Friday, November 9, 2012

Til Death Do Us Part


Do you ever have those moments that seem fairly mundane but you know they're being seared into your memory, sure to mean something later?

When Levi and I were dating we went to the theater and saw "Dead Man Walking." There's a group counseling scene with a married couple discussing the death of their young daughter. She'd died years before and their marriage was suffering because they were dealing with the grief so differently. Details are fuzzy, but at one point they stop and ponder over the line in traditional marriage vows, "Til death do us part." Levi and I both let a "woah" fall out of our mouths, and then we looked at each other and said it again, shocked that we both had the same reaction. Little did we know how that statement would similarly impact our marriage.

During the time we waited for Elisabeth to come and in the months immediately after, Levi and I were very much in sync. We preferred to use the same language and tone when referring to her life and death, and we desired to keep most of our feelings between us.

As time passed, it was clear we were grieving very differently. Neither was doing it right or wrong, we were doing what felt like healing for each of us. But in the moment you do feel like the death is parting you.

Last week we recognized the anniversary of Elisabeth's birth and death. To recognize her short life, the first three years we participated in a charity walk for a nonprofit that helps families dealing with neonatal and infant death. This year we couldn't make it, but I still took some time alone around "her" date. Levi is very supportive about doing the charity walks, though I know he'd prefer to skip them. He also encourages me to take that time alone every year, and even listens lovingly as I have my annual outpouring of emotions, though I know he'd prefer to skip that, too. It has taken me a long time to realize that his way is healthy, too. He's not verbal like I am, and he also doesn't find it healing to relive pain. Makes sense! (I don't see it as pain, though, and that's partially why I find it healing.)

Actually I asked Levi to read this message to you and he had some pretty profound things to say:

I agree, I don't want to talk about our experience in depth or detail. My moments of reliving happen alone, where I feel like I have control over how long and to what degree I want to go down the road.
When we are going down that road together I feel like I am on a tandem bike and I want to stop, so put my feet up. But because you're still peddling, we continue down the bumpy road that I know leads to a pool of tears. Once we are on the road I feel badly because of my resistance and my lack of commitment of getting to the end, but I'm a control freak when it comes to my emotions and I don't want to "go there." So this journey feels unnatural to me, but I am often jealous of the ease with which you venture there. My biggest fear in going down this road is that it will bring me back to the day that it happened--the worst day and one of the best days of my life. A day where the pull of emotions was so intense it made me physically ill. On one hand we had a daughter that I wanted to hold and love, but she was not meant for this world and our short time with her seemed just that--too short.

Obviously he is still grieving too, but you can see how complicated it gets when you're trying to do it in tandem.

My heart breaks for people who encounter these types of situations and I can understand completely how it can become a wedge in a marriage. I think it will be a lifelong work, and I pray we can continue to respect one another's paths to health and healing. 


Jen and Levi,

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Elisabeth's story. All three of you have taught me so much about faith, hope and love. Your lives truly reflect His glory and I will continue to pray for your marriage as well as solicit continued prayers for mine. Looking forward to the day where you both can ride tandem the way you would like to.


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