I love to talk to Joel about his brother, Gabe. I wouldn't ever want him to hear about him from someone else, and to think, "Why didn't anyone ever tell me I had a brother?" So, we keep photos of Gabriel around our house and love to hear just how Joel remembers things we've told him about Gabe's short life.
The other day, Kyle was feeling sad, so I simply explained to Joel that sometimes Daddy is sad because he misses Gabe. And sometimes Mommy gets sad, because she misses Gabe. Joel just sat there and thought for a second and then spoke up, "I have an idea! Why don't we all just go up to Heaven to be with him??"
So, tonight as I'm getting Joel ready for bed, I asked him if he remembered his brother's name...
Joel: Yes, Gabe.
Me: That's right. And where is he?
Joel: In Heaven.
Me: Yes, he is. And do you know why?
Joel: (Thinks for a minute...) Because he is with Jesus, and they love us.
Me: (Stunned after that short and simple explanation...) If anyone ever asks you where your brother is, you can tell them that he is in Heaven, and he's not here with us because Gabe was very sick.
Joel: Momma, is Gabe a baby or a big boy?
Me: (Trying to decide how to answer...) He was a baby when he left us to go to Heaven, so he is a baby.
Joel: Well, when we bring him to OUR house, he'll be a big boy.
I was too stunned to continue our conversation. Wow. Well, yes he will. When we are reunited with Gabe, we will all be in Heaven. And the bible talks about having a glorious home there. What a nice picture - my entire family, together, forever.
Striving to be content in all things. It's a decision I have to make every single day. Thankful for the two beautiful children I have on this earth, but oh so sad for the two waiting for the rest of our family in Heaven.
Kyle and I have been reading "Heaven is For Real," and decided to buy the kid's version of the same book for Joel and Zoe to read. I highly recommend both. The book is about a little boy who visits Heaven during a near death experience, and he explains it the only way he knows how, like an innocent child. One of the most profound things he shares with his family is that he met his little sister, a child his mother miscarried - something that they had never even shared with him.
It's made me think so much about the baby I miscarried in July of 2010. I think since then, I've really emotionally dismissed that loss because it felt so insignificant compared to the loss of Gabriel, who was full-term, born alive, and died in our arms over the course of two hours. But if I believe that life begins at conception, there is another life that was lost and is now with Gabriel. Gabriel is experiencing Heaven with his sibling! Why have I never thought of all of this before?
I remember a friend of mine explained that she always "felt" the baby she miscarried was a boy, and that she named him. In the book, the little boy shares that his sister in Heaven didn't have a name, because his parents never gave her one. I'm now comfortable enough emotionally to share that I always felt my first July baby was a girl. And I have decided her name is Mercy, because she escaped the hardness of this life by the grace of God.
Somehow, I've found more healing since giving her a name. And I can't wait until Friday, when I celebrate turning 30 by having three more stars added to the top of my foot - four stars total to symbolize the four children I have.
Reading the bible with Joel the other night really solidified my decision to honor my children in this way. Genesis 15:5 reads, The the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, "Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. This is how many descendants you will have!"
Joel's really into rhyming words... The other day he was going through everyone's name, "Daddy Patty, Mama Llama, Joel Bowl, Zoe Oh-ee, what's Gabe's name?" I said, "He's Gabey Baby, remember?" Then Joel started talking about Gabe. More than he's ever talked about his brother. He told me that he knew he was in Heaven, and that I'd put him there (??), but wanted to know if he'd be back tomorrow. He told me that it made him sad that he wasn't here. I was stunned. I just kept folding laundry, trying to stay quiet, to allow him to say as much or as little as he wanted. It was so incredible to hear.
Then I asked him if he thought we should have another baby. Yes, of course we should. "I need a brother." "And we should name him Sam?" "Yes, Mama."
As a parent, you feel priviledged to speak to your children about Jesus, but it's a special kind of honor to talk to them about someone who is actually with Jesus, a sibling they only met for a few moments... two and a half years ago. I am so grateful that he remembers his little brother. I am so thankful that having a brother who has passed away gives my son more perspective about Jesus, Heaven, and eternity.