The clouds enhance the sunrise.
I’m sure I’ve looked at cloudy sunrises many times before, but I didn’t SEE it until this week, until Josh and I stood on the beach next to each other on our second to last morning in Mexico after nine days away, resting, crying, sleeping, laughing, and crying some more.
We left Indy for Mexico on a 7 a.m. flight, and Josh thought we needed to upgrade to first class (wasn’t gonna get in the way of that!) and so we sat in our comfy chairs, drinks in hand, ready to get away from the constant reminders of what we had just experienced, ready to try to think about something else for a little while. But as we landed in Charlotte for a layover, I looked to my left and saw Josh looking out the window, nostrils flared, tears coming down.
I touched his arm.
“I miss Tage,” he said. And then we were both crying.
“What just happened to us?” I asked him. It’s been such a whirlwind. Here it is December already. This time one year ago I was going on seven months pregnant, holding my bulging belly and dreaming about what it would be a like to have a 9 month old baby at Christmas the following year. But now our arms are empty, and it all just happened so fast. It happened so fast.
We arrived in Cancun later that afternoon, breathed in the humid 80-degree air, and smiled at each other. Yep, this is exactly what we need. So what if it was cloudy!
The staff at the resort greeted us with champagne, a smile, and a cool washcloth that smelled like something light and fresh. They escorted us to our room and opened the double doors to a patio overlooking the most beautiful water in the world. I couldn’t wait to get my feet in that white sand.
We scouted around the resort, went for a short walk on the beach and took a soak in the hot tub all before dinner.
Later that evening, we were sitting in one of the restaurants watching the entertainment for the evening, and the woman next to me leaned over with a smile and asked, “Are you guys here to celebrate an anniversary?”
My heart rate increased. Quick, what do I say?! The truth.
“No,” I told her. “We’re actually here to rest because we just lost our son.”
Immediately, her smile changed. Her eyes got a pitied look in them, and she asked what happened. I answered her, and she was gracious, but I couldn’t help feeling badly that I had dampened her vacation a little bit. Our story is not really great at parties these days.
The next night, we were near another couple who were on their honeymoon. They were in their early twenties, their faces full of the joy and anticipation they felt. I felt happy for them as I remembered Josh and I on our own honeymoon in Mexico almost eight years ago. We had no idea what “I Do” was going to hold for us.
“Are you two here celebrating an anniversary?” she asked us. Gosh, this is The Question around here apparently, I thought. Well, I certainly don’t want to dampen their new excitement. Let them revel in it while they haven’t hit any bumps in the road yet. (Bitter or realist? I’m not sure.)
I cut Josh off before he could respond. “Nope, just a trip!” I answered her with a smile on my face while I pressed into Josh’s thigh hoping he would catch my drift about not mentioning our tragedy to the happy honeymooners. He did.
But as we continued to talk with them, something didn’t feel right. I was antsy, and I couldn’t focus on what the other three were discussing. Tage is my son, and I’m so proud of him. How could I just not talk about him, or pretend he doesn’t exist, or dismiss the intense pain our baby just went through for the sake of not allowing these strangers to feel the tiniest bit of pain/empathy? It wasn’t right. I couldn’t not talk about our son. He IS the whole reason we are on this trip anyway. No, I would bring him up somehow. I had to make it right. I’m so sorry, Tage! my heart cried.
As I focused back in on the conversation, they were talking about what excursions they might do. And then, it was our turn. They asked, “Are you guys doing any excursions while you’re here?”
Josh, knowing that I didn’t want to talk about the real reason we were there, just said, “No, we are just going to relax and lay low this time.” Again, I interrupted.
“Well, actually, the reason we are here…” Josh looked over at me and sensed where I was going. He gently put his hand on my leg under the table. “…is because our son just died, and we are here for some time away to rest.”
They were very kind, though I knew they had no idea about the pain of losing a child, and they asked us his name and what had happened. I was glad that Tage didn’t have to be kept secret anymore. But I also realized that I didn’t like the feeling of bringing sad news to happy vacationers.
So, I became an introvert the rest of the trip.
This was really odd, because there is normally very little introverted about me, but I started acting like one. I would try to get into the elevators and push the Door Close button before anyone could get in, even if I heard people coming around the corner. I just didn’t want them to ask us why were were there. And I didn’t converse with servers like I normally would for fear they would ask us if we had kids. And strike up conversation with someone by the pool? Absolutely not! Then you’re stuck there for the afternoon.
