I woke up in the recovery room around eleven the morning after I gave birth to Jonan. Jeff and I had been with his body until about two a.m. This recovery room was much smaller than my birthing room, but still a beautiful view of the city from the ninth floor. I woke up silent, still very weak, and with a cavern in my chest. I stared out the window above where Jeff had slept. The sky was overcast to match my heart. Ever so gently it began to snow. It was a soft, light snow.
I tightly clutched a pillow to fill the emptiness my arms were feeling. I secretly wished I had a stuffed animal or something to hold onto as I missed my baby. I thought this was silly, so I didn’t tell anyone at the time. I thought maybe it would sound strange…like I was trying to make some inanimate object a replacement for my son. But really I just wanted something to hold as I cried.
Minutes later, somewhat unwelcomed, the first thought that came to my mind as I watched this gentle snowfall was that Jonan would never feel the snow. I wept. The heartache was nearly overwhelming. My loving Jeff crawled into my hospital bed and wept with me. Almost as an instinct, he held his hand firmly over my heart. As if he knew it would fall out if he didn’t tightly hold it in.
After lying there for a while we realized we were starving. We ordered eggs, French toast, fruit, tea, and coffee from the cafeteria and had a visit from the social worker while we ate breakfast in bed. My most vivid memory, other than crying so much in that recovery room while thinking about Jonan, was the middle-aged woman who came into our room twice. Her name was Beverly. She came once to drop off our food, and then again to pick up the empty trays. She was quiet and seemed tired. Her presence struck me profoundly; I may always remember her name. Seeing her that morning and the menial tasks her life had led her to perform made her look as though she didn’t appreciate life…or maybe others didn’t appreciate her. I don’t know. But I was overwhelmed with thankfulness at her service to me and thankful simply because she was alive. Saying goodbye to my dead son the night before somehow had made life so much more tangible. These people were alive! What a miracle.
I vividly recall walking out of that same hospital just two weeks prior after our Level II ultrasound to confirm Jonan’s condition. I looked at each person and thought…”Wow, they are a miracle. They made it through pregnancy, years of life, and they continue to live now.” Like the end of some cheesy movie I wanted to walk up to every single one and say “You, your life is a miracle.” I wanted to shake their hands and just tell them I cared that they were alive. That it was for a reason. That they were loved. The world was moving at warp speed, yet somehow I had slowed down and was seeing with these strange new eyes. I had never appreciated life like I did in that moment. I don’t know what was happening, and I wish I could say always see all people this way…maybe similar to the way Jesus did when he walked the earth.
Her name was Beverly.
We chatted on the phone with Kevin Miller from our room to solidify the music for the upcoming funeral. We slowly packed up our room. We wept some more. At one point Jeff had to join me on the floor, I had just crumbled. But slowly we gathered ourselves together and his parents picked us up. We rode home amidst a world that didn’t know our pain. And I don’t blame it, I am sure it has much of its own. An email from a dear friend this last week said it best:
“It can feel like things are rushing by you so fast because you, in your heart, are still sitting still, still savoring, still valiantly loving and missing and remembering your boy, still actively grieving. I just want to tell you that I am thinking of you as the world flies by you and as your body rushes with it in your activities of life but as your heart sits still.”
I think she said it perfectly…as my heart sits still. Probably a combination of the fast-paced world and the sacred stillness of my heart, but the two just don’t mix well. To be still with the Lord, to be still with another, just to be still can be so challenging. But loss has a way of stilling us if we let it. Not into numbness, but into stillness. Alive stillness. Sometimes it is grieving stillness, sometimes it is angry stillness, even thoughtful, pondering or often prayerful stillness. But I am so thankful for it, because it is creating in me an Alive Stillness, and in that place I sense the very presence of my God.
Jeff and I arrived home and there was a letter from a longtime friend in our mail box. In it was a gift card to Build-A-Bear, where you create your own stuffed animal, and with it a recording device to place inside the bear so when you squeeze the bear it makes the sound you recorded. She said we could take it to our next appointment with Jonan and record his heartbeat and place it inside this bear. A special way to remember.
She had sent this gift before Jonan had passed and had pre-empted this gift’s arrival with an apology email. Interestingly, I replied to her, this gift was the perfect gift this day. I wanted a stuffed animal to hold as I grieved the loss of my son. But I was too embarrassed to tell even my husband. Yet God answered another prayer that had never crossed my lips. And as far as getting Jonan’s heartbeat, my tech-savvy husband had already, 3 months earlier, turned a recording of his heartbeat into an mp3 and saved in on our computer…so we will have it in our memory bear.
We spent the rest of that evening at home eating (thanks again to more dear friends) and resting. Jeff and I came home without a baby in our arms and without one in my womb. Stillness.
“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
This was the day after Jonan Eilam was born into heaven.