My brother and his family were in town last week and we had so much fun going on lots of little adventures with them. About a week before they arrived my brother sent me an email with a short list of some of the activities they wanted to do while in town. One of those was visiting the grave site of our twin daughters.
I'm always touched by the extra thought that others give to those sweet girls of mine. I was happy to share that experience with them, but there was part of me that wasn't sure how it was going to go with their kids. I mean, going to a cemetery isn't exactly the most comfortable, happy place for most people, right? I didn't want them to feel uncomfortable or sad, so I kept things pretty light-hearted and made a couple of awkward jokes here and there to keep the mood from getting too somber.
But, now that a couple of days have passed and now that I'm facing the five year mark tomorrow, I wish I could go back to last Thursday, surrounded by my family, my parents, my brother and his crew. There are a few things I'd want them to know.
First of all, I'd tell them how I love visiting the cemetery. I love the quiet, peaceful place that it is. I love the deer who have made the place their home, who fearlessly wander through the grass with their baby fawns. I love remembering the dedicatory prayer that Marc offered on the day our girls were buried - specifically the promise that it would be a place of peace and perspective. Over the years, it most definitely has. Whenever life gets too stressful, too heavy, too scary, it is my quick escape, my go-to place to re-focus and remember what really matters in life.
Two years ago, as the third anniversary was approaching I decided I needed a new way to approach July 16th. It just came so natural to watch the calendar and the clock and relive every moment of sorrow, every feeling of shock and disbelief, every pain and heartache, that led up to the twins' early arrival. I was still healing and I knew that was okay, but I felt ready to move my thoughts from the pain of the past to the hope of the future.
Even though there will always be sadness associated with losing them, I also feel an unquenchable hope and reassurance that I'll see them again. I know they're safe and in a happy place. I know they haven't been taken from me and that one day I'll get to be their mother (and hopefully be much better at it than I am right now).
So, two years ago, with those desires to shift my focus to the hope of the future, I felt inspired to paint the picture I had of them in my mind - the carefree spirits of my two girls, happy in heaven, waiting with the same joyful anticipation to our eventual reunion. That's my painting, displayed on the left.
I want to be clear that the pain of loss is real and every year when the anniversary comes around, I feel it all over again and it hurts. Lumps form in my throat for days, until finally the tears just flow effortlessly. But, I also have to admit just as readily that healing is just as real. With every passing year, I feel it more and more. There is a phrase in a song by Mindy Gledhill that says "time is set to heal all wounds." It's true. And, I give all credit to a loving Savior who willingly suffered the pains of life and overcame the sting of death, whose sacrifice makes my hope a reality. He is the reason for my hope and my healing.
As hard as it was to lose my girls, I wouldn't have it any other way. The things I learned from walking through my own valley of sorrow, the undeniable feeling I had that I wasn't walking alone, the closeness I felt to God in the darkest period of my life... I treasure it all so much. I feel an overwhelming gratitude for the miracles that I've witnessed in my own life, evidence (if ever I needed it) that God lives and loves me.