Death sucks. It’s inevitable and it sucks.

I have very little personal experience with death, which I guess is good. When I was in grade school, a teenager from my church died in a car crash – I knew of him, but we weren’t friends and I was young. My man from church passed from cancer a while back – he had been really sick and had two adult children. I was really close to his wife. A grandparent passed while I was in college, but we weren’t close, I barely knew him, and he lived on the other side of the world. Will’s grandmother passed a few years ago – I was sad, but mostly because Will was sad, there was a language barrier between me and her so there was not much connection.

That’s pretty much the extent of death in my life. Not like I’m complaining. That’s just all I have been exposed to.

Then came Wednesday, January 27. A friend from our church was killed in a car accident (News article here). I remember getting into my car at 9:30am. I had just finished a home visit and was going to my next, just a few minutes away. I checked my phone and had a text from Will saying that there was some sad, shocking news on FB related to someone we knew. I called him and the first thing I said was, “Did someone’s baby die?” He said, “No, someone died.” After Will told me it was Charles, I remember pulling into my client’s driveway and just sitting there, breaking my Facebook-fast, and scrolling through the messages and sparse news articles. I had heard of the accident on the radio the day before, never imagining I would know who was involved. I had to proceed into the house like nothing was different, that I wasn’t shaken to my core, cheering on a kid to learn how to jump when that was the last thing I wanted to do.

I can’t say Charles and I were friends. Will and Charles’ parents were close so they grew up hanging out together. Charles and I were more acquaintances; we both served the Young Adult Ministry at church leading different small groups. We had been in choir together for several years, but with me being soprano and him being bass, we never “sung” together. I do remember him sitting in the section behind the sops and handing him sheet music. I can’t actually remember us having a one-on-one conversation. But he was close to people I was close to. Our social circles touched, but we were never in that exact intersection. But with him being in a similar age group with mutual friends, this put his death as the most emotionally significant for me. I had never had to grieve a death like his before. The unexpectedness of the accident – the complete randomness, his age, the potential he would have had… It was hard for me to grasp that he would never get to experience marriage or having kids or growing old…but maybe it was better that way? Would leaving a widow with kids who wouldn’t have a dad…is that better? Nah, it all sucks.

The name of the road where I sat in the driveway of my client’s house? Charles Street.

***

Twenty-four hours after finding out that Charles had died, we found out we were pregnant. It was the morning of Thursday, January 28. Tyler was exactly 1.5 years old this day. I took the pregnancy test and when I showed Will I said, “So how do you feel about this?”

See, we had been trying to get pregnant for the last 7 months. When we tried for Tyler, it only took one try. So when I only had one experience to compare to, when you go month after month with no positive, I wasn’t sure what was going on. What does this mean? How long do we try for before seeking medical help? Do we go for medical help or just start looking at adoption? During these months, a close friend miscarried. Another friend was coming up to the one-year remembrance of when her 38-week child was stillborn. And in the year-point-five of having Tyler, the amount of people I knew who were struggling with fertility or miscarriage or infant loss was immense. I don’t know if I was just more aware of it now being a mom or people were able/willing to be more vocal and open about it…but it was just so common now. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to think it could happen to me.

So, now looking at this positive pregnancy test, after the past 24-hours of just shock and sadness…I really was not sure what to think of it. Obviously, we wanted this, we’d been wanting it all this time.  If we had gotten the news 48-hours prior, I am sure I would have reacted differently. But now…how do you respond to a positive when there is so much negative around you?

I struggled with this positive. How do you enjoy this life when death is inevitable? What if this baby dies inside me…at 6-weeks, 12-weeks, 38-weeks? What if Will dies and never sees this baby and I have to raise two kids who will never remember their dad? What if I die, taking this baby too, leaving Will to mourn his wife and unborn child, having to raise Tyler alone? 

How do you be joyful for life when death exists?

My immediate answer to this question after a 24-hour period of receiving death and life news: You can’t.

The weeks following were rough. (I am sure hormones and first trimester stuff didn’t help). We attended Charles’ funeral and I just wept. I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of those that eulogized him – his girlfriend, his brother, his mother. Being a mom now, I absolutely cannot fathom burying my child. As a sister, how do you do holidays anymore? Who would I send silly texts to? Who could reminisce about childhood games and inside jokes? As a wife, what would I do if Will was not growing old with me?

My friend miscarried again. A toddler I know received a cancer diagnosis…What if that happens to Tyler? Will and I were going on a trip alone in March…We need to write a will before we leave in case something happens to both of us. 

These weeks were just “weird.” So much sadness and while yes, there is a life growing inside me, I can’t feel it and yet it’s just making me nauseous and fatigued. Charles’ death truly put death on the continuum for me. I can honestly say that before this, I didn’t think much about death; I was naive about it. Death was for sick or old people. But now being aware of death’s reality and realness, how do I live knowing it is coming?

I had seen this video on Facebook…someone had posted it. I’m not sure if I completely agree with how Francis Chan is explaining the metaphor. From what I gather, he seems to be saying that we need to live life with our goal being that day we die and then live eternally. I get his concept – yes we shouldn’t be focused on non-eternal things, we should yearn for that day we can then live eternally for millions and millions of years, that we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others or looking around at others – we should be a runner “looking at that moment when we face God,” we shouldn’t be consumed by our day-to-day activities. But I am viewing this video with a different focus. While yes, we have eternity to look forward to, God gave each of us a certain length of that red part of the rope. For some of us, the red part is 5 inches long, others 3 inches. For babies that never saw their mother’s face, their red rope was one millionth of a millimeter. But no matter how long it is, God specifically granted us that rope. The still shot of the video says “Life is short.” I would instead say “Life is significant.” Because it is. God knows each day we have on earth. And it is up to us how we want to use that time.

During these weeks, I greatly struggled with life/death; light/darkness. Knowing death is real, I initially lived with fear and anxiety of what the next day could bring. I didn’t want to really acknowledge that I was pregnant in case the next day I wasn’t. I held very loosely to this growing life, not wanting to become emotionally invested, fearful that it would and could not exist at any time. It was hard to be grateful for this pregnancy and yet that itself was so upsetting to me because we obviously wanted this life and tried hard to have it happen and so many around us were yearning to be pregnant and couldn’t…I was upset for being ungrateful for a life that could be taken away.

Death and darkness were winning against life and light.

Then came Easter weekend. I reached the all-important 12-week mark on the Saturday in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Death and Life. God’s ultimate answer to Death was Life.

We sang the song “Mighty to Save” during Easter service. This song has been important to me ever since a few years ago when we had a scare that my dad’s cancer was back. This year, when we got to the chorus, I wept. “He rose and conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave.” Life conquered Death.

This life will always have death and darkness. Satan uses death and darkness as his weapon to bring us down, to turn us away from God, to force us to see hopelessness and despair, to create anxiety and fear. It is powerful. But I was letting it win. I wasn’t fighting back. What kind of faith would I have if I didn’t allow God to fight for me? Because He will win. He already has.

Easter weekend proved to be a beautiful turning point for me in this journey of understanding life and death. I am now much more hopeful, less anxious and fearful. I am grateful for this new life God has given me even if its red rope is millimeters long. I am choosing to believe that no matter how long my red rope is or how much I have left, that I want each day to truly matter. I do want to focus on today because I don’t know what the next year, day, or hour holds. I want to focus on my relationships today, my interactions with family and friends and clients today. I want God to see me living out my faith, holding onto his promises. Since He has truly conquered death, I can live life.

How do you be joyful for life when death exists?

Exactly that. Be joyful for Life.

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