Today would be Noah’s 13th birthday. I never got to celebrate a single birthday with my son, because he died a few days shy of 9 months. To say “it really stinks” is quite the understatement. But, I gotta tell ya, it really stinks.
I never know what kind of emotion his birthday will spring forth in me. Over the years, I’ve run the full gamut—from complete grieving mess to melancholy, from thankful to stoic. Starting with his very first missed birthday in 1998 (complete grieving mess), I have given myself permission to feel or avoid whatever I need to feel or avoid to get through the day.
Mostly, I prefer to deal with all of this privately. It’s just too much to put out there for public opinion. I don’t want anyone else to touch it. After all these years, it still elicits exponentially more unintended emotion in me than all other painful experiences combined.
But today, I’m blogging about it. Not at all because I want to “process” it or work through my grief publicly. Oh heavens no. But because 13 years ago, I begged God to use my baby’s death for the advancement of His Kingdom. And I meant it. I really don’t want any of this pain to go to waste. Today, I want you to benefit somehow from Noah’s short life. From his death. From his 13th birthday.
If you were here in my house today on my little boy’s Missed 13th Birthday, and you were sitting across the kitchen table from me, this post is what I would say to you.
This morning, just before stepping into the shower, I turned on my iPod and heard the first few familiar chords of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dyin.” Fitting for today, I think. I’ve often thought this would be a good song to listen to every single day. Required listening. Before I set my hand to do a single thing, stop and think, “would I do this—would I say this—If I were dying?” Now, that’s perspective.
If there is one thing I can truly say I appreciate about the experience of losing a child, it is the instant perspective it affords. In a single moment in June 1998, I understood what is important, and what is not. What is eternal and what is temporal. What deserves my time and what is a waste. But most importantly, I understood the reality that no one is promised tomorrow, and therefore, we must seize the opportunities afforded us today.
It is truly mind-blowing how I struggled with this concept daily my entire life and then in an INSTANT, as Noah’s life slipped out of my hand, I got it.
Don’t feel badly if you lose sight of this. We all do. I’m shocked sometimes at how often even I (the mother of a dead child) still lose sight of this. I swore to myself 13 years ago, I’d never lose sight of it, but I still do—all the time. Amazing. In a bad way.
So, on days like today when I see things a little more clearly, when I’d like nothing better than to be baking a chocolate cake and setting out some 13-year-old boy presents, this is what I want you to know:
~Pain is real. Pain is difficult. If you are going through something painful right now, I am so very, very sorry. Please remember, whatever pain you are going through today is only temporary. It really does end. It may get better in this world, or you may need to wait until you enter the next world, but all pain will end.
~The people in your life are more important than the items on your to-do list. We all have things to do. We have to work. We have to eat and shop and take care of our stuff. We are all busy, busy people. And for those of us whose lives are fueled by productivity and efficiency, it’s tempting to put off people altogether in order to accomplish things. Today, remember that loving God and loving people is the most eternally productive way to live your life.
~You will never regret extending forgiveness, mercy and grace to other people. If you are going to err, err on the side of grace.
~Spending time in the presence of God—reading His word, praying, worshiping, attending church—is time well-spent. Always. Saturating yourself in God gives you the strength and wisdom to face whatever life throws at you. It causes your mind to come in alignment with His will so you can discern His voice. When you discern God’s voice, you can know how He wants you to spend your time today. You won’t feel like you are floundering. God knows the number of days assigned to your life and to the lives of the people you love most. Cling desperately to God—to every word that proceeds from His mouth. Obey whatever He tells you to do. When you do, you don’t have to ever fear that you’ve “missed it.”
Today, I’m going to make a conscious effort to speak kindly and patiently to my kids and my husband. I’m going to notice people, look them in the eye and offer encouragement. In honor of Noah.
How are you going to practice proper perspective today?