Saturday, October 13, 2007

the soul and the sinew

I told Conor the other morning that I feel like I'm standing at the edge of the ocean with my feet in the water and, while I can feel the gentle tug of the tide at my ankles, I'm still too shallow to be completely swept away. That's what the first few weeks of grieving have been like for me: standing at the edge of all the immense emotions you know are beckoning you, pulling you, and yet feeling the grit of the sand beneath your toes and determining to stand still, firmly, resolutely, until you're ready for a good, hard swim.

Perhaps part of me doesn't feel like swimming just yet. And perhaps the Father's keeping me here, grounded, until the waves won't get the best of me. I'm not sure. I went into Copeland's nursery this afternoon and held her things for a few minutes - the silver cups friends had sent, her little hospital booties, the pacifier we'd toted around with us those few, short hours - and tried to cry. Sellers was in the next room, playing, and Conor stood only a few feet away downstairs. The sun shone through Copeland's bedroom window. It was 1:00 in the afternoon. It was safe. I could take a dip into the water, if I wanted to, and let myself get pulled out a bit. There was no reason I shouldn't. My heart longed to dive beneath the waves. And yet my feet wouldn't move. And so I stood before her crib and cradled her things and felt absolutely nothing but the my own compulsion to feel.

This, apparently, is common, the emotionlessness. The numbness. I've heard people talk about grief having stages - one of which is shock - but I find it hard to place myself into them, at least not tidily. How can I be shocked? I knew this was coming. It's like watching a loved one with a fatal disease, I suspect. You know the final outcome is on its way. We pray for miracles, but there's a reason we use the phrase, "don't get your hopes up." At our best, we're all realists desperately longing to believe in what our eyes can't see and our minds can't grasp. Wanting to believe and yet not wanting to appear like the village idiot. So do I think I'm in shock? No. I don't know what I am. I suppose people who run into me think I'm almost nonchalant, amiable - downright chatty, even. I try to show myself for what I feel on the inside, mostly, but, like I said, I don't feel much of anything. Part of me wants the feelings back. And part of me knows that today, they'd drown me.

Shortly after Sellers was born, Conor and I went to see Mel Gibson's much-critiqued film, "The Passion." I have to confess I dreaded it. Something in me felt afraid of what it would do to me. How would I possibly handle the graphic scenes everyone was going on and on about? Looking back, I realize the real fear was in not feeling at all. In being jaded and unaffected. Sure, it's a movie. Sure, it's makeup and lighting and a lot of camera men "working an angle." But it might be the closest you and I ever get to watching what happened to Jesus all those thousands of years ago. What happened for us.

Tonight, I came upon the scene where Jesus is being crucified. The cinematography is, ironically, best described as excruciating - gritty and gruesome and incredibly up-close. I had heard people say that watching the Mary character was difficult for mothers. I tried to imagine what she must have felt, watching her only son up there. But when the lens turned its focus to Christ, I saw something I hadn't expected - something I couldn't have recognized three years ago. Copeland. As Jesus hung there, his eyes lifted heavenward, His mouth parted slightly like a man struggling for breath, I saw my daughter in her last moments, as well. How did they know the face of death? How could they capture so accurately something so few witness?

I have found great solace in the thought that many, many mothers have gone before me bereaved. The ground I walk is hallowed. What I saw that night, when Copeland let out her last, sweet breath against my cheek, was something I would never trade. And yet, something I suspect most would choose to never see. I have been changed by it. I will never look at dying the same. Not death. Dying. The lapse of life in the human form, the parting of soul from sinew. Jesus was fully God. But also, fully man. His death would have looked like my precious girl's. Did He think of her as He gasped for breath? In cradling my darling eight day-old baby, in watching her in her own fight, I did not realize I was watching the face of Christ. How precious those final moments are now to me. Neither gruesome or graphic, though somewhat sorrowful and sad - but moreso: beautiful and tender. Truly, "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints..." (Psalm 116:14-16). His saints... His children.

I don't know how long I will stand in Copeland's room before He will carry me out into the waves. But I do know He will do the carrying. And when I go under, when the fullness of my emotion and the heaviness of my heartache wraps itself around me like the water, I will see His face beside hers. I will see the rise and fall of His chest with hers. Because of His struggle, hers is now over. Because of His suffering, she is free.

