By Brave’s Grandma, Wynn Bauman
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Last May a call came to my classroom to come to the office. On the counter sat a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers with a small card addressed to me. I quickly opened it and read, “Dear Mom, You are going to be a grandma early in December!” signed my youngest son and his wife. I told the secretary and she cheered with tears in her eyes. I stood there unbelievingly. The first grandchild in our family!
The months passed quickly with both parents staying active in sports, exercise and lots of response from the growing baby boy. Nearing December my daughter-in-law and son read to him, turned up the radio in the car and sang to him, with the little one responding happily inside.
The due date came and went. The doctor said as soon as he slowed down, it would indicate he was ready to come. A few days later he settled down and both parents knew at last they would see their little son.
The expectant parents went in for a sonogram to confirm he was in place and ready to be born, to become family.
My cell phone rang at school and I heard the strangled voice of my son, “We’ve lost the baby!” He began crying uncontrollably. Slowly the story came. They’d checked several times for the heartbeat but there was none. They would induce the birth tomorrow morning.
The pastor and friends asked them to come to their home. When they arrived cars lined the street and friends overflowed the house. Shocked silence, wails of unbelief, comfort of loving arms. But nothing could dull the horror of delivering their lifeless baby boy in the morning.
The hospital gave my daughter-in-law and son a private area on a separate floor away from other deliveries. Friends lined the hallway, huddled in grief, unable to help, praying for grace.
Instead of the welcomed cry of newborn, inhuman wails, wrenched from the new parents for their son. The cord that had given him life had taken it.
My plane left the east coast across to the farthest point of the Northwest. The flight seemed endless, carrying the deadness of unspeakable sorrow, nine months of expediential joy smashed into indescribable disbelief and loss.
I sat hovered toward the window. It hit me how many hours passed since my grandson’s morning birth. The realization spread over me and increased the pain. I wouldn’t get to hold him close and hug him. Gone. He had been so full of life and now when he could at last be seen, touched and loved, he could see and feel nothing. My shoulders shook with sobs, knowing I flew to a funeral not a celebration of new life.
At the last layover, I got a text saying. “Jackson Brave is waiting for his grandma.” More tears, but thankfulness mixed with sorrow that I would hold and love my first grandson.
Inwardly I yelled to the pilot to hurry, but the plane continued its steady pace through the soft clouds backed by a clear blue sky. How could things look so normal?
But I had only one real question.
Some questions have no answers.
I walked down the long hospital hall filled with people, heads in their hands, some quietly crying. I walked toward the silent room a lifetime away.
Such hope, potential, with this new one, redemption for our family. I’d raised my three children as a single mother. Growing up with the unfulfilled promise of a father, this baby represented a time of redemption for my son, a time to try to be what he didn’t have.
I stepped into the softly lit room. I felt the suffocation of loss, the expectation of mother, father and son creating a family of strength, no longer viable.
How could any joy be present in that room where the dark-haired, beautiful little boy, would never look up and smile? As in a dream I saw my son gently placed his firstborn into my arms. I touched his soft skin, the perfect hands like his mothers and his dad’s cleft chin. He fit so well in my arms, his sturdy weight anchoring him. I knew I was studying and memorizing more than for any test. This time there was no second chance.
They carried the tiny white casket down the aisle and placed it on the waiting table at the front of the church. My son sat on one side and my daughter-in-law on the other as people silently followed, placing small purple orchids on the casket. The hushed footsteps continued for over an hour, friends, some of them homeless friends, each one bending down with words and embraces for the grieving parents.
We buried him with are own hands. At the end of the cemetery service on that cold gray afternoon, my son saw the bulldozer filled with dirt to cover the grave.
He said, “No, that will go too quickly. We will bury him with our hands.” Each one reached in and took the sacred dirt and dropped it down onto the casket. I wanted to leap down into the silent grave to protect him from this finality, to shout out to stop this inexplicable burial. But it continued until the attendants tamped the last fresh dirt. My son and daughter-in-law knelt down and kissed the damp newly laid grass, saying their final goodbye. The group remained huddled in reverent silence surrounding the sobbing couple, loathe to leave their little one alone on the hillside.
I know I will see him in heaven. He went before us. When his parents told people what they would name him, many wondered about his middle name, “Brave.” At the graveside a dear friend spoke and said, “Most children have to live up to their parents’ name, but this time his parents must live up to his name.”
What I learned is that there are no good words to say at a time like this, other than, “I’m so sorry. I know it hurts more deeply than I can ever imagine.” Some tried to assuage the pain with, “God will bring good out of this. God is good.”
Of course I knew these last words were true but just walking alongside, quietly absorbing the unspeakable grief was what spoke God’s deep love to me. It helped me to know that in spite of the inexplicable death of a baby, that somehow God’s love was still true, undiminished and unchanging. Nothing in this loss supported the truth of a loving God, but I lifted my empty hands, filled only with intense sorrow and no understanding, and asked Him to somehow help me believe—to have a faith that flies into the face of logic, no visible proof, yet there, solid and complete.
I don’t know why God allows devastating loss but what I can begin to know is who God is and begin to rest in that. In a study of the attributes of God the answer came full circle. What He does comes from who He is, whether I understand it or not. Knowing more of God’s goodness, love, unchangeableness, power, knowledge, grace, and so much more, I have to trust that no matter what logic says, He will remain faithful to Himself.
As the months have passed since that rainy December day, sorrow still comes, but also joy that my grandson is the one who has led the way, who has set a marker for his family to look higher, to gaze up to a saving and loving God and to know with certainty that our first grandchild is living and waiting to welcome each one of us into the unimaginably glorious family that got to meet him first.