When someone you know loses someone they love, it might seem easiest to tiptoe around the gaping hole in their heart. You may think you’re doing your healing friend a favor by keeping their wounds under wraps. But talking about their lost loved one helps to keep their memory alive. It creates a legacy.
My mom-in-law recently supplied a devotional time at a MOPs (mothers of preschoolers) meeting I attended. I’m not consistent about making it to the monthly meetings, so she wasn’t thinking I’d be there when she planned her topic. I was there that day. That day she talked about losing Theo. She shared how throughout that painful time we were refined and prayers were answered and our God supplied all of our needs—even though we lost our boy, each one of those statements remained true. Because she shared, other women were impacted by Theo’s legacy.
I was too. More importantly, my heart healed just a little bit more.
Legacy is Important in Loss
Knowledge of our pain bringing about beauty is powerful. If we can see that even though we’ve been broken another soul has bloomed, we can find the grace to take one more breath and move forward for one more day.
Ethan and I don’t bury our thoughts and feelings about Theo. When we think of him, we bring him up. When the little memorial bell that hangs on my rearview mirror rings, we sometimes say, “Hi, Theo!” or else smile and think of him.
Remembering is healing while forgetting and burying your thoughts is toxic. Recall might bring tears and raw emotions, but eventually, those tears become less pain and more promise.
Sometimes dreams are born from nightmares.
There’s something intriguing about tragedy that makes or breaks a soul. The transformative power of pain and loss is astounding. We reflexively grasp how short our lives are and the fragility of our bodies. Our thoughts are temporarily directed to the existential and eternal.
I’m a writer. An oversharer. A lover of words and story and prose. I’ve known this about myself for some time, but have chosen to internalize God’s calling on my life. Aside from being a wife and mama, He’s placed this calling of word-smithery into me that, until now, I’ve kept to myself.
Until Theo. Losing our boy broke the dam holding those words at bay and compelled me to fully realize and act on my dream to write. If nothing were to emerge from the nightmare of losing our son, I can find and create beauty from following my dream.
As grace would have it, my dream is but a sliver of the legacy Theo has left in my life alone. God is radical and confounding like that.
Life again becomes colorful, and your vision is expanded.
Don’t misunderstand me, death is never good and is a result of sin. But it’s here and here to stay until the King returns. In that case, I’m going to do battle against sin and raise beauty from the ashes of loss.
The beauty lies in a longing for heaven, an appreciation of what we do have, and an inspiration to live more fully. Life becomes clearer after loss: We see the disappearing act that each day is and have the opportunity to make the choice of being fully invested in the life we’re living. We get a wake-up call to be more, do more, love more. We see with greater clarity the beauty of heaven reflected in creation.
When Kathy brought up Theo and started to tell our story, my heart rate picked up, my armpits became damp, and my face flushed hot with emotion and tears. But not once did I want her to stop. Never did I want to leave the room—in fact, I was riveted by this retelling. Each word was like water to my soul, thirsty for affirmation that God remains faithful in the living and the dying.
I was thirsty for proof of a legacy left by the short life of my son. That was given to me on a sun-drenched Friday morning, and it was a release for my hard-pressed soul. Emotions and the physical side effects they often bring might be uncomfortable in the moment, but lifting the bandage to check on the wound breathes life-giving oxygen in. Healing is facilitated by recall and legacy is created by reflecting on the glory in it all.