My daughter is a deep thinker. She will sometimes mull things over for days or weeks at a time before asking me to explain something to her. She is always challenging me, never satisfied with a pat answer of “I don’t know” or “It’s something you wouldn’t understand until you are older.” What I have come to realize in her short nine years is that God is often using her to speak to me; to get me to look at something from a different perspective.
In 2014, we went to go see a movie called Heaven is for Real. At the time, my daughter was seven years old. She said that she enjoyed the movie but didn’t talk much about it on the ride home. It was probably ten days or so later when the questions came.
“I have to ask you about something,” she said one night during our pre-bedtime snuggle. “You know in that movie when the boy said that he saw his sister in heaven? How did that baby get to heaven if she was never born, and why didn’t she have a name?”
Thus began a very long discussion about how sometimes someone can be pregnant with a child that will go to heaven before they are born. The questions came fast. “How does the mama know that the baby died? Is there some sort of window in the belly? By the way, how does the baby get out of the mama’s belly anyway? How do you know it is your sister or baby when you get to heaven?” I did my best to provide age-appropriate answers that would satisfy her desire to know so much about this subject. Then came the one that stopped me in my tracks. “How do YOU know this can happen?” The big emphasis on the “YOU.” Now, I always knew that someday I would let her know that there had been a baby before her that went to heaven before it was born, but I really wasn’t expecting that talk at the age of seven. I paused for a moment and said silently to God, “Really? Right now?” It seemed like a natural course for the conversation and felt like the right time, although it took me by surprise in a really big way.
So, I began. I told her how I had been pregnant with a baby and how it had heart problems and other abnormalities and was not able to survive. I told her that it was a baby boy and that I was very confident that he was happily living in heaven with Jesus and we would all see him one day. This beautiful only child of mine has always longed for a sibling, desperately longed for a sibling, so I braced myself for what I assumed would be a very emotional response to this news. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The biggest smile in the world spread across her face and she jumped up and down on the bed exclaiming that this was the best news she had ever heard, and she couldn’t believe that she had a brother! “I am so excited! I can’t believe it!” She flung the bedroom door open and called at the top of her lungs, “Daaaaddy! Did you know that I have a brother that lives in heaven?! I can’t wait to see him!” Once she got over the initial excitement of it all, she called me back to her to let me know that she didn’t like it that he was up in heaven with no name. She asked me if it was okay if she named him. “I want his name to be Ryan,” she said. “I like that name.” I said, “Of course, then his name is Ryan."
While I always knew that I would be reunited with my son one day, I viewed that loss as a tragedy for our family. A grief filled loss for my husband and I, and surely a devastating blow to my daughter who so desperately longs for a sibling. Here’s what God told and showed me through that precious girl. That little guy’s life is a gift that should be celebrated joyously. Through every difficult circumstance in your life, God is there and He is creating something beautiful from that pain. I have to be willing to see the joy, look for it first in all of my circumstances. That little boy is a tremendous blessing to our family even though his time here was brief. I needed a seven-year-old to teach me that lesson, and to see the joy in that circumstance that I failed to see before because I focused on my grief. There is nothing wrong with grief. It is necessary and healthy and there is a time for it. However, I had never taken the time to see that situation from a different perspective and really experience the joy of Ryan’s brief life and all that it meant for our family.
Thank you, God, for the gift of both of my precious children. They open my eyes and my heart to You all the time.
In loving memory of Ryan B., a beautiful boy who went to live with Jesus on July 23, 2005
Barb calls herself the old girl of the bunch. She is an observer and a comforter. If there is a hurting soul in the room, God will likely lead Barb to her. She would say that she has always felt God’s presence but didn’t know what it was until she was older. God is always chasing her through music. She feels music like a very deep emotion. A song will speak to her and can bring her to tears or fill her with immeasurable joy, or sometimes both at the same time. She listens to anything from hymns to Van Halen and all the stuff in between. Barb is married to a man she describes as the most kind and generous person she has ever known and together they parent a beautiful, joyful, loving and challenging daughter.