As grief finally lightened and tears slowly faded from a daily occurrence, Ashley and I began living our lives again. I would still place flowers on Elliott's tiny grave and tears would still come to my eyes when I thought of where we would be at this time in our pregnancy. But God proved to be faithful and brought us out of the darkest of days. As spring approached, hope seemed to be knocking on our door because my mother-in-law was given the unbelievable news that she would be cancer-free if she went through one more surgery. We were praising God and rejoicing in the news that despite the deep sorrow we experienced in January, we could also see God's faithfulness. The song "Blessed be Your Name" continually came to mind and I just kept singing the lyrics, "You give and take away". Our sweet baby Elliott would never live here on this earth, but my mother-in-law was given a second chance from what had originally seemed an imminent death sentence!
However, little did I know, God's plan for our life was still in progress. My mother-in-law suffered from complications from surgery and after two long and painful weeks, her 5 sons decided to take her off life support and let her go home with the Lord. Why?!? was all I could ask. Another blow to Ashley and I who were already in deep despair from losing Elliott. I thought this was God giving me something good that I deserved. I thought this was supposed to be the light at the end of the dark tunnel we had been in the past 4 months. And exactly 4 months since we had buried Elliott, we stood at my mother-in-law's grave and said goodbye to another dearly loved member of our family.
But that's not the end. I did get something "good" that I thought I deserved, but God's "goodness" is not the same as ours, and for that I am thankful. My 17 year old brother-in-law needed a home and parents now and Ashley's parents had entrusted us with that responsibility. There are still days I question why they chose us. Not because of Sean, but because there are 3 other perfectly responsible and loving brothers with wives that could love and care for Sean better than I do most days. I'm clueless on parenting and on teenage boys and within a blink of an eye, here we were, parents to a grieving 6'5" teenage boy. So I did what I could. I cooked, I baked, I did laundry. The first few weeks were quite an adjustment. Setting rules, realizing I need to cook a lot more, and deciphering how to love a kid were consuming my days. But as the days turned to weeks and months, Sean became our son. I know that he isn't in the traditional sense our son, but we aren't a traditional family unit anymore and just as we are children of God, so Sean is our child.
So it has been 6 months since Sean became part of our family and now I am finally catching a small glimpse of the journey God has been taking us on. Instead of being proud about my little baby rolling over, I was proud to walk Sean onto the football field on Senior Night. Instead of boasting of my baby saying his first words, I sat choking back tears as the coach announced to a room full of people that Sean has a strong disposition and excellent character at his awards banquet. Instead of going to the store and buying diapers and formula, I get to buy food and more food. Sean has been a blessing in every sense of the word. Oddly enough, he brought me out of the grief of losing Elliott. Yes, I still cry when it snows and I remember that cold January night we buried Elliott, but I love Sean as much as I would my own son and God knew that I wouldn't have had I still been stuck in the self-centered consumerism of life. He knew that the journey Ashley and I were taken on this past year was needed to make us love more and care more.
There are moments and days that my frustration with life gets the best of me, but I am continually brought back to remembering that "the Lord is my God". I lost a little baby I never knew and it wrecked me, but I see Sean standing in the front row of the church praising God after losing both his parents and I am reminded, I am blessed. For 17 years Sean knew and loved his parents, yet he continues to praise God through the storms of life and I questioned God after losing a baby I never knew. Sean's perspective on life has changed me and his presence as our son has formed Ashley and I into people we would never have become without him. We thought we would be blessed with a little baby in July, but instead we became blessed with a grown boy in June and I can't imagine life any differently. God did "give and take away", just in a different way than my human ability could fathom.