Maria Furlough's blog My True Worth. My friend both welcomed and said goodbye to her son, Gideon, on March 31 and is dedicating this month to infant loss. I encourage you to read all the posts from
these brave mothers.
Good and gracious, my Father offers comfort and guidance when I’m confused or disappointed and don’t know which way to go; rest, strength and peace when I’m worn out and weary; and knowledge and understanding when I’m searching for answers. He is the calm when chaos stirs inside.
God is the best gift-giver I know. And, in the words of St. Augustine,
I am certain of this: “God gives where he finds empty hands.” From emptiness to fullness, sorrow to joy — this is my story.
At 28, my hands were left empty.
At 36, again, left void of a tiny blue bundle.
At 47, once more, stripped of purpose.
Mothers cradle and comfort. In childhood, they kiss boo-boos and soothe cries. As children grow, moms help ease the sting of mean-girl gossip and teenage breakups. My experience as a mother, however, wasn’t so much about helping to make it “all better,” as it was sitting alone in my tears with a wounded heart … a heart pierced by grief.
Our first son, Kyle, was born in January 1989. At eight pounds, he was picture-perfect with wisps of strawberry-blond hair. He was a content baby, who hardly fussed and slept peacefully. But during Kyle’s third month, a lack of muscle tone and the absence of a startle response led to appointments with neurologists and therapists.
Kyle was born with Acute Infantile Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic, progressive neuromuscular disease. It was a diagnosis that came with a death sentence. He was bright and attentive, but his muscles never developed or got stronger. Caring for Kyle consumed every minute of every day for the next four months. His suck weakened, and Kyle frequently aspirated his milk, because he couldn’t cough. Often his lips turned blue when he wasn’t getting enough air. Pneumonia set in, and Kyle developed a high fever.
On September 1, Kyle died in my arms at 7 months old. There was stillness, like time had stopped, and I felt a loving presence all around me. I felt peacefully comforted. My entrance into mommyhood wasn’t about applauding my baby’s first milestones, but rather tending to the last moments of his life.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those
who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:8
Nearly three years later, we were chosen by a teenage birthmother to attend the birth of her baby and adopt her daughter. After having suffered through such despair after Kyle’s death, my heart nearly burst with overwhelming delight at this pink bundle in July 1992.
The birthmother signed the adoption/relinquishment papers three days later.
Our beautiful, sweet Megan became curious about being a big sister
at age 5, when I found out I was pregnant again in 1997. Prenatal testing at age 36 revealed our second son would be born with severe mental and physical challenges. Really??? My faith was tested, but I clung to these words:
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified …
for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you
nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
At 38 weeks, we learned Andrew’s tiny heart had stopped beating,
and labor was induced so I could deliver him. Andrew was stillborn
on January 26, 1997. I held him as my pastor blessed him, and we
left the hospital with only a few pictures, Andrew’s wrist bracelet
and footprints, his little blue hat and a white rose tied neatly atop
a keepsake box.
Many years later, I went through surgery for breast cancer and learned Megan, a young adult, was struggling with a complicated personality disorder that may one day lead to her death. As I sat in my therapist’s office gripping wads of wet and crumpled Kleenex, she told me I had gone through more “traumatic abrupt endings” than any mother should have to endure.
Yes, I am a woman who aches deeply, at times … whose spirit overflows with love to give, but whose hands are empty. I’ve learned pain is part of the journey, and messy is where living truly takes place. Yet, I also know tremendous joy. The essence of my life is that my circumstances don’t crush my hope. God is bigger than what has happened to me.
My husband and I have been married for nearly 33 years — a union that our Father’s love and faithfulness has strengthened and sustained through infant death, cancer and parenting an adult child with a mental illness. My parents and siblings are loving and supportive. And, I have endearing friendships and am often on the receiving end of tremendous encouragement from many sisters
God has redeemed my pain and purposed it for good. Jon Bloom, founder of Desiring God, says, both the gifts of celebration and suffering are for our joy. He says the most-satisfying, most-valuable and longest-lasting gifts we receive (and pass along to others) come through the experiences of loss.
“Praise be to the … the Father of compassion and the God of
all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we
can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves
receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Yes, “God gives where he finds empty hands.” I once thought my heart would never love another baby. Then I feared my heart was too heavy to be able to hope again. Now I know my heart is held by the One who first set its beat — God continues to open it, fill it and pour its light out to others.
I am not empty-handed. On Easter Sunday, I hold my hands palms up. Gracious and merciful, God resurrects hope and fills my hands with renewed purpose.