A few weeks ago my baby girl turned eleven. Double ones. She’s an official pre-teen and all that fun stuff. I can’t believe how quickly a decade plus one has passed. Whoever said, “The days are long but the years go by quickly” was right.
The darkness, sadness and devastation of Hurricane Katrina raged the day she entered this world. We held our fragile newborn and wondered how we would protect her from the dangers of this world. I watched in horror as dead bodies were recovered from the floodwaters. I saw desperate people yearning for rescue from their rooftops. I trembled with tears as I saw other new mommas with no diapers or supplies for their newborns in what truly looked like live shots of hell on TV. It was terrible.
I believe our little Lolo was born to be a bright light in times of darkness, just like she was the very day she was born. She was joy, amidst sorrow. She is so smart, funny, loving and has a huge heart for helping others. She is an amazing daughter.
This was her first birthday without her Daddy. I couldn’t help but feel the emptiness in the celebration. Although she didn’t talk about it, I can only imagine she was feeling it too. I wish he could be here to tell her all the important Dad things. The things I can say, but they have less impact. Things like how beautiful and smart and awesome she is. Sure, they matter when I say them, but they really burn a permanent message into a girl’s heart when her Daddy speaks them to her.
Thankfully, Facebook shares memories with me to simultaneously pour salt into my wounded heart and also make it swell with comfort and joy. Here is what my husband wrote about our Lolo last year.
“ I’m grateful for my daughter Lolo, who is funny, talented, smart and beautiful. I promise not to miss a moment of getting to know her because she’ll grow up all too soon. Let my love give you roots and help you find your wings. She will always be my “mini-me”, as my wife likes to say.”
I’m so thankful for the love he gave us in the moment and also the many things he left behind to remind us while we’re separated.
If you’re experiencing a celebration “first” without your important love – or heck, maybe it’s the tenth or twentieth celebration – I just want you to know I’m praying for you. I’m praying for you because I see you. Your pain is not invisible to me. I see you, I feel you and I understand you. And can we just say it sucks? Can we just admit that it is hard to find joy without the person who completed us? And you know what? That doesn’t make you weak. It does not make you a weak mother, a weak wife, husband, son or daughter. You are not a weak friend, and certainly that does not a make you a weak Christian.
Actually, you know what? It DOES make us weak. Come to think of it, we are ALL weak compared to the strength of God. Puny little can’t handle anything on our own wimps. That’s us! And God understands it and wants to comfort us and be strong FOR us!
But what about when we just aren’t feelin’ it? What about when grief wrings our hearts with its fierce grip? Then what? Well, God is strong enough and compassionate enough and has enough grace to cover all our human stuff. He is strong. And because He is strong, we have reason to hope and reason for joy. Maybe we just can’t feel that joy today, but we will. We will feel it, because He is strong enough for all of it. He’s strong enough for the first birthday without your Daddy. He’s strong enough for the bad news the doctors deliver or the gut-wrenching television coverage of terrorist attacks or hurricane damage in the Gulf. And He’s especially strong enough for us extra grace required types. For everything we are not, He IS. And THAT, right there, just gave me some joy amidst the sorrow.