The next morning we found seats near the back for the first conference session. A young couple came into the next row, pulling their baby stroller close to them in the aisle. The conference session began with an period of worship in song. During the first song, the little one in the stroller began to fret. The mother to pick her up, a little girl dressed in pink, about two or three months old. The dad, who stood directly in front of me, took her into his arms and laid her against his shoulder.
This bright-eyed little girl bobbed her head around and stared at me. She was beautiful. I thought I might fall apart. I didn’t know if I could stand there and watch her watching me.
The voice that went through my head said this: Just be quiet. Don’t sing. Stand here and look at her and let me touch you. I’ve learned to listen to that still, small voice when it comes. So I did as I was told. I watched her moving her sweet little hands, looking all around, bobbing that cute head up and down from her daddy’s shoulder.
I had the sensation of someone wrapping a blanket around me, almost as though I were the baby in the father’s arms. It was such a strong impression, it was almost physical. I stood there, resting, occasionally opening my eyes to see the child’s again, pulling that blanket of quiet tighter around my sad heart. I don’t know how long it was, but when it was over, I knew something was different. That I was different somehow.
As we left the conference room, the mother of the little boy I had spoken with the night before greeted me and asked if I wanted to hold him. So I took him. It wasn’t like holding Ray. It wasn’t an acknowledgment of what should have been. It was different. I was able to look at him and laugh and coo like the silly woman who got her hands on him first the night before. I could hold him and know that this was someone else’s baby and it was alright.
The next week I had my six-week checkup with the doctor. I was able to tell her about all I had experienced during the last two months. I put my arms around her and hugged her, prayed for her, told her how grateful I was for her compassion, and asked God to comfort her and he had comforted me. I felt like our roles were reversed. Out of the measure of healing I had experienced, I was able to offer something to her.
I questioned the change in myself. Was it real? What would happen if I walked down the baby aisle in the grocery store? So I tried it. Nothing awful. I took a meal to a neighbor who was just home from the hospital with her new baby. Again, I held him with the peace that this was someone else’s child. Not that I stopped thinking about Allison. I thought of her often. I still think of her. But I could feel the beginnings of thinking about her with joy instead of anguish. She changed my life as much as any of my other children.
So was I really healed?
The answer is yes. And the answer is no.
Grief, as I was to find, is cyclical. But whenever it cycled back around, I knew what to do with it. And slowly I worked my way back into real life.
A song that meant much to us during this season of both grieving and healing was "It Is Well With My Soul." It was written by a man who lost his business in the States, sent his wife and three daughters to England ahead of him, only to lose the three girls in a shipwreck. His wife telegraphed him, "Saved alone." On his voyage to England to join his wife, they ship captain showed him the place the first ship had gone down. Out of his grief and struggle to find peace came this song, sung in rehearsal here by the Blenders, an Australian men's chorus.