There seem to be moments - days, weeks - in the midst of grief that can best be described as "emotional pauses." Things just stop and suddenly you feel absolutely zero. They're pauses because, of course, they don't last forever, but while they do, living feels somewhat like standing in the center of a whirling merry-go-round: the world around you moves, rides the tide of joy and laughter and sorrow and sadness and you - you're watching it fly past without a single movement. You are still and yet you are carried by the constant motion around you.
I wish I could elaborate a little more, but as I said: you feel absolutely zero. Someone asked me about sending a birth announcement this morning, whether it would be hard for me to get it in the mail, and I found myself honestly telling her that I just felt like Copeland hadn't been here at all, that it was all a dream. I struggle to even type those words - while one part of me rests in the emotionlessness, the other fights against it, longing to feel, even if just for a moment, what I know I can - what I do - in my harder moments. Sometimes I think this is what keeps Copeland here, what makes her existence a reality. It's foolishness, and I constantly comfort myself with the notion that, were she alive and old enough to do so, she would tell me that my needing to feel nothing right now - my needing to go out and do the silly, trivial things of life and simply to function on some level of normalcy - is okay. That even feeling like her time here was a dream is okay. I believe she'd say these things because I would say them to my own mom.
Tonight was Halloween and it's odd that we've made it this far. Five weeks ago we were handing our daughter's body to strangers and staring out at the landscape ahead with fear in our hearts. Five weeks ago we had no idea how we'd get here. And yet... here we are.
My heart is hopeful. Hopeful for the future, for what God has in store. As we walked from house to house tonight, Sellers giggling in her little princess costume and swinging her bag full of candy, it struck me that maybe, just maybe, we might be spending our last Halloween as a threesome. There's always the hope. Always the thought that perhaps things will be different in time. Someone once said to Conor and I that those who choose to end their own lives don't usually do so because, as we commonly suspect, they "lose all hope." Usually it's because they can't stop hoping. It's strange, thinking about hope that way, like a thorn in the side. The Bible says that "hope deferred makes the heart sick, but [that] a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). A hope deferred. Put off. Delayed. I remember finding that verse last year, after my second miscarriage, and holding the Bible up as I prayed, somewhat miffed, "God, Your Word itself says that when things that I long for are unfulfilled, my heart will be sick - broken. It's here, right here, in Scripture." I don't know why I was shocked, but I suppose part of it was that I'd never considered the fact that my sadness over a longing that remained unfulfilled might be validated in the same book that says God works everything out for good if I love Him and commands me to trust in Him, no matter what. It's like learning something new and wonderful about someone you love after years of loving them. Strange, perhaps a little disconcerting - how could I have missed this? - and incredibly refreshing. Suddenly there are even more reasons to love them. And maybe to question and to hurt. If God knows that in prolonging my hope to have more children, my heart will literally ache, and that the hoping will continue, and consequently the aching, then why does He let me hope at all? Why not remove the hope altogether?
When Copeland died, I remember smirking. This is the moment, this is the moment my baby daughter breathed her last, and still, You are nowhere to be seen. Surely You'd show up now! I don't know what I expected, but somehow it felt like a let-down, or a betrayal, or a joke. And yet - that moment was holy. How can God be so there and yet so absent? How can we feel Him moving and yet feel so alone?
Thus is the conflict of faith. I find that much of my life is defined by conflict at this point. The battles that wage between the parts of my heart that believe and disbelieve, cry and laugh, walk forward and stand still. It's a remarkably exhausting place to be. This is why I chose to say that these are the words of a girl struggling to "know the God she loves." How you can love someone without really knowing them, fully, is unbeknownst to me. How you can trust someone without having had every hope and desire fulfilled is another mystery. Is it possible - or even okay? - to love someone and not like them that much? Is it all right to decide you aren't sure you want to spend a lot of time with them for a while? But yet you'd like to know they're still around, still available, for when you do? Is it even fair?
All questions for a later moment, a quieter hour, a time when things in the past appear clearer than they do now.