Many years ago, on this day, my grandparent's lost a son. Their youngest boy; Stanley.
I'm told that he had the kindest heart and a gentle voice.
He was a just a teenager--Jake's age and looked much like Jake.
It was a terrible accident involving snow and a tractor.
Ten days before Christmas and life came to a devastating, unthinkable stop for my grandma and grandpa.
I've heard countless stories about the day. I've heard my dad's reaction from my mom and bits and pieces from grandma.
Just recently, grandpa sat in my living room and made it clear to me (in a loving way) that even when I write these hard and sad things on my blog about all we're going through with Mabel, "I haven't lived the worst."
It was refreshing to hear him say it--because I validate that and it's true.
I fear the worst but I haven't lived it.
And also because I don't know if I've ever heard him acknowledge the pain that Stanley's death must have caused him. How it changed him. Shaped him. Transformed him.
I know Grandpa is reading now [Hi Papa Dan!] and I want you to know that in all the ways that I can understand you better than before, it is now. I haven't grieved the loss of a child and never want to have to endure such tremendous pain, but I have felt my chest turn inside of me in anguish over the unknown and felt sadness that is very real.
It's not the same and I know that. But at this point in my life, I can honestly say that I can look at grandma and grandpa and understand what life must have been like.
Life before Stanley's death and then life after it.
I hugged grandma as she walked out the door that day and she said that it doesnt matter how many years pass, the pain is still wirh her. People don't understand that.
I told her I can understand it.
It's as if time passes and people forget that you have endured (or are going through) something awful. Their lives go on around them and you become an extra in your own life, rather than a main role.
I hurt for Grandma. She raised 3 boys. She was and is a good mom.
I'm not sure, if at the time, she got enough credit for just making it through those days that were the worst of her life. I'm not sure if she had someone to talk to, the way I'm blessed to have. I'm not sure. I hope so. I hope she had people who loved her deeply, wrapped themselves around her and pulled her through that time.
I feel sad for Grandpa. I can't imagine the pain, guilt, grief, frustrations, sadness and utter despair that must have accompanied his years like a full load of luggage strapped to his back at all times.
But what I do know is that they lived through it.
I don't know how they did, but they did.
Despite the emotions and sorrow that filled their days, and changed their lives--they survived.
I image that every year, as the sky grows grey with winter, grandma feels the sting of remembrance. I imagine as the first snow falls, grandpa feels a bit heavier with sadness. These are reminders that come every year of a time when life changed forever and their son went on with Jesus.
What a great hope, however, that they'll be with him again!
A beautiful, clear faced boy that is theirs.
Grandma and Grandpa,
If I haven't said it before I want you to know now--
I am so sorry that this day has to come each year as a reminder of the day that you lost a son. I wish that every other day could be a beautiful reminder of the amazing young life he lived. He was vibrant like Jake, right? If so--he must have been amazing. I think he would have loved Braden.
I want you both to know that as I have watched you over the years I have often wondered what kept the two of you together and so strong. Now I know for certain, because in a very different way I'm experiencing it in my own marriage.
Grandma, no matter how bad things must have been, you had to have looked at grandpa with a knowing. He's the only one that understands the pain. He's the only one who lost a son like you did. He's the only one who was with you in the dark of night and the early morning light that was probably mocking your every moment.
You had one another and that was really all that mattered, because the worst had already happened and the hardest was already endured--together.
That brings me so much comfort. It brings me so much hope.
Daniel and I have 3 beautiful children. None of us know the hour at which the Lord will take any of the people we so desperately love, even if it's a child, and I know that.
This year with Mabel, I have had to research things that all involve very painful scenarios for her life. I think she's going to live and thrive, but none of us know for certain, do we?
But in all of it, I have looked beside me at this man I love and who is Mabel's daddy and I have realized that it doesn't matter what happens. She is mine. She is his. And we will do this thing together, no matter what that means.
I want you to know that I recognize the pain. I understand the amount of work it had to have taken to pull through each day--together. It couldn't have been easy and it probably still is not. But you have helped me to see that it is possible to endure tragedy (of any kind) and come out loving.
Grandma, I know you have a special place for my boy and especially for Jake. I know why and it's ok. I love the way you love them so fervently. Most people don't understand the gift of loving so intimately the way you must understand it.
Grandpa, this year I see that you have come to love Mabel in a sweet, delicate way that is full of hope! Grandma has told me and you have shown me that you are rooting for her every day. Thank you for that, grandpa. Thank you for loving her, believing for her and praying (even if it's silently) for our girl. I love you for it.
I don't ever want you to think that when this day rolls around each year that your baby is not thought about or loved. I think of him every year and wish that I had the chance to sit with him at Christmas dinner and share my life with him.
His life was significant and I hope you know that.
He didn't just disappear. His life had meaning and we all think about him.
I love you both. You are so strong and deserve far more credit than you receive. Thank you both for speaking into my life lately and for loving me enough to support me through something that is minuscule in comparison to what you went through all those years ago. Your words and encouragement mean so much to me.