The Terrifying Love of Motherhood

“The journey burns away all the nonsense in your life, including your own sense of control.”
– Dr. Melissa McCrory Hatcher, The Cleansing Flood

Please Don’t Leave

I was 31 years old. I’d been away on trips many times.

But I’d never felt so torn about leaving home than this time. This time would be my first out-of-town trip without our newest daughter.

We wouldn’t be leaving her with grandparents. We would be leaving her alone, at the cemetery, where we had buried her months earlier.

And though it was totally illogical, I didn’t want to leave town. I didn’t want to be so far away from where our baby girl Kali was buried.

A Terrifying Love

That was twenty five years ago. But no matter, it felt like yesterday when I read this following passage in The Cleansing Flood, by Dr. Melissa McCrory Hatcher:

“Now they’re calling us to board.
We get in line.
They scan my ticket.
Snap. The door shuts behind me.

The door they can’t open.
‘I can’t leave my son,’ she hears me say.

The plane takes off without me.”

Melissa wrote this about her own trip, one she was supposed to take without her son, also a child buried in the ground.


I first met Melissa four years ago at a silent retreat. We were learning about Centering Prayer. Even through the silence, I sensed she was heavy with pain. And indeed she was.

She was grieving the loss of her perfectly-healthy toddler to SUDC, sudden unexplained death in childhood (the ugly twin of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome).

Melissa writes,

“Do you remember when sleeping children didn’t look like corpses?
Now, the checks are for breathing monitors.
The Angel of Death did not Pass us Over.
We verify the bloodstains on our doorframes,
confirm the bread is unleavened.
‘Please, please,
please don’t steal another healthy child from us.'”

Does it get more heart-wrenching than this?

Melissa has just released these thoughts into the world in her memoir of the grief journey, The Cleansing Flood.

If you dare, read it.

It will move you. Back and forth and back and forth. Melissa’s poetry is both gentle and breath-taking as she describes the pain of grief and the joy of motherhood.

She reeled me in immediately, in the first lines of her dedication:

“This book is dedicated to my living children. When we’re all old and gray, I intend to say, ‘I didn’t miss you because I missed him.’ I fought to be present and joyful and grateful for YOU.”

Still Worth It

This book is a fight. But it’s a victorious battle. Not because the grief disappears. It doesn’t. You never “get over” losing a child. But you learn to manage it.

You incorporate the loss into who you are.

If you’ve felt such loss yourself, or know someone who has, or want to understand how the loss can feel, grab a copy of this memoir. It’s only 128 pages.

But those pages hold more meaning than most other books twice their length.

“Even if I live to be 100, and I have to endure all those days, weeks, and months without you, I’ll still spend more time in eternity with you than I ever did without you in this life.

Even if I had known this would happen, I still would have raced across the world to make you my son. I still have absolute certainty that you were supposed to be in our family, even if only for a short time.”


“This book is a testimony to the fact that when everything else is stripped away in a crucible of fiery pain, Jesus is still there…even if you’re angry at him. Grief journeys are not straight paths.”

Also, yes.

On the Path

On that day twenty five years ago, I came up with a work-around solution: I decided I could leave town if I put someone else in charge of watching over my baby Kali.

A friend agreed to be on call for me. If I needed her to run to the cemetery while I was gone, if I had an irrational moment of panic, she would do it.

I did leave town for the weekend. I made it. So did my baby, as I knew in my head that she would.

The head and the heart don’t always travel down the same paths.

* * *

Dr. Melissa McCrory Hatcher is also the author of two excellent seasonal devotionals:


26 thoughts on “The Terrifying Love of Motherhood

  1. Stacey Pardoe

    Lisa, you have walked through the valley no mother wants to travel. Thank you for sharing this part of your story and this resource. Thank you for bringing hope to those who have to walk through this valley as well. God is using your pain for his glory and the healing of hearts. Thank you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Stacey. It’s not a journey that I would wish on anyone, but at the same time, I wouldn’t take it back because it would mean I never would have had my daughter Kali at all. As Melissa says in her book, the amount of time we’ll get to spend with our kids in eternity far, far outweighs all the time on earth, so it’s worth it all.

  2. Michele Morin

    Oh, Lisa, I’m so sorry this is part of your story, and my heart aches for you and for the author of this book.
    You’re right–mother love is terrifying and completely irrational.
    This morning my great big college guy texted me to say he has a migraine, and I wanted to get in the car and go to him–which is ridiculous, because he just has to sleep it off, and there’s not a thing I can do to help. Even so . ..

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My heart feels for you with your son’s migraine, Michele. No matter how old our children get, our mother-heart still wants to remove their pain, if we only could. Praying your son is feeling better now! I’m sure he was blessed by knowing you were praying for him.

