Believe it or not, this week was slated for me to write on the topic of ‘The Voice and Grief’ on the editorial calendar I had planned for The Voice Love Co. weeks and weeks ago. I had imagined this article being scholarly. Detached.
I would write about how the voice is affected by our tears. What actually happens in the throat to create the lump we feel. A perky “How-to-find-your-voice-again-after-you’ve-been-devastated-by-grief-in-5-easy-steps!” Tweetable beauty, worthy of any social media feed’s highlight reel.
Instead, I come to write this morning, totally raw and drowning. For what I am getting ready to tell you does not make sense. Not in the slightest.
This week I watched my beloved children put the remains of their premature son, my first grandchild, into the frozen February ground, fill his grave with dirt and walk away.
The Waves of Grieving
Grief and I have shared a long-term relationship since May 18, 1983. That was the day that my 41-year-old dad peacefully took his last breath while I, along with my mother and sister, held him close. My sixteen-year-old heart was cast onto the Waves of Grieving that day, and from that moment to this, my attempts to navigate its waters have been clumsy at best.
I would be surprised by Grief when it took me under, years and decades later…when I witnessed a friend’s dad showing up for them, another milestone in my life went by unseen, or a commercial on tv for chewing gum would spring the lock on my father-starved heart.
But this. The depth of this loss, this grief, has been like none other.
Dealing with the Loss of A Child
His name is Charles Thomas Bovee.
Born on February 1, 2019, pre-term at 19 weeks, 5 days, he was beautiful. Perfectly fashioned down to the tiniest detail. A miniature of my son in almost every way. He stunned nurses by living a miraculous two-and-a-half hours in the arms of his heartbroken parents.
And then, like my daddy, he slipped peacefully from loving arms on earth into the loving arms of Jesus.
My dad has missed everything. Graduations. Weddings. Births. The most important people in my life today, my father has never known.
As I drove alone in the early morning hours to get to my children at the hospital, I witnessed a shooting star. It was low and close and my eye was fixed on exactly the right spot to see the arc of it flame across the black of night in its entirety. And I had a vision. It was my dad with Charles Thomas. Together!
When I held Charles Thomas for the first time I asked his daddy if I could kiss his impossibly tiny face. I don’t know why I asked this because I knew it would be okay.
It just felt like such holy ground.
The kind of moment that you draw near to with fear and trembling.
The kind of moment that you never wanted to come but now that it is here you never want it to end.
And you close your eyes tight and you try to burn it into your brain because even though it is so painful, you want to do right by it. You feel desperate to remember every tiny detail and do right by it.
Do right by him.
I sat in the dark rocking him in my arms trying to memorize all of him while his anguished mama and daddy attempted to sleep. A handful of precious seconds alone to honor this precious little boy who made me a grandmother.
I felt so grateful to be alone. To be sitting in the dark. To behold him. To remain fully present in the pain.
I talk a lot about accepting and allowing in my work. But this? This is too much.
How can I accept seeing my children suffer under the weight of such loss? How can I accept that my grandson will not be burying me after years of made memories, silly stories and holding his babies?
It is beyond accepting. Not by my will, anyway.
All of the dreams I had of being his best Gigi flamed out like that shooting star, like his heartbeat, like all hope.
“This can’t be happening. God, help!”
As I rocked Charles Thomas back and forth in the darkest hour, God held me. He held me fast like He’s held me so many, many times before.
I wish I could say that I sang over my grandson’s tiny body, but I cannot.
I could not find my voice to sing during this experience. The grief was far too heavy. I was afraid that if I opened my mouth, what would come out was a wail from a place so deep I would never recover. So I clamped my mouth tight so as not to wake my sleeping children and all the mommies with their new babies in the Labor and Delivery ward where we agonizingly found ourselves.
But my heart?
My heart could not keep from singing praises to the Lord, my God, whom it loves.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never will come to an end. They are new every morning. New every morning. Great is thy faithfulness, O God. Great is thy faithfulness.” ~Lamentations 3:22-23
After my dad died, I tried bargaining with God for a permanent truce with tragedy. I reasoned that tragedy should never be allowed to touch my life again. Not after all we’d already been through.
