Sixteen years ago, our son Nathan was born. We were devastated to watch him take his last breath one hour and nine minutes later as a result of undetected Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.
Never in my worst nightmares had I ever envisioned such an event. My heart was filled with fear and sorrow as I prayed for God to spare his tiny life, to help him breathe. I remember as if it were yesterday, God tenderly saying, "No, Sarah," even as His arms held me and His peace surrounded me.
In the months following Nathan's death, I grieved. Sleepless nights were followed by agonizing days, filled with deep sorrow. Tears flowed until I felt drained, both physically and emotionally. The pain was so great that it felt like a huge knot in my chest that made it hard to swallow, to talk, even to breathe.
That summer is mostly just a blur in my memory, overshadowed by the pervasive cloud of grief that nearly swallowed me whole. I descended into a dark valley of depression, from which I thought I would never escape. I was barely functioning in the fog of my pain and grief, numb to every emotion but the sorrow of my overwhelming loss.
Through it all, I knew the presence of God like never before. He was there in my darkest hours - loving, comforting, and surrounding me with His care. His Word brought peace to my troubled heart and mind. When my friends avoided me or said the wrong thing in an attempt to comfort me, He gave grace to deal with the added pain.
Each hour of survival that summer was a milestone, and even now, all these years later, I can hardly talk about it without crying unless I keep everything at a very distant, clinical level. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him, how tall he would be, the things he would be doing, wonder what his personality would be like. The pain of loss never goes away, it just becomes a garment that you become accustomed to wearing.
God has used this child of mine to teach me many things.
His will is best for me.
His grace is sufficient for me.
His love is manifest for me in that He gave His only begotten Son to die for me.
His peace passeth understanding.
His Word lights my path, even in the darkest night.
His promise is sure, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."
His strength upholds me when I am too weak to stand.
My life has been changed in ways I never thought possible. I know the sorrow and pain of loss, and my heart breaks for those who have also experienced this pain. I know how to pray for those who cannot utter the words past the lump in their throat. I know how to sit silently and give a hug because no words are enough to assuage the grief of losing a child.
I am a different person because of Nathan's life. While I would never have chosen this path for myself, as I look back over the past sixteen years, I can honestly say that I would not change a thing. God has brought me to this place of peace and surrender one step at a time. He has been with me every step of the way, lifting me up when I have fallen, carrying me in His mighty arms when I had no strength to stand, and putting my tears in His bottle.
On this special day, Nathan's sixteenth birthday, I want to remember him and thank God for allowing me to be his mother.