Today I was thinking about the pendulum of emotions my family has been on this past week. We started the week off with the biggest and best of hellos as my new niece came in to the world Sunday evening. Evangline Hope came in her own way, on her own time and is a perfect 6 1/2 pound addition to our family. It was fascinating to watch each of my kids with her. The last baby they held in a hospital was Macy. My kids are baby lovers but there was a certain level of triumph that came with Eva. I think maybe their faith in new life was slightly restored. It was a picture of mercy to see them as proud cousins, doting on their living, breathing baby Eva.
Of course, if we’re on a pendulum that means there is ultimately a giant swing in the opposite direction. That swing came last night as we gathered to tell our sweet friend, Maja, ‘see ya later.’ Maja is my sister’s foreign exchange student who quickly became just another member of the family. Her kind heart, sarcasm, and ability to go toe for toe with my dad’s teasing earned her the honorary title of ‘Mahaffa family member.’ She joined our family a mere 10 months ago and we instantly loved her and began dreading the day that she would fly back home to Switzerland. Today was that day and last night was a night of goodbyes. These sorts of things have become increasingly more difficult for my kids. They understand the sadness that comes with distance between loved ones a little more clearly than most kids their ages….maybe even some adults. Even though we have every intention of visiting Maja and of her returning to visit us, their hearts know that ‘goodbyes’ or ‘see ya laters’ hurt. Every time Andy’s parents or Aunt Kimmie leave our house, we can count on a few shed tears.
In the months following Macy’s death, many people would ask how we were doing. It was very rare that anyone would ask specifically about the kids. That always broke my heart a little for them. I know that mostly no one knows what to say and conversation after a loss, especially of a baby, is…well….awkward…but if you know of a family going through a similar loss, please don’t forget the baby’s siblings and don’t forget to encourage those parents who are left to shepherd their living children’s hearts. We had no clue if what we were doing for our kids was the right thing. Heck, we still don’t know but hearing from our family and friends that we are doing a good job has been a tremendous help. Life for the last 14 months has been a little bit like the blind leading the blind. We included the kids in as much as we have because we really didn’t know anything else and honestly, we have been too emotionally exhausted to do anything different. They came to the hospital and held their sister. They helped us close the lid of her casket. They helped design Macy’s headstone and celebrated with us when it was finally placed. They have laughed with us as we imagine the trouble she is getting into in heaven. They have prayed every night that Jesus would give her an extra hug from us and whisper in her ear how much her earthly family loves her. They have cried with us and they have comforted us. They have cried out to God alongside us and wrestled their way through some pretty big questions with Him- just as we have.
I never want to shelter them from the hardships of life. I would much rather they get bits and pieces of it now while they are still under my wing; while I still have the opportunity to speak into their lives and point them towards the one and only true healer- Jesus. Last night, as I lie in my daughter’s bed, holding her while she sobbed and cried about how much she already missed Maja, all I could do was pray and remember Mark 10:16, “Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.” Lord, take these children into your arms. Make it their place of comfort and rest. Let them know the feeling and security of your hands on their heads. And Lord, in all things- good and bad- bless them despite my own faults and failures.