|"One of God's Littlest Angels" custom painting by Mandi Gangwer|
It is wonderful how God consoles a broken heart. Long after the mind and heart have born the original crisis of grief and loss and settled into sad, sweet memory and hopefulness, He works to remind us that our sorrow is not forgotten. He doesn't want us to forget love even when it is a suffering love. His Presence is there. He calls us to see Him in the missing and the longing.
When we lost Baby Matthew I did not suspect how God would use his life to change me. The greatest misconception about miscarriage is that there was a baby and now there's not. The child is gone. Mothers of faith who have lost little ones know that there is more to it. Our children are made for eternal life and although we are unable to hold them and nurse them and raise them, they live. Our bond is strong, God-given, forever. And the mother changes.
The greatest surprise for me is that this bond has not diminished but grown stronger over the last three years. I do not love someone who doesn't exist... but someone who lives. God's grace has blessed this relationship between mother and son and it is nurtured and grows. I am not preoccupied in my thoughts with my absent child; rather, I go through my days with a peaceful awareness that we are not a family of eight, but of nine.
I have occasionally tried to imagine holding my baby. I close my eyes and feel the weight of his small body in my arms. My lips and cheeks touch his downy hair. In my imagination he reaches up to touch my face with his soft hand. In reality, he looks down from heaven and loves his mama.
Recently, a woman contacted me with the hope of bartering for some of my handmade items. I did not see anything of hers that I could use and let her know. A day or so later, she contacted me again and said she understood but still very much wanted to swap. She had no more items to offer but would I be interested in a painting? I'm an artist, she said. It would be a custom painting and she specializes in babies and children.
I don't need a painting, I thought. But I thought about it. What would I like to see on canvas? I have hundreds of photographs of my children... except for Matthew. I would like to see Matthew. Mandi asked for some photographs of my other children as babies and I gave her the green light to paint my little son according to her talents and inspiration.
The photo at the top of this post was taken by Mandi and is of the actual canvas that she painted for me. It is a good photograph but even good photos never do such work justice. The original is so beautiful. I had no expectations and was handed a great blessing. My children all had a similar reaction to seeing the painting. Wondering silence. Their knowledge of Matthew's life combined with seeing the image reminded them that they do indeed have a brother named Matthew. He lives. And heaven is real. The longing to see things of eternity expanded in them and I saw mirrored in their eyes what have been for me the greatest blessings of our loss...
We have gained a son and brother. He loves us and we love him. He is real. Heaven is real. Our Lord waits. And we long for home.
More posts on pregnancy loss:
Miscarriage Loss... And Gain (Practical help for dealing with the loss of a preborn child or supporting others are)
Saying Goodbye to Matthew