I write a lot about tears, grief, stillbirth, sadness and loss, but there is a story of redemption that God is writing, one day at a time, with me patiently waiting and trusting as it unfolds. Aside from my husband, no one has walked closer to me through all this than my best friend of 15 years, Becca. We met in high school yearbook, went to college, got married, I had my first daughter and she waited for her answer, but she rejoiced. A couple years later, I had my second daughter and she had her first son just four months apart. We've been together at the birth of all of our kids. She and her husband lived with us for a time, then the Lord provided a house just 0.8 miles down the street from our own. Our kids play and love on each other like siblings. Our front doors are always open. Meals have been shared countless times. Life has been lived together in the most blessed way I could ever ask for or imagine.
God, looking through His eyes, had a plan that was bigger than we expected, it always is that way. He directs our steps and He knew I needed that sister down the street to be there to walk with us through life's happiest moments and deepest sorrows. If there has ever been a need she has done it or filled it. Our little boys were due just five days apart and while many have questioned how one could continue to walk as close as we have, all I can point to is God. The first and only thought I had walking out of that ultrasound office on April 6, 2014, aside from accepting the fact that my son was in the arms of Jesus, was a peace and a confidence that our boys and their stories would never be for naught and it was never going to be a wedge to separate us.
I don't just believe in the existence of God, I believe in a personal relationship with Him. A Great Redeemer, who always loves us perfectly, and when my heart and my flesh fail, He is my faithful strength. There are days when I struggle to see how that plan of redemption is going to work out. I doubt, I question, I ask why. Then I look at this little boy God brought and some of it makes sense. I see and I trust that God is going to give this boy a beautiful legacy to carry with him for the rest of his life. To me, just like my son, he is perfect in every way.
After I started blogging again, I asked Becca, when AJ was born, to share the meaning behind his middle name. To testify to how God was at work, even in the deepest pit and darkest places. I hope it encourages you in the ways it has encouraged and reminded me how our little boy is celebrated and remembered through his life.
My son didn’t have a name until he was thirty-six hours old. It might have even taken longer if we weren’t so eager to leave the hospital and knew the newborn fog would make us forget to submit the appropriate paperwork. He didn’t have a name but he did have a middle name. He’d had a middle name since April.
Janet and I’s friendship is hard to define and difficult to understand to some but it’s one of the sweetest gifts in my life. And it truly is a gift. It’s been obvious time and time again that the Lord created and has sustained this friendship through misunderstandings, through growing up and changes, through the hard days and the every day. When I miscarried our first teeny tiny babe far away in Oklahoma at only a few weeks she cried with me and stayed in bed all day like I did miles away. My hurts have often been lighter because she has shared carried them on her heart. She truly has been a friend who bears burdens. And in April, with her text on that , her labor through that dark and and watching her the last few months, I’ve tasted the slightest part of her grief and her pain.
Compared to my firstborn, in utero this child’s movements were all hard, deliberate and strong. Where Behr would press his little rump out for rubs and bounce to music and seem to want Mama’s attention and affection, this baby jolted me awake or shocked me with his strength, time and time again. However aside from a few random movements I’m not sure I felt him move from getting the text that still haunts me on that morning until our ultrasound hours later. (Because of course we had scheduled our appointments for the same day mere hours apart.) As he was measured and examined and we were told he was healthy and well, he moved and moved--and I felt it. My husband and I wept through most of the ultrasound. It felt so unimaginable to follow Janet and Seth’s footsteps into the same office with such a different outcome. Only a few weeks before I had been in a similar room with Janet watching her baby and then mine wiggle and kick and looking forward to finding out that evening together what gender they were. And as I lay there, seeing my son bounce, hearing the tech’s words, and holding my husband’s hand the name, “John” came to my mind and my heart and never left. It was not a name on our list and never a name I think we would have considered without Bobby.
For reasons I don’t think we’ll know until heaven Bobby and my son “came from heaven” at the same time. God created them in Janet and I and gave them due dates only five days apart. That is not an accident and can only be planned by a Creator and Author of Life not two scheming best friends. They were connected in such a unique and amazing way even simply in their mothers’ hearts. And then God took Bobby back. When he was born, while the world stood still, while we wept over and over for hours in that hospital room, my son leapt. As if he knew. As if he was welcoming and releasing his friend. And he continued to leap for the next twenty plus weeks. As much as it confused and stabbed my heart there was no voice, no stimulation, or anything that generated a reaction like my best friend and I talking. He knew Janet’s voice uniquely. In the ways Behr responded to his dad’s voice and Audrey’s this child responded to Janet. Over and over all I could think as he jumped inside while Jan and I sat and talked about anything and everything, sober or insignificant conversations, was “John.”
John “When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” -- John the Baptist and Jesus. Created at the same time. Sent with clear purpose. Each a reminder that God keeps His promises to His people and operates in ways that only He can understand. To be clear I am not saying that Bobby is Jesus or that my son is a second coming of John the Baptist. But I do believe that, even if it’s simply for our families and the lives they touch, that these two boys’ lives both have rich purpose here on earth to point back to heaven and the hope that we have there.
There were many small mercies during the 24 hours Janet was at the hospital. Yet, unfortunately, there were many painful and harsh interactions on top of the circumstances for being there. Yet one of the moments where God was clearly present was a stranger who gave of his own time and with great intention to show love and compassion to both Bobby and his parents. Telling my husband about him in tears while wandering Wegman’s that week sealed the deal on our son’s middle name. That person’s name was John. I like to imagine that had our sons been allowed to grow up together here on earth that they would have had that sort of loyal, giving, compassionate character in their friendship. I can’t wait until they meet in heaven and the bond I know they would have had is displayed in real and perfect ways that I long that they would have had here.
Finally, John means “God has been gracious” or “Yahweh is gracious, giving bountifully.” I never could anticipated the end of this pregnancy when it started in December. My grief is not the same as Janet’s. But she is my sister. There’s a strange sort of grief in watching your friend hurt and there’s a strange sort of ache in longing for a child that wasn’t your own but that you anticipated nearly as much as your own. Walking out the rest of my pregnancy alone, watching my belly grow and noticing I was trying to suck it in when I walked in her house, wishing the leaps that were both so reassuring and yet so heart-breaking within my own womb were echoed in hers, and even now snuggling a newborn and waking up for middle of the night feedings with no one to text at all the random half-awake thoughts in my head, has had its own challenges for my faith and hope. There’s been days I’d rather stay in bed. There’s been nights of tears. And yet in the midst of her own grief and ache, as always, my best friend was and has been the greatest encouragement to my heart and soul. She repeatedly reminded me of the faithful goodness of God in created my son as well as Bobby. Her words and her genuine love for me and my son are a gift I cannot repay or really convey how much they have meant. She loves me and loves my son in ways that speak volumes of the greatness of God and His perfect love at work in her. “John” is a tribute to that. To the God that has given us this friendship as well as our sons.
Luke 1:78-79 Zechariah praising God for his son, John: "...because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
To read more of AJ's birth story and to see it all captured in pictures enjoy I'm Kristen's post.