The sky was crying. It was an unusually misty day in Joplin, Missouri, as they laid my Angel in her grave. A friend dropped a single red rose on top of the half-sized casket. It was done. My baby was gone.
We often take pity upon poor mothers who lose a child. My heart grieves each time I hear of a mother losing a baby. It’s not uncommon. According to www.babycenter.com, “1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth.” But men lose children, too. It’s no easier for a man to lose a child than it is for a woman. We just respond differently.
For me, the world stopped. It seemed as if everyone kept running around without a care in the world. People kept screaming at each other. It was business as usual. They kept rushing to and fro. But my world stopped dead in its tracks. Couldn’t they see? My baby was dead. It felt like nobody cared or even noticed.
And what about God? Why did God let this happen to me? I’m a relatively good man. What did I do to deserve this? Yes, I was angry with God. I screamed at God on more than one occasion, even cursed.
Things change with time. And it’s no different with life’s most devastating loss. My long-term strategy for dealing with the loss of a child has been one that always keeps her with me. I’m a writer. Writing has helped me to cope with tragedy. Rather than pulling away from the pain; rather than distancing myself from the loss: I’ve taken the time to remember my Angel.
Here’s how I’ve dealt with life’s most devastating loss:
- I’ve remembered her in song: I’m a songwriter. After the initial shock, I began to write. In the first year after the loss, I wrote no less than 20 songs about the loss. As time moved on, the songs became less personal, and more general in nature. Music is one of God’s greatest healing tools.
- I’ve remembered her in poetry: Just as I’ve written songs, I’ve also written several poems in memory of my precious little Angel. If you’ve suffered the loss of a child, I urge you to write about it. Write regularly. The writing may be painful, but it will help you to heal. Tears wash away the pain.
- I’ve remembered her in place: I know that my baby is not really in the ground in Joplin, Missouri. She flew away like the balloon I let slip out of my hand on the day she was buried. Still, Joplin has become one of my favorite places in the world. People always look at me in surprise when I tell them I’m going to vacation in Missouri. I travel there almost annually. There is a wonderful sense of peace and tranquility in the cemetery where Angel rests, just blocks away from the hospital where she was born: the one that survived the devastating tornado in 2011.
More than ten years have passed since the day that Angel was born still. I vividly remember the 30 hours in the hospital, waiting to hold my warm, but dead baby. Angel had a severe case of Turner’s Syndrome. Her chances of survival were slim to none. I knew what was coming. But I never knew how I’d feel once I held her tiny body in my hands.
Angel Hope Erickson was my first child. She always will be. I held her for a few minutes. I’ll never forget that precious moment. I’ll also never forget what the chaplain at the hospital said to me. Here are his words of wisdom for all who suffer from life’s most devastating loss:
“God did not take your baby. Nature did. God is always here to help you heal.”
I inherently knew that the chaplain’s words were true. Still, it took time for them to become part of my experience, part of who I am. Knowing this truth has helped me to find peace, even through the most devastating loss.
No. God did not take my baby. God helps me to heal. That healing process has helped me to see that Angel is not dead at all. She is simply a greater part of the universe, one that will always shine down on me. She’s in every raindrop, every leaf, and every beam of light. She lives within me. She’s forever in my heart.
No. God did not take my baby. God was the crying sky on that late August day.
Photo: Flickr/ Valentina_A