Laying in bed and trying to go to sleep, I heard a knocking at my door. I was single at the time and alone in the house. I huddled deeper in my blankets, hoping the person would go away. Then I heard a call, “Virginia! Virginia!” It was my friend Sue. She and her husband had a newborn, and their marriage was sometimes shaky. I assumed there had been a fight, and got up, ready to let her in to have some tea and a talk.
Sue was crying and shaking, “John. He’s dead.”
John was her 7 week old baby son. The words did not quite hit me, although I think I did understand them. Sue and I had known each other since we were sixteen. We’d met while doing Junior High ministry at our church. When I moved from Southern to Northern California, Sue had helped me with her truck. Later, on a visit, I had introduced her to a friend of mine. They had gotten married about a year later. I had been with Sue throughout her pregnancy and been her labor coach along with her husband. I had seen this baby being born. He couldn’t be dead.
But he was. I don’t remember much about the rest of the night. I took Sue back to her house. The ambulance had already taken John away. I remember sitting with her and her husband. Talking. Then I went back home. There was a funeral. What do you say when a baby dies? They decided he had died of SIDS. No answer really.
Sue and her husband had two more boys. About ten years later, I got married and started having kids. By then, they knew that SIDS could be prevented by having babies sleep on their backs. I’ve never asked Sue how she feels about that. I was so diligent about following that rule that Brendan ended up being one of those kids with a flat head in the back. Luckily, our family doesn’t tend to go bald.
A few days after John’s funeral, I discovered that Sue had run over my sprinkler when she came into my driveway. It was broken. I fixed it, but it never did work very well after that. Sometimes broken things can’t be mended.
Twenty years have passed by since that night. There have been other births and deaths, joy and pain. Yet an intensity remains for me in this memory of a time I learned that I will not always have an answer, or the right words, or the right feelings. Sometimes broken things can’t be mended.
Yet God still is upholds the world and all that is in it. We read Isaiah 45 today in Bible Study. I am struck by the verse: “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?'” (Isaiah 45:9). I pray that I will be a pot who can be molded into a vessel fit for use in His hands.
(layout: This is the first in a series of layouts I’m planning about significant moments in my life. I’ve changed the names of my friend. The papers and embellishments come from Digital Freebies MarialaFrance Spring Fresh collection, word art is from Scapgirls Refresh chipboard collection)