Month: May 2016

“The Water Was Rising”

“The Water Was Rising”

I tuned the radio to the local Christian station, where the DJ was in the middle of announcing an upcoming phone call with a man whose family had lost everything in the recent flooding, brought on by torrential rainstorms mere days after our arrival in-country.

When the recorded phone call was played, I heard a calm, Southern accent explain: “It was nighttime, and the rain kept coming down. It had been raining for hours. The electricity finally went out, and I found a portable radio – I turned on the radio to your station and just listened to the music. And you know, there’s just something… when the water was rising up to the house, just rising up slowly, and I knew we couldn’t do a thing about it…” – his voice broke – “… there was this peace, this peace I felt as I just sang hymns of praise to Jesus. We lost everything. But we had peace.”

I screamed out a sob, driving on the tollway feeder road.

It was the kind of choking sorrow that is so terrible in its silent wind-up, wrenching as it claws its way up your throat. It only lasted about a minute, but the catharsis was a true release. The picture of true helplessness – I pictured the man and his family, powerless against the brute force of Nature as they watched the dark waters swirl up closer and closer to their home in the deep hours of twilight.

And I understood. I understood the crushing weight of impotency, the paralyzing knowledge that something Awful has occurred, is occurring, and will occur, and I am without a single defense. As soon as we’d seen the ultrasound of our baby girl – still, small, and unmoving – the water had begun to rise. And those waters rose at an agonizing, slow pace until I was wheeled back to the operation room to deliver her. The waters began to slowly recede when we walked away from the mound of fresh earth and bright flowers at the cemetery.

But I also understood what the radio man meant by ‘Peace.’ I don’t know that the Lord has ever heard my heart more clearly than when I sang songs to Him during the rising flood. It was horrific and terrifying and heartbreaking. The ending was inevitable (unless He had chosen to intervene) but instead of panic and trepidation, I had been… sustained by Jesus. Held. Peaceful, in a very strange way.

Three months after her burial, now.

There are still sad moments, waves of depression that I feel creeping in around the corners, and I know they will come in, and crash, and then recede. But there are also sudden, deep pits of sorrow that open up under my feet without warning at time. Triggers are sometimes what you’d expect – on our recent family trip to the East Coast, we were driving through a charming downtown area – I was admiring the wisteria and red brickwork, and I stopped at a red light as some pedestrians made their way across. A family walked in front of our van, the mother with short-cropped red hair (like mine) and a very pregnant tummy with children laughing around her. I felt the lightness drain from my face like wax.

We attended a church service where the graduating students were being recognized. There was a beautiful and sweet slideshow of the young men and women, first as babies, then as high school seniors. I thought about the time, coming sooner than we think, when we’ll be putting our kids’ baby photos alongside their own senior portraits. And in the shadows of the church auditorium, I cried for the photographs we would never have of baby girl’s senior year.

For the past two years I have sung almost every night in my children’s room before they go to sleep. Even now, if the thought strikes me, I have to pause and collect myself before singing lullabies to them – because I will never hold Baby Girl and sing her to sleep.

And I tell myself – it seems to match up with the science – that at 17 weeks gestation, her tiny ears were developed enough to hear – oh, friends, you should have seen it: her ears were so very, very perfect and small – the tiny curl of the helix and lobe was one of the most beautiful and precise flourishes I have ever seen.

And I tell myself that perhaps I did, indeed, sing her to sleep.