Friday, May 2, 2014

Becca is Six Today!

Is it possible that my Becca May is six today?!  Wow.  I know there has been lots of living taking place in the ensuing six years but it seems like just yesterday we held her our arms as an infant.

May 2, 2014

May 2, 2008
Today, we celebrate Becca’s life.  She is so excited to have a Princess Party with all her friends in attendance.  She will be queen for the day—and shouldn’t it be that way on your birthday. Costumes and tiaras will be worn; pizza and cake will be consumed; too many presents will be received.  In many ways, it will be like any other six-year-old girl’s birthday party. 

But, although most will not be aware of it, someone is missing from today’s festivities. Of course, I’m talking about Becca’s twin sister, Hope Marie.  Today is her birthday too but most probably won’t remember.   Rest assured however, that while Laurie and I don’t choose to make it a point of focus, we are keenly aware of the missing presence today— and at every birthday Becca has. 

The cliché is true: Time does help heal wounds.  The problem is the scabs over this kind of wound never get very thick and it doesn’t take much to open them.  Something triggers a memory and the Great Sadness wells up within me all over again.  In my minds eye, I cannot help but picture what might have been if Hope had lived—e.g., two princesses would be twirling around my living room today in costumes and tiaras.

While we can be sure what Hope would’ve looked like (we say that in Rebecca we always see Hope) we’ll never know who she would’ve been. I think, over the years, that is what I have mourned the most. I get to watch Becca blossom into a beautiful young lady seemingly before my eyes (she is only six but sometimes she seems so grown up already!) but I was denied that opportunity with Hope.  She never even got a chance to draw a breath in this world on her own.  Our only surviving images of her are with tubing and machines keeping her alive.  My last memory is of holding a sick infant as she passed from life support to life eternal—and being powerless to keep her safe in my arms.  

One of our few photos of Hope Marie.
This image haunts me even today. Though my faith compels me to believe that she is safe in the arms of one far greater than I and that some day we will be together again, there can be no denying that the separation has been hard.  

I suppose in some ways the fact that Hope “remains an infant in my mind” is good.  It allows Becca to “grow apart” from shadow of tragedy that surrounds her birth.  But even this grace is laced with tears, for we can never experience a milestone for Becca (e.g., birthdays, school accomplishment) without thinking of the one not here to live it—it is inevitable. While we live out our days and sometimes go a while without thinking about it, there are moments when all of us—even Becca—become acutely aware of how much we miss Hope and how much we all miss because she is not with us. Every time I see a set of twins somewhere I am reminded of the one that is not with me.  Though most people can’t see it, there will always be a missing space in the Ward family photo.

When Hope died we knew we had to make a choice about how we would live.  Would we let tragedy make us better or bitter?  From very early on, we determined to focus on living.  I think it’s actually a series of little choices we’ve made.  At first it was very hard, but with time it becomes easier.  I can’t say that bitter has never won the day, but I hope better is emerging over the long haul.  I left that hospital a different person because of what I lived through those three days.  I’ve spent the past six years trying to figure out exactly what that change means for me.

While six years later, I can say that I have healed and I can even point to good that has come from some of what we lived through, I suppose if I lived 1000 years, I would never forget the events of May 2-4, 2008—I don’t think I’m supposed to. 

Our story testifies, that by God’s grace, even an awful circumstance can become an instrument for good.  I trust in the truth of Scripture: While mourning may last for a night, rejoicing comes in the morning.  

Sometimes the night may seem as if it will never end, sometimes the sun stays hidden for days, but we cling to the promise that even in the darkest night, the Son always shines.  There will be a day when the clouds part and all darkness and sorrow will be gone—forever.  In the meantime, we try and live our days in anticipation of that “morning” that is coming. 

From early on Becca’s life has been resurrection for us; her presence forced us to focus on life in those early days after Hope died, and every day since her strong and free spirit has been a beacon of God’s light and life in our lives, continuing to give us glimpses of that coming day when all things will be set free to “dance” to the music their original created glory.  So while we cannot NOT remember Hope today, our focus is on celebrating the life of Rebecca May. 

It is an awesome responsibility to be responsible for shaping young lives, one that I do not take lightly and cannot hope to fulfill alone.  (I think the feeling is more acute when you have lost a child as we have.)  I work together with my wife, my partner on life’s journey, and we both rely on God to guide us as we raise our children.  The good news is that the responsibility comes along with the great privilege of watching our children grow up.   I am so thankful for days like today when we celebrate their lives. From the moment she was born, Becca has taught me much about fatherhood and I presume that “education” will continue for both of us as we “grow up” together.  

I am forever grateful to God for the gift of Rebecca May Ward.

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