There was the smallest of gestures in our pew today that almost brought me to tears. Noah grabbed my hand, then his dad's, and connected our three hands on his lap. In an instant I was brought back nearly four years, to the beginning of our grief journey, shortly after losing Austin.
It was something Noah did often then; grab both his parents hands and force us to lock, placing his between and around. Solidity. Strength. A Family Bond.
Tim and I didn't necessarily drift apart in the loss, and in many ways it brought us closer, but there were walls, rawness, tangible pain. In the beginning all of us walked on an endless road of eggshells, never quite knowing where to land, wondering if a misstep would cause us all to fall. Though we tried to put on a good front, even a child of eight could sense the weakness.
In every opportunity he could, Noah pushed us together. Silently, but the unspoken need shouted to us. STAY TOGETHER. BE STRONG. LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Once easily grossed out at signs of affection, he worked then to cause them. Looking back now, I can see he was just trying to hold on to what was left of our family.
There's a statistic I read more than once while pouring over books on grief and spiritual help. The divorce rate for parents of child loss is staggeringly high. It scared me because I could see how easily one could just throw it in, give up, walk away. When life as you knew and loved it ceased to exist and crumble around you, would you be strong enough to piece it back together? Crazily it's something I recall even as far back as the night Austin passed.
Tim and I were at his side in the ER, chaos swirling, my heart pleading for time to just stop. It was over and the room was cleared except for us. Our sweet boy, hair of jet black, seemingly sleeping beside us. Our firstborn was gone and pieces of me would forever go with him. My world was slipping, beyond my control. I grabbed Tim up, placing my hands on his either side of his face, locking eyes. We were close enough to kiss - and I'm not sure why I needed him in that position - but I needed our eyes to connect, our souls to listen.
"This cannot break us."
Silence was deafening. I will never forget that deep, sorrowful pain in my husband's eyes.
"Tim, this cannot break us. Promise me," I repeated, knowing the simple word of promise would speak volumes to him. He nodded. We sobbed into each other, time no longer a concern. Letting go and holding on.
The past three and a half years have been a rollercoaster, filled with days of uncertaintity, tears, prayers, and hope. The constant has been that the three of us have never given up. Even on days we maybe wanted to. We've held on to each other - and to God.
What's amazing to me is the role Noah has intentionally played. So many days I pulled myself up and on - for him. Never would I have imagined though the work he would do, like the soft gesture of placing our hands together all those days ago in the pew.
That symbol today, of a family united, was a breathtaking moment, an unplanned trip through tortured memories, and a sign of how far we've come. While we'll forever have a hole from Austin's leaving, the gap is continually filled with our family's and our Father's love.
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