"I love to tell the story..." I am paid to tell the story of NASA Science, but I feel most fully alive when I tell God's story. I believe that "threads of glory" from that larger Story weave their way through all the other stories we tell. My writing is a quest to discover those threads and expose them. I live in Waldorf, MD, with my wife Laurie (a United Methodist pastor), son Brady (10) and daughter Becca (8).
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.