Another Guest Post from Toni Cowart~
In the last blog I wrote, I shared some of the intimate corners of my heart. Today I will share more…
Easter Sunday is approaching and it represents both the darkest and the brightest, most victorious time in history.
I love spring and all the fresh new growth bursting from the ground, trees and the flowers just begging to be noticed and admired in all their glory. It’s also a time of new birth. Many baby animals are born, baby birds are hatching, baby chicks, bunnies and so on. For all of this bright, fresh and new life, there was something dark and dormant before. Before the flowers and new shoots of grass erupt from the earth they are in the cold dark ground.
In spite of all the beauty coming forth in spring, there was a time that March was once dark for me. It was a reminder of a baby I lost months before. The baby was due in March and as that month rolled around my heart and arms were reminded of the fact I’d never hold that child this side of heaven.
I lost that baby between my third and fourth child, and that was a first in a line of such significant loss for me. At that point in my life I had never even lost a grandparent. It doesn’t matter how many children you already have, or go on to have. The loss of that baby is still gut wrenching and life altering. The grief is real. (Just a side note: I use it, but really don’t like the phrase “lost baby”, “lost children”, etc.; It sounds like I am not sure where I put them, but I do know exactly where they are.)
I shared with you before, how tragically my 6, 8, and 10 year old were killed. I literally found myself on a Monday in October 1997 picking out caskets for three of my children instead of the usual Monday scramble of picking out school clothes and finding the lost shoe.
TALK ABOUT A DARK TIME! Grief is the darkest thing I know. I was sucked, so quickly and deeply, into a deep, dark vacuum. For me, it’s only equal would be Hell.
If you will bear with me, I would love to share a conversation I had with my 8 year old son, Taylor, just weeks before he died.
Brandy, Taylor and Sara-Frances were killed the last week of October 1997, just at the onset of the holidays. With me feeling like I had just buried my heart with my three oldest children, needless to say I, was not in the holiday spirit. I mustered through Thanksgiving, which was tough, and I was not looking forward to Christmas!
I felt that my other two children, Gus, 2, and Mary Alice, 1, were young enough, provided no one mentioned anything, that they would not even notice we had “skipped” Christmas. Given the mood of the whole extended family, I didn’t feel anyone would argue with me over us not celebrating that year. So, I continued my daily routine with no mention of the upcoming holiday.
I don’t know about you but when I am driving it gives me a lot of “think time”. Sometimes that can be good and sometimes it turns into a crying session. Either way my mind is at full speed. On that particular day, something brought to mind a conversation that Taylor and I had just a few weeks before he and his sisters were killed.
Taylor had been sitting up front in our van; this was before airbags were on passenger sides in all vehicles. They would take weekly turns sitting up front in the van on the way to school. Therefore, the front seat was highly coveted among the kids! It was his turn to sit up front and this always made great talk time for me and whoever was getting the front that week. The kids were all excited because Gus had just had a birthday and within a couple of weeks both Taylor and Brandy had a birthday coming up and then a week later Mary Alice had a birthday (not sure how Sara-Frances ended up with a July birthday!) With Brandy and Taylor’s birthdays being three days apart in October, preparations were being made and excitement was running quite high. Each year we had what seemed like 6 weeks of non-stop birthday partying.
During the conversation in the van, everyone’s birthday had come up and there were moments of excitement and even a little fussing at some point because not everyone agreed on plans. I had begun to tune them out and thought they could work it out amongst themselves. As the conversation escalated I finally jumped in and as mom, I said, “That’s enough; there are no more birthdays until next year, so end of conversation.” Things never end so easily do they? But as a mom you can hope.
Taylor and I were going back and forth now with him saying, “Yes it is,” and me with a, “No it’s not.” I decided to pull the ole “so prove it” routine. I asked, “Then just whose birthday is next?” With a very triumphant grin and a sparkle in his eye, Taylor declares, “Jesus has a birthday next!” My “I’m so right” attitude may have just been popped, but I couldn’t help but smile too. I told him he was absolutely right. I think that child grinned all the way home.
If your child is going to set you straight, what a way to do it! Remembering that conversation with Taylor did something to me. Jesus was born and died for us. If it weren’t for Him, I wouldn’t know where my children are today. How could I not celebrate the very birth of Jesus! I could not get home fast enough and I put up every decoration we had and hung EVERY stocking (to this day I still hang ALL five kids’ stockings!)
The amazing thing is, that up until that point in my life, I had always loved Christmas but there was always a letdown sometime during the day. From that first Christmas after remembering the “conversation” I have never been let down once. (I know you are thinking “She’s talking about Christmas, not Easter,” but I’m getting there.)
Easter is just as glorious if not more so to me. Yes, I still miss my children something terrible and still ache for each of them – there is something different now and it’s something that no one can take away. It’s what true life and death are all about, what true celebrations are all about. I actually have children that celebrate the Savior’s birth and resurrection right there with the Savior Himself and one day I will be able to join them too.
It took the darkest time in my life to grasp a fuller understanding of what my Savior has done for me. As I sit at my desk typing this, I am surrounded by pictures of my children – I smile and yet tears run down my face. It is completely ok to cry because my tears were created by my heavenly Father and he catches every tear in a bottle (psalm 56:8). My tears are God given and there is not one that escapes my eyes that He does not know about before it hits my cheek. Before I ever held my new born children, He already knew the indescribable love I would feel for them, and the unearthly pain I would experience again the day I learned, that for three of them, I would never get to tuck them in again, feel their arms around my neck, hear their sweet individual voices say mama again or smell the scent only they had. He already knew the day that I pulled up to the funeral home to go through the motions, that my knees would buckle when I saw three hearses outside, and the reality slapped me all over again.
It took the darkest time in my life to understand just how glorious an empty tomb really is. It is not some nursery rhyme – it was an earth shaking event that changed all of history. Between the Old and New Testament God went dark (or silent) for almost 400 years. But that silence was broken by the cries of a baby, Emmanuel. So again, one Friday all of earth went dark for a few hours and then Sunday rolled around. An empty tomb changes everything. I am sure it was felt among the underworld. Imagine that in the wee hours of that first Easter Morning – when the stone began to roll away there must have been thunderous sounds to be heard as the demons began to tremble.
Due to His supernatural peace he has showered on me, even in the dark, I can praise Him.
Once upon that first Easter…More than the sun rose!
He is Alive!
He is Risen!
Because of this, I can smile. Because of an empty tomb, I can praise Him. Because of the Great I AM, I know how the story ends!