Preaching to the Choir

Your words matter.

You. Right now. Whatever you’re doing. Know that.

Your words matter. They are important. If you don’t write them, they will never be written. What you have to say will never be said. That story you have brewing inside of you needs to told. People need to hear it.

You will fail. You will write draft after draft that are awful. They will suck. You will hate them, and that’s okay. Anne Lamott has said that “very few writers really know what they’re doing until they’ve done it.” I’ve found this to be one of the truest statements about writers. We don’t know what we feel until we write it. We don’t know what we think until we write it.

There will be days you will write absolute garbage. But you must write it. There will be days you sit at a blank screen, thinking that what you’re attempting is harder than brain surgery. There is some truth to that.

Don’t give up. Please don’t give up. The world needs your words. We need to read beauty. We need honesty, emotion, and vulnerability. For the sake of beauty, keep writing. Write when you have something to say, and write when you have nothing to say. Write when you feel like it, and write when you’d rather do anything else on earth (including brain surgery.)

Because you need to. Because we need you to.

 

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The Worst Day of my Life

The unique thing about Portland is, we hardly ever see snow. We live an hour from the mountains, and an hour from the beach, but the valley we live in means that our winters are typically pretty mild. If we do see snow, it’s typically an inch or two here or there, and they close schools and we stay home from work and drink coffee and watch movies.

This storm wasn’t like that. We went to bed one night to the news saying there was a “chance of some snow, possibly an inch or two.” We woke up in the morning to almost a foot. It didn’t stop snowing for nearly 2 weeks. Never a ton, but never enough for us to get out from under. We lived on a dead end cul-de-sac, so getting out to go anywhere was nearly impossible.

I decided to brave it and take the bus to the train station, hop the train to work, and save my PTO for a day when I actually needed it. I worked in downtown Portland at the time, and we lived about 15 miles away in the suburbs. Normally, I was looking at about a thirty minute commute, but this was closer to an hour or so. I put on my suit, my warmest coat, and went to stand at the bus stop.

Rachel had stayed home from work, uncomfortable driving that day. I don’t even remember what time it was, but I remember my cell phone ringing and picking it up. What I heard on the other end will be in my head for the rest of my life.

“Stephen, I’m scared. I’m bleeding a lot and I don’t know what to do.”

I told her to call her doctor. She did. Her OB/GYN wanted to see her as soon as she could get there, so she put on her coat, and walked to the train station. We didn’t live far from the train station, but in that weather, the two or so miles was a formidable walk.

She called me again about an hour or so later, and to this day, I’ve never felt anything like my reaction to that call.

“We lost the baby.”

It was like someone had crawled into my soul, beat it within an inch of it’s life, and left it to die. I was numb. I had no reaction, no words, honestly, no feelings. I was completely numb. As I write this, I can picture Rachel, having just received the worst news a mom can possibly hear, walking two miles in the snow, trying not to completely break down in public. It ruins me to this day.

I had always bought into the idea that “God is in control,” and “He’s working it all out,” and “Everything happens for a reason.” I remember walking through the snow, feet soaked, freezing cold, saying to God,

“If you’re in control, and you’re working this out, and this happened for a reason, I want nothing to do with you.”

I meant it. I hated him at that moment.

I wanted nothing to do with a God who would do that. I wanted to scream, curse, break things, and break down, all at once. I didn’t know weather to be sad, pissed off, scared, or some combination of all of the above.

I shake as I write these words, because I’m somebody who doesn’t like to think about past grief. I don’t like to bring it up. I don’t want to be writing these words, but I realized I couldn’t possibly set out to write a book about my journey as a dad, and not include my very first experience of fatherhood: loss.

The next month or so was easily, for me, the worst month of my life to this day. It was as if someone had completely deflated our once happy home. Every ounce of joy, life, and happiness had been taken from us in that moment. It’s all still a blur, and I’m okay with that. The fewer details I remember about that time, the better.

The worst part about suffering a miscarriage, at least for me, was the fact that all of these people that we had told our incredible news to, were now wanting updates on our pregnancy. How do you tell somebody who is genuinely excited for you that you lost your baby, without making them feel like a complete jerk?

“Stephen, how are you? How excited are you to be a dad!?”

“Well actually, this is kind of awkward, we lost the baby a couple of weeks ago.”

Silence.

I don’t blame people for not knowing what to say. I wouldn’t have known. To be honest, the less people said, the better. I had one friend who simply sat on the phone with me in silence for nearly a half hour. He didn’t say a word. I knew he was there, and I knew he was grieving for me. That did more than anything anybody could have said. I didn’t need answers. I didn’t need an explanation. I already knew why.

The world is evil, and bad things happen.

That’s it. Period.

People would say, “well the baby is in heaven now,” as if that was supposed to help ease the pain I was feeling. As if God had just decided to take this one home early. I’ve never felt like sobbing and hitting someone at the same time before. Until that.

I still struggle with it. Why? What possible good comes from that? How on earth do you bring healing and restoration out of something as awful as losing a child?

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that I’m writing these words.

Hear me out. I don’t believe God caused my baby to die. I don’t believe that God “had a better plan for her.” I don’t believe that this was all part of his master plan. I believe that the world is evil, and bad things happen to good people. I believe that if my writing these words helps someone through the loss of their child, then maybe there’s a silver lining. I don’t believe  anything will ever make it “worth going through that.” There’s no real positive.

I think the people who have to put a silver lining on everything, and spin it to good, aren’t living in reality. They’re fooling themselves into thinking that the world operates on some sort of cosmic karma, and that in the end, it all comes back around to be good. This may be true in a Christian sense (more on that later,) but as cynical as it sounds, sometimes life sucks, and then it sucks more, and it never stops being hard. Some people seem to have life easy, and some don’t seem to have that luxury.

I will say this, however: I believe that going through that together strengthened my marriage in a way that I believe nothing else would have. We had only each other. Nobody else understood what we were going through. At the end of the day, all we could do was collapse into each other’s arms and cry until we either fell asleep, or felt like we were going to throw up. Every day was a battle to get out of bed, but by the grace of God, we got up. We went about our day. We leaned on each other, and as much as is humanly possible, we tried to move on.

I’ve tried to find a “reason” for what happened. Tried to put a “well at least ____ came out of it,” and I can’t. It sucked. It was awful. The only blessing I’ve been able to come up with is that had we not been through that, we wouldn’t have our amazing Avery in our lives, and I cannot imagine life without her. Her infectious smile and contagious personality have made an awful period of life sting a little less. And for that, I am forever thankful.