“I’ve done my bit with it, right God?
It is somebody else’s turn from here on out, right?
I soon learned that breathing in and out in a broken world means bumping up again and again against pain and at times, unbearable heartache. Life never seems to unfold the way you’d hoped. At least it hasn’t for me.
You get knocked down.
Love goes unrequited.
Accounts are overdrawn.
Motives are questioned.
Limits are tested.
Wars are waged.
Pathology comes back positive.
Dreams go unfulfilled.
Children are trafficked.
Evil men prosper.
And perfect babies die for no good reason.
You see, I know what this road looks like; the road you must travel when your heart is shattered into a million little pieces. There is no bargaining to be done here.
Not My Will, But Thy Will Be Done
Yet, you keep breathing. Somehow. In and out. In the darkness.
You keep breathing. Believing. Trusting.
The next wave comes and you battle to ride. You ride and you fall and you slam your face into the sand at the bottom. You sputter. You fight. And somehow, with God’s help, you rise.
To trust that God is still good.
To trust that…
There is goodness in all things.
Charles Thomas and his mama and daddy have taught me and so many in our community this week an important lesson. Inside all the heartbreak, the health scares, the losses and the liars you encounter in your lifetime:
There is goodness in all things.
All things. Even, and most especially, in the hard things.
There is goodness in the life and death of this remarkable little boy who has changed us forever.
Our Charles Thomas will never have to bump up against the brokenness of this dark world. He will never know one moment’s heartache feeling the sting of man’s inhumanity to man. He was Love and Innocence and Truth embodied all at once, wrapped up as a good gift from a good God from the beginning of his life to the all-too-soon end of it.
But oh how I grieve.
The emotion of this tragedy is beyond my ability to harness right now. I do not apologize for that.
Yet, I do not grieve as one who has no hope.
Though I ache for the pain of this separation from Charles, and for the pain of seeing my children’s agony at having to travel forward without their treasured son, I know…we know…that our darling Charles Thomas is in the arms of our Savior. He is having so much fun with Jesus and his Great-Granddaddy Don and all of our Beloveds in heaven right now. He is where there is no brokenness or crying. Nobody bent on causing him pain. No hardship. No battle. No hopelessness. No sickness. No fear. He’s never had to know any of that. He never will.
How to Handle Grief
I’m supposed to be establishing myself as the expert here. But the truth is, I’m full of crap when it comes to writing about how to find your voice again after you’ve been decimated by grief.
I flat out don’t know, okay?
I, like you, am making this up as I go along. Trying to decipher the unthinkable. Riding Grief’s waves with bad form, skinned nose, and shattered heart.
All I know to do is to take my position on this open ocean once again, determined to honor our strong little warrior and not get carried out to sea by Grief’s undertow. I will speak his name often, hold space for my children’s hearts as they desperately miss him, and tell his story to whoever will listen.
I will cry.
I will rage.
I will praise.
I will battle.
I will sing.
And I will make my Charles Thomas, and my daddy Don Rouland, and my Papa God proud of me today as I keep breathing, keep believing, and keep trusting that I will continue to see the goodness of God in the land of the living until I myself am no more.
Until we meet again, my Charlie, my darling Grandson:
Your Gigi will love you with all of her heart for all of her days.
Consider ‘planting a poppy’ on their site at the link above. It is free and sends a flicker of light into their home letting them know that they are being prayed for. Would you mind sharing this post so more people will know our story and pray for us? We could sure use the prayer right now. Thank you.
Resources? I would so appreciate your suggestions in the comments below on any resources you have found helpful in navigating the loss of a child, both for parents and for grandparents.
I am not up for making a video this week, so I will leave this one here instead. This song has been a great comfort to our family during this tremendous loss. Thank you for understanding.
God bless you and keep you as you look to Him for everything. ~Christi