Fourteen years ago, on September 12, 2001, I remember sitting in a hospital bed watching the small television and witnessing the horrible aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But even at that time, those events seemed like an impossible dream, like a distant blur of tragic images flashing in front of my eyes. I think back on that day and ponder the fact that the unthinkable tragedy that profoundly changed our nation was yet another layer–adding to the sadness already permeating my heart. For you see, we were experiencing our own tragedy. My husband and I were dealing with the shock and disbelief that our son Ross was no longer with us.
Just twenty four hours earlier, we were getting ready for a normal teaching day at Sam Houston State University. As I walked into the building, I felt the reassuring kicks of my son, who was 23 weeks in utero. But it was not going to be a typical day of teaching. In fact, I only taught one voice lesson that day. The rest of the day was spent consoling students, listening to the news, and talking with colleagues and friends about what was happening to our country. I remember thinking, “What kind of world is my son being born into?” Ross only had 8 more weeks before his due date. His arrival was highly anticipated. The nursery was ready and all the essentials ready for use. Later that evening, after watching the news a bit more, my husband and I decided to go to bed and get some rest. As we sat in bed talking about the days events, I anticipated that Ross would do his usual evening routine and start kicking and rolling around—totally oblivious to the horrors going on in the world outside his warm and comfortable home. I gently rubbed my rather large belly. After several minutes I noticed that he wasn’t kicking. This didn’t concern me too much, as there were a few evenings here and there when he slept and decided to wake up at 2 a.m. instead. So, I went to sleep expecting to be awakened in the middle of the night with the uncomfortable, yet reassuring movements of my baby.
I did awake in the middle of the night, but it was not due to any movement on Ross’ part. Concern began to creep into my mind, but I was not even entertaining the thought that he might not be alive. I drank some orange juice and was certain that he would start moving within a half an hour. Thirty minutes came and went and still no movement. I woke my husband and told him what was going on and we agreed we should call my physician. After doing that we got dressed and headed to the emergency room. Even as we walked into the ER, I was thinking that Ross was just asleep. This was just a precaution to set my mind at ease. An hour passed and we were still at the hospital, and I had been admitted into the neonatal unit on the second floor. A sonogram had been conducted and our worst nightmare had become a reality. There was no heartbeat. Our child had died. The next few hours were a blur. I remember signing all sorts of papers and half heartedly listening to nurses and doctors. I was thrust out of my fog of disbelief when my doctor informed me that I was going to have to go through labor and give birth. All of a sudden I became acutely aware of what was going to happen during the next twenty four hours, and I knew that I couldn’t possibly handle it. I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty strong person, but there was no way I was going to make it through this. I couldn’t even utter the words, “God help me.”
When I think back on that early moment of grief, I know that it was one of those times when the Holy Spirit uttered groans to the Father that I could not even fathom. I know with certainty that those groans were uttered because I can testify that the peace of God descended upon that hospital room and I had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t praying in faith…I wasn’t praying at all and yet His peace filled the room and filled my heart. All of a sudden, “and My peace, which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” became a startling reality. This was a touchstone of faith, thrown right into the chaotic mess that was my life at this tragic moment. If anyone ever asks me how I can know for certain there is a God who loves me, I will recount this experience to them. It was one of those times when Jesus literally picked me up and carried me because I could not do it myself. I could not move one step forward. I remember the nurse telling me that we could hold Ross after he was born. She gave us this news right after we found out I was going to have to go through hours of labor. I remember shaking my head and saying “No, I don’t think I can do that.” Jesus was going to have to carry me through, and He did just that. He carried me through all the pain, both physical and emotional. And, in the early morning hours of September 13, 2001, He gave me strength to give birth and to endure the silence that followed. And, when it was all over, He gave me the strength and desire to hold my son.
We did hold Ross. We held him and wept. We wept for dreams that would not come to fruition. We wouldn’t see him grow and know his personality. We wouldn’t experience all the milestones that parents go through with their children. In those moments we grieved his loss with a grief we had never known before. Our family and friends mourned with us. We felt surrounded and uplifted by those around us. God used his church to bring comfort and support during those dark days. Going home empty handed and to an empty nursery was just as painful as the hours of labor in the hospital. But, God was faithful. God was true to His promises.
Little did we know that a few months later, in June of 2012, we would experience another miscarriage, another awful trip to the hospital and a trip home empty handed and broken hearted. God would carry us through that loss as well. He brought me through anger, disbelief, grief and sadness. But this story does not end here.
These were seeds of faith sown in tears. A harvest was to be reaped.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6
Three years later, I remember sitting in front of a group of college women in my home recounting these events and the tears that were falling were not tears of grief but of JOY! My husband and I still did not have a child of our own at that point, but joy overflowed. God had shown me that I could be a mother to these college women and I could give them guidance, encouragement, and a listening ear. I didn’t have to have a child in my arms to be a mother. These daughters of the King brought such joy and purpose to our home. I still keep in touch with several of them. They are a huge part of the bountiful harvest that had begun in tears all those years earlier. Here are just a few pictures that depict the bountiful harvest that has come from the LORD.
And of course, these two are a part of that harvest too.
Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
My Savior worked in my heart and the result was good. He changed me, shaped me, and refined me. I would not want to go back and be the person I was before we lost Ross. One of the things I told those young college women was this, “If God had given me the chance to go back and change that event in my life, I would not have changed it.” Why? Because the joy and the good that He has brought far surpasses the grief we knew then.
Do we still grieve? Of course! September 11-13th is easier some years than other years. This year, I’ve cried a good bit because I miss him. When we gather with our good friends in Texas, who both have boys Ross’ age, I am a little sad that he can’t be there interacting with them. I miss him when our girls are arguing because I know that big brother would step in and speak some wisdom into their hearts. I miss him today because we want to celebrate a birthday with him.
But you know what? This life is but a breath and when this life is over I will see him. He will have already been rejoicing in heaven and knowing Jesus. He’ll probably teach us a thing or two. And I will see him for eternity and we will all experience joys we cannot comprehend this side of heaven. Heaven is his home and its all he’ll ever know.
I share this story not for sympathy or attention for our family. I share this story to tell of God’s goodness. He is real. His peace passes all understanding. He is full of grace and mercy. He loves you and He died for you. But, He calls us to a life that is different from the world around us and He will give you the power to live that life.
If you have sown seeds of faith in tears hold on to this truth: When seeds are sown in tears, God will bring forth a bountiful harvest and you will go out in joy!
Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the cGod of my salvation.
The Lord GOD is my strength,
And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,
And makes me walk on my high places. Hab. 3:17-18