone, but I’m fairly certain that he is and that I can’t stop him because he is too young to understand.  I find myself cringing when the questions are asked again, knowing that he still doesn’t know why his brother can’t be with him, why a member of our family is missing.  I worry that it makes him feel insecure and afraid, even though I don’t see any signs of it, just confusion, which is hard enough to witness and not fix.

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“In the silence, You won’t let go / In my questions, Your truth will hold / Your great love will lead me though /You are the peace in my troubled sea / You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

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I believe now that God has done what is best, even though I still kind of hate it. I still don’t understand how it can be true, but I do believe that when I stand on the shore of heaven I will weep and declare, “God, this thing you have done for me and my family and Joel, it is so much better than everything I asked for, how short-sighted I was then, but I see it now!”

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“My light house / My lighthouse / Shining in the darkness / I will follow You. / My light house /My lighthouse / I will trust the promise / You will carry me safe to shore.”

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I’m fiercely proud of my little family.  I love the strength I see in them and how they’ve learned not to be afraid to cry and feel and talk.  It impresses me because I spent so much of my life afraid to feel things too strongly. The pain in my childhood made me stoic.  This pain is transforming them too, but in a different way, it is building compassion in them but it is a compassion that is tempered by realism. They are not afraid of pain, but they are still sensitive to emotions.

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“I won’t fear what tomorrow brings / With each morning I’ll rise and sing / My God’s love will lead me through / You are the peace in my troubled sea. / You are the peace in my troubled sea.”

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I know I need to write more often because the changes in me and in each of them are so subtle right now.  I notice I feel different but can’t pin point what the catalyst was that shifted my perspective. Tonight, I listen to them sing and realize that we have a new theme song.  A song that has carried us through a season. A song that will forever be linked in my mind to this heartbreaking season of healing slowly together. They stop singing and Elijah asks about Joel’s birthday, and they talk about what we should do four months from now when Joel would have turned six.  Ryan says we should do something fun, and Caleb says we will probably just cry all day.  Ryan says we will have fun and cry and then have fun and cry.  Isaac says, in his very silly Isaac way, “It will be like, Wee! Wah. Wee! Wah,” and even Caleb laughs. Ryan says we should find a carousel. Caleb suggests it be a carousel with the golden rings you reach for and throw, because he doesn’t know how rare those are, since he’s ridden two antique carousels with working gold rings. He doesn’t know it is uncommon, because all the special things we got to do with Joel, the magical unbelievable experiences we shared were just normal life to Caleb and Isaac and Elijah.  They’ve never known anything different.  The grief is that way too.

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This is our theme song, “My Lighthouse” by Rend Collective, and you will be a little surprised at how loud and joyful a song about struggle and trust can be, and then you will see why it is such a great theme song for us.

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Comments

There are 4 comments for this post.

  1. Valorie Towne on September 8, 2014 10:58 pm

    You are not broken. You All are beautiful, and strong and sad and happy. You all are amazing. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Layla Vaughn on September 16, 2014 6:24 pm

    I started following Joels story after watching soulpancake because you were such an inspirational and Godly woman. I still admire your strength! I continue to pray for your family ????

  3. Jessica on September 16, 2014 8:01 pm

    Beautiful words, Amy. we have not forgotten you, Joel, and your sweet family! Thank you for baring your soul. Your realness often causes me to think deeply, pray differently, and love more. God bless you!

  4. Nancy Resjua on January 18, 2016 4:02 am

    What amazing spirit and attitude your family has. I just started viewing your video of Joel and his last days. May I say that now he is in his most joyous days because he is with God at peace at in no more pain or distress. All pf your family has given me inspiration to begin my own cancer jouney, as I have been recently diagnosed with an ovarian tumor and am preparing for surgery at this time. Seeing any child go through the various cancer treatments has encouraged me to be brave to get through my first step. Keep your spirits up!!! Please pray for me. Thank you so much for being there for us.

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