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

Boothe,

You don't know me, but I've read this blog since just before you lost your sweet Copeland. I've never had the courage or the words to comment on your blog before, but for some reason the Lord has prompted me to tell you that I'm praying for you, Conor and Sellers. I know I'm not the first to tell you this, nor will I be the last, but I hope that as you walk through this you're comforted to know that.

~Praying for you often~

Anonymous said...

Dear Boothe,
Tonight, I pray you will hear Your precious Jesus speak to the waves, "Peace, Be still."

You are loved by strangers on the internet for sharing your journey with Jesus.

Trust Him. You may go under, but you will not drown.

May you sleep well, and wake rested, snuggled next to Conor. Please tell him that I am praying for him also. May you have giggles for breakfast with Sellers.

Dellie said...

Boothe,
I just wanted to say thankyou for shariing these intimate thoughts. As you said the path you've had to walk is not one anyone would choose but through your openess and honesty you have touched so many peoples lives. you have caused me not to get as stressed with my toddlers when they are argueing, you have caused me to hold them a little tighter, you have caused me to watch them when they are asleep a little longer, and even more importantly draw closer to our Lord as we went for our 20 week scan on our new baby. So I pray that indeed He is carrying you and yet again I'm sending you BIG HUGS!
www.petanddel.blogspot.com

Emily said...

Amen, sweet sister. Embrace your numbness as the blessing that it is and remember from whom it is that all blessings flow. Hold tight to these words, which are undoubtedly written upon at least one of the pieces of your seemingly shattered heart:

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:33-34

Every step of the way, He is hemming you in, behind and before. Every step of the way, I am lifting you up.

Mandy said...

Praying for you each and every day. Knowing your pain and the numbness. Take comfort that you are not alone.

Mandy
GA
www.madelinegracehopkins.blogspot.com

Alison said...

just praying...

A Place For Ministry Wives said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Place For Ministry Wives said...

I don't think any words I could say would suffice. You've opened my eyes to a new perspective on Christ's suffering and how it relates to ours. Peace, sweet sister in Christ.

Christina said...

Wow Boothe. I've never looked at things like that. I am praying for you, for your waves and for your family. Thanks for letting us know how you are doing.

Anonymous said...

Boothe,
Thank you for continuing to share your feeling with us. I want you to know how your words have deeply touched my soul. You are truly heaven sent, just as your precious Copeland was. I continue to pray for you, Conor and Sellers. As I am going through my own personal health issues right now, you continue to give me the strength not to doubt that the Lord knows what he is doing. Your words are eloquently written, yet they contain true emotion and feeling. Again, thank you for sharing your journey with us.

Love from KY

maggiemae and family said...

every time i read things from you i am so grateful for my daughter, since i came upon your story i look at her a little longer, i hold her a little tighter, i get frustrated when she wakes up all night a little less :)

she is the so precious to me and not that i knew that any less before but now it just seems different, you are an amazing woman and i am grateful for you

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! The will of God will never let you go where the grace of God will not protect you...

Anonymous said...

You don't know me but I've been reading your blog since Copeland was born and I've been praying for your family throughout. Your entry today was beautiful ... I'm not sure I can even express why except it's amazing to watch you go through such a tragedy and cling to Jesus during it. You are an example for so many. I pray that you will grieve, in His time, as He prepares you ... and that every day you will feel His arms around you.

Laurie said...

My prayers continue for you Boothe and Conor and Sellers. It really seems you are doing the best you can right now by being still, and waiting for the Lord to lead you in deeper in His time. How beautiful yet painful to see Jesus face and Copelands face, side by side and together forever.
I pray for blessings to continue as you walk this valley path. For gentleness, comfort, tenderness, as the Lord draws you in and helps you through. And may you never lose sight of Hope. You are a child of God with a shattered heart, being held in the hands of God, your comforter and refuge.

Love, Laurie in Ca.

Anonymous said...

Boothe,
Your writing affects me in a way I can't even describe. You are eloquent and articulate and can put into words experiences that most of us will never experience. I am blessed every time I stop by your blog and see how you are hanging onto the Savior in the midst of what surely must be one of the most painful experiences life can hand a person.

I held my mother's hand last year as she took her final breath ... an unexpected event that occurred much sooner than any of us would have thought. Your thoughts about dying have helped me see that morning in a new way.

Thank you for your faithfulness. You're touching the hearts of many.

I pray for you daily and know that God is carrying your family through the sorrow.

Anonymous said...

Wow- that's all I can say. I have no words for what you just wrote. I am praying for you still.

Elizabeth S said...

