" To the bereavement of my soul. I humbled my soul with fasting and my prayer kept returning to my bosom. I went about as though it were my friend or brother; I bowed down mourning as one who sorrows for a mother." Psalm 35: 12-14.
I held my breath reading this a couple weeks ago. It reads like a dedication to grief, which admittedly seems a little strange - and yet, when you lose, grief is what you have left. To consider grief a friend or a brother - I can relate to that. It feels authentic and true when your heart is broken and you need something that won't betray you - grief will show up with you. The end of those verses talks about sorrowing for a mother... It seems there is no greater grief than a mother mourning for her child or a child mourning a mother. God designed it such that mother and child are bonded from conception, intricately linked in a relationship that is beyond understanding.
There is so little left to show of Levi. So few of us got to see his face, hold his tiny frame, see his small white coffin. Those memories are treasured and haunting at the same time. There is nothing else to look forward to, nothing that will grow or change with him. All that physically remains of his life is contained in a silver box of ashes and a box they give you at the hospital when you don't get to come home with a baby. I will never forget the feeling of being wheeled from labor and delivery holding a box of pictures and the few items that touched him instead of a baby. This kind of loss, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, infant loss, infertility - it seems it is inheritently an invisible loss. It is saying goodbye before you get to say hello - which makes goodbye even harder somehow.
I know so many women have and will experience this invisible loss and while each experience is unique, what I wish others understood is that while I keep moving and living, this person I am missing exists as an invisible extension of myself. He is never far from my thoughts, his name forever written on my heart - you can speak his name - I long to hear it again. Knowing and loving Ethan and Levi in the time I was granted to be their mother... it has shattered my heart such that the pieces will never go back together the way it was before them. Yet, my heart keeps on beating in this new assemblage of parts. I find that rather than only seeing the missing pieces, it has somehow made my heart larger. It certainly has some jagged edges, but the brokenness didn't destroy my heart, rather, it made it a vessel that can pour out more easily because of all the cracks.
The baby I hoped for and expected is not coming soon. He has come and left me too soon and although his life is invisible to the watching world - Levi Robert Priour will forever be celebrated in my heart and his memory alive in the way I remain "attached" to Jesus in hope and expectation. It is tempting to believe this is an ending - I can't see him anymore, so it is over. But, I know that with God as the Author, Levi's death is not the final word. I am committed to pressing in and holding on and showing up - each day - even when it feels impossible. I have continually experienced in these 'darks nights of the soul', that when I lift my eyes, dawn is just on the horizon. I don't need a fairy tale, or even a happy ending - although, sometimes I would really like that. What I really want is a story that matters. A story of courage and truth and redemption. Those are exactly the kinds of stories that Jesus loves to tell - that's how I know this one isn't over yet. I am learning that somehow, it is not about the outcome - it is not the happy ending that matters - it is about the encounter and the transformation and continuing to tell my truth.