My best friend and I have been married for eleven years and through those years we’ve been blessed to have six babies. Some were surprises, some we were “trying for”, but all of them were deeply loved and prayed over even before conception. We prayed for each child’s health and safety and we pleaded for their hearts, that they would love Jesus all of their days. We knew there were no guarantees, but we prayed and planned and trusted and hoped as if we had a million tomorrows. We reveled in first kicks and we dreamed of nursery designs and what our baby would look like, my husband even convinced me that he loved my pregnant body.
We took it all in – every time. With each pregnancy, we made a habit of celebrating the little life that God had so graciously given us from the moment we “knew” to the moment that sweet baby took their first breath, to the every day life that we were eventually blessed to share with that precious child.
But our perspective shifted one early Wednesday morning a few weeks ago. I was pregnant with our sweet sixth, but I had been having some spotting for a few days and was becoming concerned so I told my husband and, though he was optimistic, he encouraged me to make an ultrasound appointment to put my worries to rest. Something in my heart knew that this little life was gone as I wept into my husband’s arms that night. Wednesday morning dawned and as the probe touched my belly, I saw the incredible. Our baby’s spine was perfect. A sweet, round head. Tiny eyes. Protruding little feet. Magnificent Beauty. But in the same instant that I drank in the untouchable beauty of our baby, I saw that this “little bean” wasn’t jumping and there was no speedy black and white fluttering image of his heart. The beautiful image was frozen.
The technician was quick and tried her best to gently break the news, but her words are forever etched in my memory, “There’s no heartbeat.”
Each word was a death knell to my own heart and trembling with tears, feeling so lifeless, I had to remind myself to breathe.
It was like entering a nightmare. How was it even possible?
I wanted to scream, “Didn’t you see his body?! It’s flawless! That spine! It was crafted by the Giver of Life! This is a mistake!”
Even as I fought it, I knew it was true. Our precious little baby had died while growing inside my own womb. As my husband and I clung to each other, shocked at the new, unwanted discovery, I couldn’t help but think of all the things I would never be able to do. I would never touch his hair, I would never kiss his nose. I would never watch him fall asleep next to me. I would never see his siblings love on him or smile when Daddy wrestled him. I would never even see his sweet face. The closest I had come was a dull black and white image on a cold screen.
I felt so cheated!
I had loved this tiny life!
My midwife came in and discussed options for next steps, and somehow I guess I made it through the conversation, but inside, life was still dead (my baby’s and seemingly my own) and nothing else seemed to matter at all.
We walked to the car in complete incredulity, but our hearts and hands were intertwined in a new and deeper way now. We were holding each other up. No, we knew better, Jesus Christ was holding us up – He had been carrying us the whole time. We sat in the car crying and talking it out and holding hands and reminding each other of truths that we knew stood solid beyond all feelings. In those moments, when time stood still, our perspective began to shift and the reality of what was truly important became ever so clear, despite the very present heartbreak.
“I’m glad we celebrated his life to the fullest”, I managed through welling eyes and sobbing breaths. We had made a music video birth announcement, we had told everyone we knew of the little life growing within me, and we had reveled in each telling.
We had not only enjoyed his life, we had invited others in to rejoice over his life as well and they were blessed because of his existence, however brief it was.
In the coming days as we would continue walking through our grief and helping our other five children talk through and heal from the loss of their littlest sibling, I would often be tempted to believe that I should just “get over” it. That it wasn’t a big deal. Just a little unborn. Not even breaking the 10-week mark. But, thankfully, my husband was always quick to remind me of the truth. Of God’s truth. That our son was real. He had a life. He was ours, if even for only a few weeks.
The length of one’s life does not diminish the importance of it or the legacy that can come from it.
Together as a family, we named our little unborn Elijah James (although our 4 year old is convinced the baby was a girl and that her sister will ask us why we gave her a boy name when we see her in Heaven!)
We didn’t name a blob of tissue.
We named our son, whom we lost, but yet we still know exactly where he is.
Elijah is in Heaven now. He’s more alive and more beautiful than all of us still here on Earth because his little body is absolutely perfect. Sometimes, I think about his face and his big eyes that I can see only my mind’s eye. I imagine how blissful it must be to walk in a perfect land and hold Jesus’ hand. I can almost see his wide eyes twinkle as he waits for the perfect time when we will be re-united and I will finally see my 6th baby, who I’m sure looks just like his other siblings.
Elijah’s life was no accident and it had a specific purpose. Some of those purposes, I can already see right now, but my study of the Bible tells me that God has an even greater purpose for Elijah than I can fathom right now. God didn’t allow me to become pregnant with this long-awaited, much prayed-over child for no reason.
To God, this life on Earth is all a vapor, whether we live to be 7 weeks old in utero or 110 walking the planet. The Real Life is yet to come whereas the here and now is simply the cover page of an un-ending life with richer purpose and deeper meaning.
When Jesus returns and He restores order and makes all things new, restoring all life as He intentionally designed in the beginning, I am completely confident that Elijah will have just as important of a role to play as any other person whose life belongs to God. As my husband noted, so many babies are taken home to be with Jesus so early from conception that it cannot be an accident. God has a master plan for these babies and He will bring it to fruition at just the right time.
Goodness knows I don’t know all the details, only what the Bible gives, which is enough for me to trust the Lord’s goodness and wisdom despite my circumstances. What I can confidently know beyond all doubt is that there is hope.
There is a hope that will never end and an eternal life of purposeful meaning that’s fuller than I can comprehend because of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead.
From God’s perspective, The Grave Doesn’t Win. Jesus does.
Elijah’s life wasn’t pointless and neither was his death. My life isn’t pointless and neither is yours. The part that gives life is meaning is found solely in the forever life offered in Jesus Christ.
We can choose to give Him our hearts that will one day stop beating like my son’s already did and thus save our lives and receive eternal hope.
We can make another choice. We can choose the “here and now” to be lived for ourselves. We can choose to be our own Masters and refuse to give over full control to Christ. But if we choose this path, when our hearts stop beating, God will honor our choice to be separate from Him and He will grant us eternal separation from His goodness in a place of forever condemnation called Hell because of our choice.
Heaven is real. Hope is real. Jesus’ offer of life and forgiveness is real. But also quite real, are the realities of our choice and Hell.
Losing Elijah James brought a newfound clarity in perspective for our family and what is truly important became crystal clear. What matters in this brief time on Earth is the stuff that Jesus has called us to in the first place.
Loving God and loving each other.
We are here to love like Jesus loved and though my heart will always have that empty spot that is Elijah’s, that spot will forever remind me of my call to continue what is important until the day my own heart stops beating. The Call To Love.
Maybe you’ve suffered a loss like my family did or maybe you haven’t, but regardless, we would all be wise to consider how we are living out this all-important call to love and the eternal choices that we are making with how we spend our fragile lives, no matter how old or young we are.