This is my period of grief. In just a few days we will celebrate the third birthday of my identical twin daughters, and just two days later, mourn the 3 year anniversary of the loss of one of them.
I try to fill the birthday with joy and celebrate my survivor Tiny as much as possible. I reserve the 12th as my day for Kathryn; a day in which I not only mourn her loss, but I make a conscious effort to do something kind for someone, and try to convince everyone else to do the same on December 12th. Kathryn Day.
While I have mostly healed, and I find the adage true that time heals wounds, the scars will always remain, won’t they?
My good friend ReNee posted this lovely picture this week, since December also happens to be Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) Awareness month. I wanted to share this moment with everyone. Because it is truly the only moment I have captured with my beautiful daughter. I did not know about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. I did not think about taking photos with her. I’m so glad we got this one shot. And my grief in the moment is forever captured.
The truth of it is, no matter how much time passes, no matter how FINE I am in general, there will never, ever be a day when I don’t look at Tiny and wonder what it would be like if her twin was with us. There will never be a December that passes that I don’t recall the events of December 2011, that I don’t question whether or not I did everything I absolutely could for my daughter, and when I don’t grieve her loss. There will never be a moment that I don’t wonder if she can see us and hear us and protect us.
One of the hardest parts of dealing with loss – I think for any of us – is that question of what comes after life. Will we ever see them again? Are they truly in someplace wonderful, or has their energy just transferred elsewhere?
As a Christian, I have always had faith in the afterlife. I don’t know what Heaven is like, but I’ve always believed in it and imagined a wonderful, pain free place. Where we would be united with all of our loved ones. That’s what I believed.
Until Kathryn died. Then that faith, my entire belief system was rocked to the core. I still have problems with it, and some pretty severe ups and downs with my religious beliefs. I’ve never lost faith in a bigger, greater power – in something greater than us, but I don’t know that I necessarily know how to define it. I do believe in God. And I certainly believe in raising my children by Jesus’s teachings; to be compassionate, loving, and kind.
But as I’ve tried over the last three years to explain to my children about where Kathryn is and what happens when people die, I have found myself feeling like a huge liar, liar pants on fire. I’ve found myself making up these fairy tales about the ever. Mostly because I don’t want them to be afraid of death, dying, and what happened to their sister and because it is comforting – to all of us. What better image than seeing my daughter in the arms of my grandmother, or my good friend’s sister, or my friend’s dad – who are obviously all up there having a good ole time and just as happy as can be, right?
And yet, the more I weave these tall tales, the more I begin to doubt what really does happen. What if there isn’t a Heaven?
I had already heard of the book Heaven is for Real before Kathryn died. It was suggested to me after her death, as something that might help. But I fought it. For reasons I don’t really understand, I wanted nothing to do with that book.
I had so many doubts about the validity of the story. I was just convinced that maybe, at some point in the child’s life, he overheard someone talking about the baby his mother miscarried, or about some of the other details he supposedly learned about in his short journey to heaven. I was convinced it was just a way for his family to gain some fame and make money off of other people’s hopes for the afterlife.
Then they made a movie. But I did not go see that either. Although I did see the trailer for it, and it planted a seed of interest in my mind.
Last weekend we had a free movie weekend, and guess what movie was playing? I decided to DVR it to watch at some point. I wound up getting a stomach bug and spent a day in bed. So I watched some of the movies I recorded, and I found myself really wanting to watch the movie now.
It, along with one other movie, left a remarkable impression on me.
The first was Winter’s Tale. I had never heard of this movie, but I recorded it because of the cast. Colin Ferrell, Russell Crow, Will Smith. I had no idea that this movie was all about goodness, love, miracles, and the influence of Lucifer and evil in trying – and failing – at stopping the innate goodness in people. The message of the movie was beautiful and touching. It is truly a beautiful movie and left me feeling hopeful. Not at all what I expected.
Then, I finally watched Heaven is for Real.
It surprised me. I was surprised to learn that the boy’s father, a pastor himself, also struggled with great doubt, confusion, and the same questions about whether or not Heaven is real or not. But it was through the belief of his child, through the small details that his son shared with him that he should not, could not know that began to change his heart. And once he began to allow himself to believe, his world began to change.
Love like a child… believe like a child.
For me, the most important part of the movie was not in trying to convince the viewer whether or not heaven exists, but rather, it was the healing that occurred in this small community because of this little boy’s experience. The love that was shared – the joy that came out of it, the forgiveness and healing. Even if we can’t know exactly what is to follow, I love the fact that it ends with the message that we should all believe in love and compassion and kindness.
There was one scene that touched me in particular. One of the leading characters lost her young son, a Marine, in Iraq. The pastor had been visiting his grave weekly since his death – largely because of his guilt that he had not been there for the mother as a source of comfort after her son died. The mom finds the pastor visiting her son’s grave. This woman and the pastor had recently had a disagreement, and their relationship was tense. But in that moment, they had this incredible conversation and she admitted to him that she didn’t understand why God save the pastor’s son but not hers. And through their discussion, they find healing and closure and forgiveness.
The scene is much deeper than what I can possibly capture in a quick summary here – but it spoke so LOUDLY to me. YES. Why did God save other twins with TTTS but did not save Kathryn? That is the question that has been haunting me and keeping me from having the same kind of spiritual wellness that I once had. But more importantly, I realized I was asking myself the wrong question all along. I’d been asking myself why he didn’t answer my prayers instead of asking which ones HAD been answered.
There is so much we don’t understand. But, in this touching scene when the pastor asked this grieving mother if she thought God loved her son any less than he loved his, I just GOT IT. It just clicked.
What that IT is I can’t really explain to you. Maybe it was my faith turning back on. Maybe it was my heart being opened back up again as I watched this incredible story of love, loss, faith… belief.
When the film ended, I felt hope and faith… and a sense of healing. I felt happy.
So is heaven for real?
Obviously, I can’t give you the answer to that question. I certainly HOPE so and I will do my best to live my life counting on it. Because I cannot wait to see that baby girl again! And I want to be reunited with all of my loved ones.
Here are just some of the little ones that other moms and dads are looking forward to seeing again too:
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Janine Huldie saysDecember 8, 2014 at 9:15 am
I read the book when it first came out, but for some reason I can’t bring myself to watch the movie either. But after reading what you shared, I may have to finally watch, because definitely sounds like an eye opening movie.
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Chris Carter saysDecember 8, 2014 at 10:00 am
OH Alexa, so beautiful, raw, honest and real. I think everyone has doubts and uncertainties about it all. If I were you, Lord knows I would question everything.
I read Heaven is for Real to my 4-6th grade class at church one summer. It was beautiful, powerful and the kids soaked it in with lots of discussion and questions.
The book is MUCH better than the movie. I was actually disappointed at the movie. So if you want another ‘lift’- read the book.
Praying for you through this time of gasping for air and drowning. <3
Chris Carter recently posted…The Gift of Peace and Quiet…
Tamara saysDecember 8, 2014 at 10:30 pm
I’m glad you watched the movie and were surprised by it!
My father died when I was so young, that my mom did kinda tell me fairy tales about him and where he went after he died. Not that it’s all fairy tales but how do you explain to a child what her father was like, if she can’t remember?
I can imagine everyone goes through these doubts at some point.
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