You are my sunshine. My only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away!
Before I had kids, I always thought that last line was kind of morbid. Way to make it weird, song writer. Way to make it weird.
And then I had a miscarriage. And then I had another miscarriage of twins. And then my first child was born with little holes in her heart and a possible metabolic disorder. And my third child was born with a more serious congenital heart defect. And my comfortable world with its simple cares before that first pregnancy came tumbling down.
You see, the way you feel about your children is a unique experience. Never before have you felt that if someone else suffers in even the slightest bit, you wouldn’t be able to bear it. But that is how it is with your children. You want to keep them from ever suffering at all. You want them to live a very long time and have a very happy life. You do not want to outlive any of your children, even the ones that are still in your womb. You are even more pain averse for your children than you are for yourself. All of the horrible things that could happen to my children literally keeps me up at night.
But here is the thing. In the immortal words of the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” We cannot keep our children from suffering in this life, as much as we desperately want to. And sometimes, we cannot even keep them from dying.
I can’t help but think of Mary. She watched her child suffer cruel tortures. She watched helplessly as he was led to his death. She gazed at him as he slowly died in agony. She lived every mother’s worst nightmare.
I remember looking at Michelangelo’s Pieta at the Vatican as a teenager and being profoundly affected. Mary’s pain was palpable, even to a naive teenager. Simeon prophesized at the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul, a prophesy that was fulfilled during Christ’s Passion.
Mary knew, when her babe was still a newborn, that this child would cause her enormous suffering. She knew that he would be taken from her much too soon. How did she bear it?
But Mary’s son suffered and died so that our children could live. And I don’t mean “live” as in “never suffer and die.” I mean “live” as in “have eternal life.” Each of our children (even the ones in the womb) have an eternal soul that lives forever. And even if our sunshine is taken away from us in this passing life, they are still there, just as the sun is still there during the night. It is just temporarily separated from us. Thank you, Lord, for the dawn.