Boothe, I have never thought of what it looked like for Christ to die the way you explained it. Watching Copeland, you were watching Christ. Beautiful. I will never think of death, dying, the same way again. Thank you. I am still praying for your family.

MFL said...

thanks for sharing this post, boothe. much love.

Anonymous said...

Still reading, still praying. Thank you for sharing.

Wrights said...

continuing to pray for you. thank you for your words.
nathaniel and rebekah wright

Joy said...

wow.. I wonder if you know in your search of your feelings... and your mourning through words.. if you have any idea what you are doing for other people... bless you sweetie... hold tight. (((HUGS)))

Sun said...

wow - this post drives me to go facedown before my Savior. Sunshine

Britt said...

still here, still praying...

Jenny said...

Still praying for you and your dear family, Boothe. It is strange, how much I feel for you all, how I still think of you everyday. Obviously, God is still having you covered with prayer... how precious. When your numbness goes, and he does indeed carry you... you will be bouyed by all our prayers.
You are all very, very loved.

Connie said...

Beautiful....thank you for sharing your heart as you journey on.

Anonymous said...

Once again, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. You are so wise beyond your years. Praying so much for you. I know God must be so proud of you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Boothe

I just started reading your blog a month ago, found you through Poppy Joy. We were members of her Papa's church in the 1980's. You have been such an inspiration and encouragement to me, I have worked backwards to read all your entries.
This is my first time to post a comment to you. I was so touched by your description of dying and you are so right. The Lord gave me the privilege of caring for my Mama and Daddy in our home the last seven years of their lives. We were fortunate to be able to choose that instead of a nursing home. It was a 24/7 committment for seven years, but a committment I count as a privilege and a blessing. They both died 22 months apart, in our home, in my arms and I held them both when they drew their last breath. It was without doubt at the top of the list in my "spiritual highs" as a Christian. It was an experience with Jesus that I have been unable to explain in words the way you did. As our pastor put it, we were standing on holy ground, in the presence of the Holy Spirit when Jesus took them home. It has now been three years without them and I still grieve for them and take myself back to that exact moment of their departure from this earth to their heavenly home. It is an experience that still makes me tremble and this sounds kind of weird, but is like an excitement when you realize this is not the end but only the beginning of a new life for eternity. I know I will see them again. I think how much God loves me and loves you to allow us to experience that with someone we love so much. I have two sons and have never lost a child, so I do not know that pain you feel, but I do know the experience of Jesus taking a loved one home. I am praying for you.

BooMama said...

May the peace that passes all understanding continue to cover you and the ones you love.

You are in my prayers.

Mark said...

Boothe,

I'm so sorry to hear of this terrible loss. Thank you so much for sharing so openly with us. This past year I've known grief and loss, as well as these weird untidy "stages" of grief, but I can't imagine the loss a mother experiences. I'm so very sorry for your family's loss.


Eternal rest, grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Keep writing, keep pressing forward, keep loving Him. We are praying for you!

Anonymous said...

Your words, your thoughts, your feelings, wow!!! Such an inspiration and thank you so much for sharing. I am praying for you and your family. Thank you for being so open about everything and trusting in Lord to be there through all of this. Prayers are being lifted up for you in Texas.

Ruth said...

I am so glad that, even in your "emotionallessness" that God is ministering to you and holding you close. What an awesome revolation to hold onto as the waves of your grief break over you. You are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

thinking of you & praying for you.
love you Boothe.
Jennifer

lori said...

Continuing to pray for you and your family.

Blessings,
Lori

Anonymous said...

Boothe,

Thank you for your words. I too have been touched and changed by your blog for weeks now. Saturday was the 20 year anniversary of my mothers death. Reading your words has helped me deal with the loss I still feel. I don't know the pain of losing a child but I can only imagine. You are brave and generous to share with others what you have gone through. I can only say I have been and will continue to pray for all of you. This quote helps me at times, "Never doubt in the dark what God has promised in the light". God Bless you and your family.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your heart over and over again. The Lord is using you to make the gospel real, so very heart renchingly real.
Thank you for sharing- you are loved.

Jackie said...

I can't express to you how much your words touch me because they help me understand God better. Thank you.

Robin said...

Your teachable spirit, in the midst of such loss, amazes me. Thank you for sharing your struggle publicly. You are helping more people than you will ever know.

