“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).
“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 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.”
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:
- How Do You Remember the Lessons?
- 8 Books I Recommend + Video Review – April 2019