They say the “first” everything after a death is always difficult. A big “first” loomed in Sharon’s not-so-distant future. The first due date. This morning, she nonchalantly flipped the calendar to welcome December. Her hand flew to her mouth and covered the gasp as she read in a child’s handwriting: Baby’s Birthday, just three days before Christmas. Sharon had been unaware that one of the boys wrote this.
Usually on December first, Daniel and Joshua would begin to countdown the days to Christmas by marking a big fat black X through each day. Now she realized as they marked through each day, it would bring her one day closer to her big first.
Lost in thought, Sharon sipped her latte and watched people as they rushed about the mall. In her peripheral vision a young mother maneuvered a stroller. Obviously exasperated, the woman plopped down to tend to the wails of her infant son. Sharon noticed the poor thing eyeing her options for discretion and awkwardly turned her direction to prepare to nurse.
Soon the cries were replaced with the muffled sounds of contentment beneath the blanket. Sharon smiled, but looked away in time to avoid any tears. She wanted to leave but found comfort in the suckling sounds. Unintentionally, her hand went to her tummy as she tried to smooth away the emotional pain of loss.
“How old is he?” The sound of her own voice caught her off guard.
The young woman’s smile pulled at Sharon’s heart. “He’s six weeks. I haven’t quite mastered the whole… being out on my own in public thing yet.” A cute nervous giggle escaped.
Me either, Sharon thought. “It takes time…I mean practice. Well, time and practice.” Okay, I think I’m done here,. Sharon stood to leave, “He’s adorable, congratulations.”
Sharon’s cell vibrated in her pocket and pulled her out of the numb state of mind she so easily slipped into. Brian’s name showed on the screen as she flipped it open. “Hi, Honey,” Sharon sounded more chipper than she felt.
“Hey, Babe, whatcha doin’?” Brian sounded tired. Sharon knew he hated being trapped in his office at the church these days.
“I’m at the mall… poking around,” Sharon knew this answer wouldn’t fool her husband. “What’re you doing?”
“Uh…” the hesitancy in his voice tore at Sharon. “I was thinking,” Brian cleared his throat, “want to meet me at our Ebenezer place?”
Sharon glanced around as she wiped at tears, “Okay…on my way.”
Her head pounded as she headed out to the now familiar place, their Ebenezer stone of help. Her throat ached when she pulled up and saw her husband’s slumped outline in the dreary December grey distance.
Brian slipped his arm around Sharon’s waist and kissed the top of her head. She could feel his wet face mingle with her hair. With her eyes closed she tasted her warm salty tears on her lips. She refused to brush them away now. This was the place she could let them free.
Sharon felt the cool dampness seep through her jeans as she knelt and rubbed her hand across the stone. She let her fingers linger along the lines of their stillborn son’s name, Isaac James. The memory of the agonizing labor and delivery assaulted her. The quiet tears were replaced with guttural sobs.
The pair stood in a tight embrace and wept until they felt some sort of release. Brian sighed and began to pray.
“Oh God, we don’t understand why, but we stand in complete surrender to Your will.
One day we will hold our Isaac, who brought laughter in the unexpected news of his arrival and sorrow in his abrupt departure from our lives.”
Sharon could feel the pain of death in her womb. She held Brian with fierce agony as he continued.
“Give us strength as we face each new day…each new first we face without our baby. Help us to somehow, someway, be used for Your glory through all of this. Amen.”
Later that evening Sharon held up a black marker, “Time to start the countdown for Christmas. Who wants to make the first X?”
A sense of peace had settled over her after her visit to the Ebenezer place, her rock of help. She knew that her baby was not really beneath that stone monument, but it had become a place for her to go to stand on the true Rock, her Solid Rock.
Author’s note: Ebenezer when translated means Stone or Rock of Help.
This story is fictionalized based on a true story in loving memory of Isaac James Carlson, stillborn on August 20, 2008.
1 Samuel 7:12 – Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, “thus far the LORD has helped us.”
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