I can't even begin to know the grief you are experiencing - your pain is painted so graphicly through your words. And somehow, perhaps because I am the mother of adult children, my thoughts keep turning to YOUR mother. I keep wondering how hard it must be for her to watch her daughter suffer so. So would you let her know that even though I have no idea who she is or what her name is, I am remembering her in prayer. And asking God to bring beauty from ashes for all of your sweet family. Blessings on you today.

Anonymous said...

Boothe -

Your story has touched me so much. After reading your blog, I fell in love with the song "Shadowfeet" that you posted one day. I bought Brooke Fraser's newest cd because of it. There is another song on there that I think you would love. It is called "Faithful".

Also, after many losses in my own life, I subscribed to a daily devotional that is emailed to me. You can sign up for it on www.griefshare.org. It has helped me start many days off with the right mindset. You might want to consider it.

I am praying for you & your family.

Kristin said...

Boothe,

I'm 8 months pregnant with my first little boy who has Trisomy 18. I've been struggling with how to deal with what's coming, but I feel a bit numb. Just waiting is so hard and the anxiety is creeping in. My cousin sent me your blog b/c she knows I'm having trouble anticipating the grief. Thank you for "the soul and the sinew" as it has given me peace. My husband and I are praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Praying for your sweet family.

Moriah Freeman
from PA

Amy said...

I too am praying for you and your family. My husband and I walked the same path three and a half years ago with the birth and death of our son Isaac. God is faithful. I long for the day when I see my son again. God grant you peace and comfort. Know that I cry with you.

Karen said...

Boothe, How wonderfully numb, for right now. Part of the reason you may be able to be so unemotional right now (besides protection from God) is that so many people are mourning for Copeland for you. You have an army of people weeping for you! We truly get it, as much as our ignorant, unenlightened souls will let us. Your words help us get it a little more. I cannot understand because I have not stood where you stand, but reading this helps me. It helps all of us to feel a tiny piece of Copeland...to know her. I would imagine that helps you - to know we are weeping for her in these times you can't.
"He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,...to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion." Isa. 61:1-3.
When He knows you are ready, I am sure you will be swallowed by those waters. It might even feel oddly comfortable for a time. Even more comforting, He will lift you out just in time.

Jared, Kristin, Deanna, and Avery Edwards said...

I heard about your baby going to be with the Lord a few weeks ago. I want you to know we are praying for you guys. Your blog has ministered to us. My wife is 33 weeks along and our boy Jonathan has T18. We share in the grief you have experienced and watching your video and reading your thoughts has prepared our hearts to what is coming in the future. Seeing the beauty of your child and the fact that she passed away breaks my heart. Death is such a foreign and unnatural thing, isn't it? I praise God that Christ has conquered sin and death on the cross, but what an aweful thing it is to bury your own child. The Lord is really a comfort to us. I hope you and your family are doing well. We will be checking up on you.

--
Jared and Kristin Edwards
www.jonathanjarededwards.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I have no words. You and your sweet girl have changed my life.

Ashlee said...

Boothe,
I continue to be touched by your honesty and ability to explain the feelings that I so often deal with myself as I grieve for my London. Thank you again for sharing your heart. I continue to pray for you as I pray for myself.

With love,
Ashlee Tomes

Amy said...

Boothe,

I have been a lurker...but no longer! I admire your willingness to share such an intimate story and you do it so well. .

May I be so bold as to include a poem by William Blake that I used on a blog of mine? It has encouraged me.

Think not thou canst sigh a sigh,
And thy Maker is not by:
Think not thou canst weep a tear,
And thy Maker is not near.
Oh He gives to us His joy,
That our grief He may destroy:
Till our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit beside and moan. --William Blake

He's moaning beside you, sweet one.

Jennie-Marie said...

I continue to pray and continue to be amazed by your strength. You have helped me see so much more of Christ and less of me and for that I am grateful. I wish I could do for your heart what you have done for mine so I continue pray. love,jm

stephanie said...

Boothe,
The numbness is here now, the other emotions will come when He is ready for you to swim. All will come in waves, sometimes BIG ones. Reading your words often feels like I am reading my own heart- you are so right on. And try not to worry about where you fit in the "stages" of grief. We all grieve differently- even those who go through the same exact situation may deal with it in completely different ways. Please know that we are continuing to pray for you.
Love,Stephanie in CA

Susiewearsthepants said...

Still thinking of your family and praying for you.

FaceforGrace said...

This is probably one of the most beautifully written pieces I've ever read. I am still battling with grief 10 months after my 3rd miscarriage; so I cannot even begin to comprehend the magnitude of grief that you are feeling. You are such an amazing woman...I am in awe of your strength and ability to share your loss with us. Please know that we are praying.

