Thankfulness Amidst Brokenness

 “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.”  (2 Corinthians 4:15)


The alarm set off in a haze this morning. I turned over after a restless night. How much longer can we snooze?   We needed to arise. Make breakfast. Make hot chocolate (a special Thanksgiving morning request).  Awake the kids.  Get dressed.  Go to church. Be thankful. 

Tasks were being accomplished. Except the one that was the cause of this day...offering thanks.  

As we approached the doors to church, the one within about a 1,000 feet from our little girl’s body, my heart sank. There’s no baby on my hip.  How can someone’s absence be SO present?   

Greet people. Smile. Put on a happy face. Force myself to say, “Happy Thanksgiving,” barely gritting it through clenched teeth.  Sit in the pew. Try to breathe. Try to feel normal. Try to push out the one thought consuming my mind...  My baby died. We are at Mass for Thanksgiving. And my baby died. Who knows she is missing?  Who notices that our family is incomplete?  Four kids...not five.  What momentum drove me here and out of bed on this first holiday without her? 

Mass was a struggle. An hour of acceptance. Through every moment, I wished it to end.  I fought back tears, and I tried to unite myself to what I was experiencing and to our little girl.  And something happened in my heart. I heard truth proclaimed. And peace surprisingly found its way to me. And when we left, we left with my heart a little lighter and a little fuller with gratitude.  I was glad we went.  I didn’t know what I needed, but God did.

The day was being spent at home, and it manifested beautifully...

I found contentment in our little family (watching the Macy’s Parade in honor of our trip to New York last year, spending time outside, conversing, napping, family movie time, planning birthday parties).

I found pleasure in cooking (sweet potato casserole, pumpkin pie, baked macaroni and cheese, vegetable soup).

I found comfort in friends who stopped in from out of town to have real conversation and share their love with us (the same friend who drove in hours unexpectedly and stayed the night with us in the hospital after losing our baby so we wouldn’t be alone).  

And I found joy in being a those in my reach, the one that is not, and the one growing within.  

And it was a beautiful, and peaceful, and restful day.

And I felt thankful. 

Yesterday, a friend wished the most beautiful words for me...  “Relish in all you’ve been given through her being taken away.”  And isn’t that a stark truth?  There is always a gift to be received in the brokenness.  Nothing is taken without a blessing given in return.  Bittersweet.  A two edged sword.  A process that I am still learning.

But I am thankful for the intense amounts of love I have experienced since losing her.  For the fact that I had the privilege of being her earthly home, carrying her perfect body, and being the one chosen to bring her into this world...even though it wasn’t the way I had hoped.  For a greater appreciation of life and a gratitude to take part in the creation of it.  That she is with me at all times, in a way my earthly children cannot be.  That she existed.  For the lessons she has taught me. And that her life has a greater purpose.

I’m thankful for my husband. For my children.  That we are going through this TOGETHER.  That we ALL miss her.  For the comfort they offer in the hardest of moments, and the patience they extend to me in my fragility.  For the bond of our marriage, which has been forever strengthened. That I have witnessed my children extend compassion.  That I’ve seen their tears fall at the cause of love and loss.  For their tender hearts, which have been broken and expanded.  For the hope we all have for their new baby brother growing in my womb.  And for him. And his life. And what his presence brings to us in our despair.

I’m thankful for the outpouring we have received from family and friends. For those who have stayed in the dark woods with us. Who aren’t afraid to get too close. Who check in weekly and ask the hard questions.  Who dive into the wounds, and listen, and cry, and cherish, and pray.  Who have helped tremendously with the kids, when we just couldn’t. For the financial support we’ve received...the kindness of others to send us on a family vacation and a get away together and those who helped with funeral costs.  For those who nourished our bodies, when we couldn’t complete any thought or any task. For truly seeing the Body of Christ at work in a tangible way and witnessing others serve our broken hearts.

I’m thankful for a different perspective on life. Shedding old habits...people pleasing, endless activity.  Learning how to say NO.  Being okay with taking care of myself. Putting my family first. Not pushing through the hard things and rushing through life to get to the next outcome. Taking one day, one moment, at a time.  Learning to understand that I’m not in control, and truly, all I have is gift and hasn’t been earned by my own merit.  Discovering I can be flexible, not to sweat the small stuff, and to stop putting off the desires of my heart.  Appreciating beauty again, and finding pleasure in the things I love...reading, writing, spending time outdoors.  Moving SLOWER and getting off “the wheel.” Being patient with myself.  Recognizing the progress I have made over the past six months, and taking each day as it comes...storm of grief or sun.

I’m thankful I wear my emotions on my sleeve.  That tears brim to the surface without hesitation...rather from joy or pain.  That I more easily recognize the walking wounded and suffering in the lives of others.  That my story is not the only story. Of connecting with other moms who have lost, too.  Putting my hurt next to their hurt and recognizing we are not alone.  And making time to be with others in their brokenness.  For realizing that is what life is truly about.  I’m thankful for the hard moments, because without them there would be no good. For the painful memories, because they remind me that I can feel. And for my tears, which bring healing and water the dead and withering parts of me. 

I’m thankful this process is teaching me things about myself that I still don’t understand...perhaps NEVER fully will during this earthly life.  That I experience the supernatural daily, because I have a daughter in heaven.  That I am part of something bigger than I am. That I’m on a journey. An unfolding. A newness. A resurrection.  

I can’t quite say I am thankful for losing, but I am thankful for the gain from the loss. I’m thankful to be broken.  For one little girl who has completely changed my life and the lives of others forever.  And in the end, for the better. 

So from my broken heart to yours...Happy Thanksgiving.