On March 28th of this year I found myself in an emergency room, faint, terrified, and hearing a tender, older midwife inform me that the baby was in the birth canal. I was stunned and shattered. There was no hope at that point as the baby was at seventeen weeks gestation.
I found myself in a place I had never been before, grief. It is a place all it’s own and after being there for a long stay and revisiting periodically I can see how some people fight going there and how some people never leave.
The only reason I left was because of the great gift of my other children that were alive and right in front of me.
Grief was such a strange mercy for me. It is horrific and you want to set it on fire and pray it would never be rebuilt… but I couldn’t do that and so I begrudgingly and with bitter sadness walked through it. It is because of walking through it that I enjoy the everyday mundane with my kids now much more. It is because of walking through it that I wrestled honestly with my belief in God. It is because of walking through it that I have a clearer understanding of what a hold fear has on my life. It is because of walking through it that I am keenly aware that anyone’s final breath could be this moment. It is because of walking through it that I continue to see mercy bestowed upon my life everyday. It is because of walking through it that I took a risk and saw beautiful Kibera, Kenya this summer.
Kibera is a place where every person you meet has visited grief many times and often recently. It is a slum on the edge of Nairobi where close to 1million people live in a 2 mile radius. Everyone there has been impacted severely by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They live in homes made of the mud and trash around them with tiny streams of sewage coursing around every dwelling. The average life span is 43. There are many street kids, orphaned. And food is more than hard to come by. Yet through all that I saw so much hope and life. As they walk in and out of grief they emerge with more and more wisdom and gratitude for life. Their smiles are real. Their laughter is intense and contagious. Their stories are filled with insight. Their singing and dancing is drenched in mercy and grace. They taught me a great deal about the beauty awaiting the other side of grief.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not excited about or planning for the next time I visit grief. I still wish the door had been boarded up before I visited there the first time and I would be holding a tiny, three month old son right now. Unfortunately grief is still a place I will visit again, maybe even today, but I will go there a little more familiar with the terrain and with a much deeper belief in God’s strange mercies.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.