A sunny day in June, my family and I were pulling into the campsite in our favorite place in the whole world—where Aaron and I spent our honeymoon and where we go back every summer for our anniversary to share this haven with our babies—when my phone rang. I almost just totally ignored it, but instead I looked at the number. Emily. My friend and midwife and sister to my very close friend.
Meredith lost the babies, she said. I don’t remember what questions I asked. I don’t remember her answers or anything other information she offered. I do remember being a puddle of tears by the time Aaron came back to the car from checking us in.
Meredith was pregnant with twins—Livia Rose and Lucy Eleanor. They had found out earlier in the week that the girls had a serious condition and would need medical intervention, but sometime in between that discovery and Meredith’s arrival at the proper medical facility, Livia and Lucy had peacefully gone to Jesus.
A few days later, we arrived home and Meredith gave birth to her daughters.
I realize the flatness of that last statement. But how can I express what it was for Meredith to experience labor pains for children she would never mother? To bring babies into a world they would never see? To cuddle babies who would never breathe?
Meredith asked me to visit her and the babies at the hospital. I am not sure I had ever felt so honored in my life as to share the gift of seeing these sweet girls the rest of the world would miss out on.
I was shaking with anticipation and grief when I arrived. People, I was terrified. I was scared of seeing my Mer as a bereaved mother. I was scared of seeing her girls forever still. I was scared of seeing her valiant husband crestfallen. I grasped the flowers and teddybear loveys I had brought with both hands to steady my quivers. I took a deep breath and put on a brave face. I willed my tears to stay put.
Why am I ever surprised by this: What I saw, what I experienced, what met me was Grace.
That time in the hospital is private to me, a priceless and precious gift that I ponder and sometimes mention to Meredith, wondering in its beauty.
I was surprised by beauty.
Since then I have been surprised by hope.
I’ve experienced my share of grief. Heaven is a daily topic in The Bungalove. Dreaming about the New Earth together is a favorite pastime of Aaron’s and mine. But that was challenged when one of my closest friends lost her baby girls. My grief settled in my belly, a resolved sigh of trusting God’s Sovereignty.
I was blessed to hear some of Meredith’s thoughts as she started processing her loss. The effect of the grace and beauty of the hospital room experience and the love that overwhelmed me there started to fade as I grappled with the suffocating helplessness of watching Mer grieve. I couldn’t fix her heart. I didn’t have good words for her and I was clumsy—at best—loving her. I lost my ability to will my tears back, and they would flow at strange places and strange times. Meredith was articulate in her grief, asking poignant questions and realizing the far reach of her loss. We talked about what she would never share with the girls and cried at the quiet understandings of what it would mean to travel life as a mother of twins the world never knew existed.
Then something happened. I one day told Meredith that the most impactful thing for me as a bystander in the hospital room that day was seeing the love her husband had for her. I felt like an intruder as I watched how he loved her, how he climbed into her hospital bed to hold her steady through the shattering sobs, how tenderly he spoke to her, how he anticipated her needs. Here he was, a father who had just lost his children. He was hurting just as much as his wife, and yet he put her needs before his. He had never experienced this kind of loss, yet his love for Mer took over and dictated his actions—he loved with confidence and grace. Thinking about it even now overwhelms me.
I don’t know what Meredith would say, but this conversation was a turning point for me in how my heart approached this grief. I felt like we started talking more about Heaven and the New Earth—our dreams as well as our questions and doubts. And as we talked, I couldn’t help but notice the impact Livia and Lucy had had on me. Which seems improbable as they never even took a breath.
For one thing, my terminology has changed. When I say, The Girls or The Twins, I am specifically referring to Livia and Lucy. My relationship with Mer has changed—not only has she graciously and generously allowed me to walk with her, I relate to her differently because of the depths her soul has dived. She understands a piece of me she didn’t before, both because of loss but also because she is a mother now. I think of Livia and Lucy every single day. I daydream about what they are like and what it will mean to see them reunited with Meredith some day. I remember their perfect little bodies in the hospital, and I wonder what they look like perfected in Heaven. I grow excited about seeing Meredith not just as a mother, but as a mother to them. I don’t know what that will look like or mean in Heaven, but instead of just confusion, I have excitement, too. I have hope.
The grief that settled in my belly is still there. But hope has settled in as its companion. A hope that was born out of the despair of having nothing to trust but Jesus in the midst of an impossible situation. My piddly faith in turning to God in my tears and calling out, This hurts and my Mer hurts and I don’t know what to pray except help me trust! has planted more seeds of faith, which bloom hope.
Thanks to Livia and Lucy’s too-brief existence, I trust God differently now. My hope in God spreads farther and reaches deeper than before. My concept of love has been bolstered and expanded. My relationship with their mother has deepened. I hold my children a moment longer with each hug, understanding better the fragility of life. And my eyes have been widened to more of the brokenness around me; I don’t shy away as much as I used to, I think about the joy Livia and Lucy brought us in their short lives, and I yearn to know that joy in others, even if it means walking through some ugly with them.
Tomorrow is Meredith’s due date. A day for tears for what was taken from her and her husband but also a day for celebrating the gift of Livia and Lucy. You see, I believe that we will be reunited with them someday in Heaven but I also believe that their tiny lives have significance on this earth, in my life. God created them and numbered their days with joy and purpose. So I celebrate. With sadness and confusion, I celebrate. If you see me tomorrow and I am wearing these flowers, know they are for The Girls, my Mer’s girls, Livia Rose and Lucy Eleanor, who have changed me forever through blooms of hope.