But all this introvertedness gave Josh and me a lot of time to talk to each other and about Tage, to read books (all five which mentioned babies being born or babies dying and either way I would cry), and to sleep, because grief is downright exhausting. All these things were the reason we had come in the first place, wasn’t it? So, I guess introverted was a good thing, though an awkward thing, for me.
The third day of our trip, Josh and I were out lying by the pool near our new friends, the honeymooners, and all of us were reading books. The sky was still cloudy and so was my heart. I had felt joy-less the first two days of our trip, but I didn’t know why (minus the obvious grief). I think satan was whispering lies to me, and though I was surrounded by people in a beautiful place, I felt lonely and hopeless. I just wanted Tager. My heart was aching to hold him, to smell his scent, to touch his chubby knuckles and have him grab on to my finger. I wondered what in the world am I going to do now, when I thought my job description was going to be Molly: wife, housekeeper, and mother for the rest of my life? The crib is empty. I pushed down the ache, fearing I would lose it in front of our new friends.
A few minutes later, with my nose in a book, the sky opened up, and for the first time since our arrival, the sun shone.
I felt the rays plunging down from the sky to the surface of my skin, splashing me with warmth, seeping into my skin and then to my bones and then to my soul. It felt like a mother’s hug, a warm blanket around my shoulders, and like His face shining upon me all at once. It felt so good. God’s Love kind of good being whispered to my heart. I am here. I see you. I hurt with you.
And suddenly I felt the tension in my throat build up as more tears came out of my eyes. The thick tears, the grief tears. Gosh, how the grief hurts. And yet here was the Lord reminding me once again that loneliness is a lie. I am never, never alone. Reminding me He loves me the same way I felt loved in my mom’s tight embrace, the way I love Tage.
The sunshine became my reminder of His love, and wouldn’t you know, it was sunny the rest of our trip after that! The daily warm sunshine and reminder of His presence drove away the cold that constantly threatened to drown me if I took my eyes off of the Light.
In my hopelessly romantic ways, I thought that God would do some major work in me on that beach. But there were no fireworks or big transformations. There were just the quiet whispers of His presence in the bright blue sky, the gentle strength of His peace in the salty sea mist, and the relentlessness of His love in the constant waves crashing on the shore.
I saw His creativity in the pelican who dove with such force into the shallow water below and confidently strutted his stuff on the sand for the camera-clad tourists. I heard His joy and laughter in the adorable 4-year-old twin Mexcian boys running with their little boy legs down the beach, giggling as they paused to have a quick wrestle match in the sand until their mother called for them up ahead. And all of His creation was beautiful because they were doing exactly what they were made to do: displaying the glory of their Creator.
Lord, help me to do what You have created me to do. Help me to display Your glory for this broken world.
Josh and I are so indescribably grateful to the hundreds of people who gave financially so that we could take this trip and especially for Brian and Erin Clark for setting up our rest and recovery fund. I hope you all are reading this. We wouldn’t have experienced this type of rest without you. We had the space to cry together, to laugh together, to look through phone pictures and remember together, all without feeling guilty about not vacuuming or washing dishes or getting the oil changed. We got to experience a fresh dose of God’s love and presence because our eyes were ready to see it outside of our usual surroundings. We got to catch our breath for a moment. We got to intentionally remember Tage and share our love and grief for him. We needed that. Thank you seems too small. But we mean it. Thank you, thank you.
And so there we were, standing next to each other on the second to last day, waiting for the sun to come up. It was mostly cloudy, and we wondered if there would be anything to see.
Slowly, a bright orange ribbon of light laced the top of a cloud.
The sun was coming.
We waited as it continued to rise, hoping to see a glimpse of something, but would be we be able to see anything with all these gray clouds?
It took some time, but as the sun rose, the light changed. The colors expanded across the sky to create a canvas that would leave a painter dumbfounded.
A clear-sky sunrise is gorgeous, but it’s got nothin on a cloudy sky that lets some light burst through.
It’s doing what it was made to do, even when there are cloudy skies all around, and it is the most beautiful sunrise I have seen, and I can’t help but remember Psalm 19:1:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
God’s glory can break through the clouds. It can break through my grief to become a beautiful picture that only God could orchestrate. This is what I am made to do. This is how we can display God’s glory. Only in God can darkness magnify the light. And I am begging Him to do something with this darkness of our grief.
…even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:12)
Lord, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I give you our darkness, and I pray that you would make it shine like the day. Our darkest hour is nothing when it comes in contact with You. Thank you, Jesus for proving that You are the Light of the World, and that whoever follows You will not walk in darkness (John 8:12).
Break through our darkness and make it shine, and do it in us, too, Lord.