You Should Also Know

It's been two months now, two months filled with the difficulties of early grief.

But you should also know that there is a beauty about these days I still don’t have words for, a beauty that is palpable even here, even in these days heavy with her absence.

* * * * *

It’s the week after Lily’s delivery. CJ and I are out for breakfast, eating pancakes at a diner and trying to plan our baby girl’s funeral, when a friend texts us a link to a song.

I listen to it later in the car by myself, in between stops at Old Navy for funeral clothes and Costco to pick up premade soups for the burial luncheon.

And I know as soon as I hear the first line that it is the right song for our Lily: So beautiful how could we not believe.

I listen and I can’t stop crying.

The words speak to the beauty I’d sensed in that hospital room just a few days previous, even as I held my too-small, too-cold, too-still daughter.

I can’t explain it really. It was perhaps the worst day of my life. I watched my husband and my daughters hold Lily in their arms, and I held her too, and my heart split open with the joy and sorrow of it.

So beautiful how could we not believe.

* * * * *

On Valentine’s Day, we make doughnuts at my brother’s house, snow on the ground outside, dough swelling in the warmth of the kitchen. The girls run around with their cousins, a trail of dolls and dress-up clothes in their wake, and I work in the kitchen with my grandmother and the recipe she’d scrawled on an index card decades before I was born.

At one point, I hear the girls in the adjacent room, planning a funeral for one of their baby dolls. Their mood is cheerful, their play creative and cooperative. But they’re planning a funeral for a baby.

I hate that they are playing this, that they are reliving the cold, hard day of Lily’s burial in the midst of a happier one. I wish they didn’t have a category for babies dying. I don’t want this to be my legacy to them, I think.

They’re not acting sad, but I know that on some level, their little hearts are being broken, and I hurt for them, these children I love the best.

Later that afternoon, I stand at the kitchen counter and help as each of the girls takes a turn cutting out a few doughnuts. I guide pudgy toddler fingers and delicate little girl hands, and we fill the dining room table with row after row of our hollow circles.

And then we fry them and eat them, still warm in our hands, and we smile with delight, powdered sugar dusting our lips.

We love. We grieve. Then all seek our reprieve.

* * * * *

At our church women’s retreat a few weeks later, I sit around a table in a sterile basement classroom with a group of women who’ve been assigned to be a small group for the weekend, a group of women I know very little.

I stare at the wildflower arrangement in the center of table and listen to the others introduce themselves, knowing that when it’s my turn, I’ll talk about Lily and about Avaleen too. I’ve reached the point where it’s almost impossible to explain who I am, to tell any real version of my story, without talking about them.

I’m the last to speak. “I have two daughters,” I say, “and I’ve lost two daughters. One of them just last month.”

My voice breaks, and I look up to see that I’m not the only one crying. One woman shares about her own pair of pregnancy losses. Another tells me she how she pictures one of my girls sitting in a room like this someday, sharing about the sisters she’d lost and how God had met her even there.

I remember then something my Mom had said when she was here taking care of us after Lily died, about how she had a sense God would use this loss to help make my girls who He wants them to be, that somehow deep pain would help unleash great good in their lives.

I tell the ladies with me around that table that I believe this, and they pray with me that it will be so.

So beautiful how could we not believe.

* * * * *

Beside me while I write is the Easter lily my oldest child picked out in memory of her sister. Several of its buds are still pressed tightly together, sealed, enclosed. But two have begun to open, white petals unfurling, beauty erupting.

It’s fitting, I think, that a lily’s glory comes from its unfolding, for Lily’s life and death are teaching me about the beauty of coming undone, of the holiness found in being broken.

This Easter, I keep coming back to Jesus’ words to us on the night of His betrayal:This is my body broken for you.

So beautiful how could we not believe.