  3. Martha J Orlando

    I don’t think there is any greater loss for a mother than losing a child, and my heart breaks for you, Lisa. But I’m glad you could share your story here along with Dr. Hatcher’s memoir.
    My daughter and son-in-law lost a son (miscarriage) many years ago, and I’d love to give this book to them, but I think it would, unfortunately, resurrect the sadness and pain they felt.
    Blessings to you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m sorry for your daughter’s loss, but also for your loss as the grandmother. I know my own loss greatly affected my mother as well, on two levels: the actual loss of Kali plus the pain of seeing me, her daughter, in such pain. I’m sure you understand that. Now that I have a granddaughter myself, I see that from a new perspective, thinking how hard it would be to see my own daughter lose a child. Praying that never happens. Thank you for sharing this, Martha.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, friend. It was amazing how vividly that memory came back to me while I was reading this book. While it was sad, it was also healing. I love how God continues to touch us.

  4. floyd

    Oh man… this has me choked up.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You and Mellisa capture the grief in words that it overcomes the heart.

    I’ll pick up a copy.

    And thanks for sharing your heart. It makes it all matter more.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      We never want others to experience the sufferings we do, but when they do and we find each other, it makes us feel less alone. Thank you for being such a compassionate listener, Floyd.

  5. Mother of 3

    Oh my heart just breaks reading this. A mother’s love really is terrifying and totally irrational at times. I am so sorry that both you and the author experienced such deep and profound grief. It’s so hard wearing our hearts outside our bodies. Thank you so much for sharing with us at Encouraging Hearts and Home.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You say it well, Joanne: “It’s so hard wearing our hearts outside our bodies.” That describes motherhood. It’s both joyful and painful, but always worth it.

  6. Theresa Boedeker

    You are addressing the topic all mothers fear, loosing a child. And it is a terrifying thought. No matter the age of the child, because we are to go first, not them before us. So sorry you have had to go through this. Love your compromise at the end and what a good friend you had standing on duty. This is a book I want to give to a friend who just lost a child. Thanks.

  7. Betty J Draper

    Oh Lisa, your post brought back that feeling of intense fear that flooded me when we had our first child. After 12 years of marriage, 6 miscarriages we finally had a little baby girl. First feeling was relief that she was ok, second was unbelievable love and then fear. It surprised me but I started worrying about her right away. I cannot think of anything more fearful though then losing a child, no matter the age. How blessed you for your understanding friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Six miscarriages is a lot of grief that you carried, Betty. 🙁 I’m so sorry, friend. I’m sure God understood your fears when your baby girl was born alive and healthy. After Kali died, my fear grew. Thankfully God held us up to have another baby. I still have to fight down that fear by remembering that God is always with me, no matter what.

  8. Laurie

    Lisa, my heart is heavy for you my friend. Thank you for sharing your story of grief with us. All mothers fear the terrifying loss you describe so eloquently. Your friend sounds like an angel. Many blessings to you and your family!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate you, Laurie. I do think it is a fear that we all carry, some of us more in the front of our minds and some of us at least in the back of our minds. I’d love to do away with the fear altogether; on the other side of this life I know God will remove it completely.

  9. Karen Friday

    Lisa, this is soul-stirring and heart-wrenching all in one post. Losing a child in utero was hard enough for me, but losing a child any moment after birth must be near unbearable pain and loss. I’m so sorry you walked through this great darkness. Powerful post and words from you and thanks for telling us about the book.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thank you, Karen. I’m sorry you lost a little one, too. Regardless of our baby’s age at death–inside or outside of our bodies–we mourn the loss of all the years we could have had with them.

  10. Gayl

    Oh, Lisa, I had no idea…. What a hard thing for a mother to face! I know the grief must never completely go away. I pray God will give you comfort when those waves of grief come over you. The book sounds like it would be so helpful for those struggling with that kind of loss. Thanks for sharing it. Blessings and hugs to you! I’m your neighbor at Grace&Truth.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your care, Gayl. It was the hardest loss in my life, but it made me more aware of others who experience loss over and over in ways that I still haven’t experienced.

      1. Gayl

        I do know what you mean about being more aware of others experiencing loss. I had three miscarriages, two at 12 weeks. Those were so hard, but they gave me an awareness of how others experiencing the same thing felt and needed love and encouragement and time to grieve. Blessings to you!

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Oh, that hurts me to hear, Gayl. 🙁 What loss. And I’m guessing fear too. But yes, these kinds of losses do help us understand a little more what other people experience, even though we’d rather not know.

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