In Him,
Holly

Shelli Smith said...

Boothe, you speak of the lack of emotions that others call shock. I call it God's peace and comfort. At the funeral home the night of Grant's visitation (which happened to be my first Mother's Day) I questioned my lack of emotions with my pastor. He told me it was shock also. Looking back on it now, I know that I was not in shock. But it was the Lord giving me the strength to get throught one of the toughest times in my life. Our Father is giving you this gift to ease your pain if only for a brief time. He knows you hurt and is comforting you in your loss. You will continue to be prayed over.

Shelli

Leah said...

Hi Boothe- I haven't read your entire page... I just can't yet. I'll make my way through it. You and your husband will be in my prayers. My husband and I lost our precious Abby on May 8 after just 6 short days. My story is a little different in that I got very sick and they had to deliver Abby at 24 weeks to save my life. But I can identify with the things you've written and want you to know that it comforts me to read that others have felt the way I felt and still feel.

You will experience waves of every emotion under the sun and in no certain order. Allow it. Or else, you'll be overtaken by it.

Josh and I are in ministry in the Atlanta area and are expecting our second child in April. My wordpress blog is http://mrsogletree.wordpress.com

Zephaniah 3:17- "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

The Wade's said...

I stumbled on to your blog from a link, and I want you to know how courageous you are. I have read your entire blog, and I have been so touched by your faith and strength. I am praying for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your story.

JMom said...

bless you.

Anonymous said...

I've just found your blog and my heart absolutely breaks for you. Believe me when I say I understand your pain and your loss, because I truly do. I lost my baby girl Abby last June, born at term, died of "undetermined cause" after 7 hours. Grief shared makes it easier to bear, and I thank you for writing of your experience. Please, if you feel the need to read from someone who's been there, check out my journal. Abby's entries begin June 9th, 2006.

Praying for you,
Janice
babycatcher33@livejournal

Aimee said...

Boothe,

I just wanted to say how thankful I am for you. I know of a family who recently lost their little boy just minutes after he was born. I gave them your blog to read, and I know it will help them out tremendously. God is using you in ways you don't even know!

Tarah said...

Boothe,

You have such a way with your words. I can relate to how you are feeling. Some days I can't read your blog because it takes me back to a place that I'm not sure I can face at the time and other days it's like a balm to me. My son died when he was 6 weeks old, his 2nd birthday is next month, and so we are getting ready to face the 2nd anniversary of everything. The words you write are things that I felt and still do at times, but could never quite put them into my own words. It's a gift that you can express yourself as you do. Thanks for sharing I know you have touched many lifes as has your family. May God give you the strength you need to continue the battle that he is taking you through. Praying for you.

Tarah Goodson
http://growingoodsons.blogspot.com/

The Lucky One said...

Sweet Booth, you say it so well. We just returned from the beach and how poignantly written. And with all those crashing waves...there is serenity. He will carry you. Thanks for sharing. We're still praying. p.s. it's normal - I was 18 when we lost my wonderful daddy overnight/unexpectedly. Even as Believers, I was numb for years. It doesn't need to take that long. God knows, and He's there.

Anonymous said...

Boothe, Conor and Sellers,
I sit in my favorite place and hold you close to my heart. My prayers and thoughts for you and your family continue as you walk through this time with Him. I am so touched by your words over the last two months that my words are not enough to express my thoughts.
Praying,
Franklin, Tn

Blogfreys said...

I found your blog through a series of friends, and was so touched by your story. I was having a baby around the same time, and my heart broke for you during those days and I learned to hold my own a little closer. I am not much of a song quoter, but our church choir sings this song, and while reading this post tonight I could not get it out of my head. I believe Avalon sings it, and I pray it is a good word for you tonight.

Where Joy and Sorrow Meet

There’s a place of quiet stillness ‘tween the light and shadows reach
Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace
Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet
Mending grief and life eternal where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place the lost surrender and the weary will retreat
Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief
For the wounded there is healing, strength is given to the weak
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet


Take care!

Anonymous said...

Boothe and Conor,
You may not remember me...I think we met once at Fellowship a long time ago. Hope is on the move in the valley of the shadow...The Redeemer is there. Praying for you tonight (I just was made aware of your journey of greif and hope)...thinking of your sweet Copeland, thinking of my sweet Summar, thinking of Jesus...longing for heaven.

Jason Swain
swain@powerofchange.org

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