Monday, May 5, 2014

Waiting on Time

This life seems to revolve around countdowns.

A week until my first day of kindergarten. Six weeks until I turn ten. Four months until I turn sixteen. Two days until I am a legal adult. Fifteen days until I leave for boot camp. Two minutes until I find out whether or not I'm pregnant.

Six months until my due date. Three months. Two.

And then I start counting down with my family.

An hour until the guests arrive. Ten minutes until we sing Happy Birthday. Forty five minutes until we open the gifts. A year until we do it all over again.

We countdown to events, tasks, goals, dreams, plans. We countdown to milestones like graduations and Sweet Sixteen's, proms and engagements, weddings and pregnancies. We countdown how many years until the mortgage is paid off and how many winters we can eek out the old furnace. We countdown how many days until we leave on vacation, how many years until we retire and how much money we need saved to finally buy that condo three blocks from the shore.

Counting down is not bad. It provides incentive, gives us something to look forward to. It helps us make priorities and work towards goals. It helps us feel as if we're doing something right. Purposeful. That, if nothing else, we're at least headed in the right direction.

But what happens when the one you're counting down with no longer exists? What happens when the answer to how many more? is going to always be not applicable?

How many days until Avery's very first band concert playing the trombone? Not applicable.

How many months until Avery competes in her very first gymnastics competition? Not applicable.

How many weeks until her braces are removed? Until she can walk the two blocks to Tori's house on her own? Until she can stay home and watch her baby brother while I run to the grocery store? Not applicable.

How many years until she gets asked to Homecoming? Or prom? Runs in her first 5K? Or finally gets to ride on an airplane and see the ocean? Not applicable.

How many days left until she goes to college? Graduates? Moves into her very first grown up apartment? Gets her first job with actual benefits? Not applicable.

I can tell you, the world suddenly becomes incredibly bleak.

See, we're programmed this way. Programmed to keep track of these earthly, societal rites of passage that somehow signify how worthy we are. The more milestones successfully passed, the more successful we are and the more happy we surely must be. The more milestones our children successfully pass, surely is in direct correlation to the fact that we're an incredible parent.

But then a child a dies and we're suddenly scratched from the race. We have no reason to run. No reason to countdown the seconds until the finish line.

At least not this finish line.

Not the finish line that everyone else is clamoring for.

You see, you might not see us in the race anymore, but we actually got moved to another course. Us mothers-missing-children find ourselves suddenly dropped onto a path that has no starting line. We didn't plan for this. We didn't get to stretch first or warm up; study up on how others trained. We just find ourselves dropped in the middle of a long, lonely road, staring at the backs of those who were dropped here before us.

And our finish line? At the end of ours stand the children we long for. The ones we can no longer touch or hold. The ones whose scent grows faint as the years grow long. The ones whose voice we long to hear whispered in our ears.

Our countdown continues. Though it is not one we speak openly about. Not one we post on Facebook and brag about to friends. How many more years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds until I see my child again? How much longer must I endure this grief? How much longer until I finally experience the immense, overwhelming joy of being reunited with my child in heaven?

If I live to be 90 years old, I will have 50 more years on this earth without my daughter. Fifty years until I see her again. Fifty. Years.

Fifty years is a long time for a child to be without her mama. Will her memory and love diminish? Will she have felt scared? Alone? Abandoned? I will remember her, but will she remember me the way I remember her? Will she know my smile, my touch, my scent? Will she remember my laughter and sense of humor? Will she remember what it felt like to crawl up into my lap, all 11-long, lean, spindly years of legs and arms wrapped around me?

"But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day."
2 Peter 3:8
It is said that a thousand years on earth is like a day in heaven. That when our loved ones enter Heaven's Gate, they will be embraced by loved ones who have gone before them, meet the God they faithfully followed and cherished, look around to see the splendor and glory of heaven... and then they will turn around and we'll be there. Just like that. A blink of an eye, perhaps. Enough time to be introduced and make acquaintances. And then the ones they just left on earth will also be with them.
I imagine Avery grabbing hold of Jesus's hand, throwing her arms around her great grandparents and getting introduced to her uncles who passed before her. I imagine she will ask Uncle David a million questions about Australia and then she'll turn around and I'll be there. "Oh! Hi, Mom! We were just talking about kangaroos!"
 "A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night."
Psalm 90:4

A thousand years on earth is like a single day in heaven.

And if I live another 50 years, then Avery and I will be reunited again in an hour and 12 minutes.

72 minutes.

Shorter than The Little Mermaid. Less time than it takes for me to leave my house and get to Chicago. Shorter even than the commencement exercises at our local high school.

Dear readers, in less than an hour and a half I'll be wrapping my arms tight around my baby girl. And, you know what? No child ever forgets their mama in an hour and a half.

A huge, heartfelt thank you to Jolene Groth's son, Ty, who calculated the most important countdown of my earthly life. I am forever grateful! May you always be blessed!


Jolene said...

This post touched my heart so, so deeply. Thank you for letting us be a part in your journey. God bless you, Bridget. Avery will be back in your arms before she knows it :)

Nicole said...

This is so remarkably, unbelievably beautiful. It is also remarkably, unbelievably heartbreaking... thank you for sharing your heart with us... with love and prayers from Houston.