An Earthly Grief

No words will do this glimpse of time justice, but I'll do everything in my ability to try - written with permission and only the highest honor for some of my dearest friends.

Last night I said goodbye to three parts of my heart. I've been suppressing the emotions that have been leading up to this moment for nearly two years, because if you know me at all you must know how much I hate to feel sadness... at the risk of sounding dramatic, I would almost not rather feel at all some days. Christian, Esther, and Judah were called by a Most Holy God to serve the people of Kauai, to love them and spread the gospel of Christ to a hurting island. For that, I give God honor and glory; because among much else, He is a God of restoration, of hope, and of salvation. But to reach that end, losses had to be accommodated for, and while nothing will ever change my love for them, I feel the loss of having a brother and sister that have been there for so much now needing to go so far.

Our friendship was not born out of ordinary means, it was birthed out of a good God's sovereignty over a very dark time. I was called by a mutual friend to the hospital where they were saying their last goodbyes to their second born babe, where Heaven and earth would kiss for a only moment to catch Ezra's little soul up to Glory. That September Sunday I knew I was walking into a room that would be full of loss, but I had no idea that within the eternal expanse of God's love He would be giving me three more souls to love, and a fourth little one to long to know upon our heavenly meeting. There were many moments at the hospital that day that made me genuinely love this company of strangers, the way they accepted me into the sacred ground of that hospital room being one of them. I'll always remember that room that held little Ezra, with the shades drawn on the opposite wall's window. I'll always remember Ezra's mom greeting me with a hug and saying, "Thank you for being here." We had never met until that moment, but the grace with which she made that humble remark in a moment as holy as that, sealed itself forever in my mind. I remember knowing on that day that somehow I wanted to know these people for the rest of my life, that somehow Esther would be one of my dearest friends. On such a day to think such a thought could only be providence, because I'm sure their minds were a million miles away. I'm sure something new on that day was the last thing they could've ever wanted, and more than anything I wish I could've just met them on the street, at the park, or anywhere else.

But God. He took Ezra home for reasons I'll never know, but the repercussions of that day will continue to echo through souls and reverberate off of hearts until the moment before eternity. Ezra's ten month old life mattered immeasurably, because it gave his parents immeasurable joy, and because it brought people to a memorial service full of hope where they may never have wanted to step into a church otherwise. Ezra's life was somehow a part of the plan that would lead people to Christ in Hawaii. And Ezra's life gave us his parents and brother's lives, too.

After I left the hospital that day, I only saw them once before the night our friendship blossomed. Through the same mutual friend that led me to the hospital, I heard about Ezra's memorial service and knew I needed to be there. It was an open service, and having been there to capture his final moments I knew I needed one more moment to honor his family. After that gospel filled service concluded, I walked through the reception line to give my condolences to Christian and Esther. Me, a stranger, walked up to a grieving father to give some measly 'sorry for your loss', words that were as worthless as anything I could offer was almost unfathomable. I stepped before him, and he looked down at me and said earnestly, "Thank you so much for being there." That same statement etched with countless sound waves of meaning that his wife had expressed less than a week earlier. Why these two people were so full of grace in the midst of such unspeakable loss floored me. But it also grew this honor I had for them, still strangers meeting in holy places.

I left the memorial changed a little more. I also left wanting to reach out, wanting to do anything I could to love on them, but I knew I needed to give them time - they had a church family, and I needed to trust that an outpouring of love was going to cover them. I needed to step away and wait.

After over a month my phone buzzed, the text message started something like, "Hey, I don't know if you remember me, but..." it was Esther, looking to see if I could photograph them and Judah. How could I not remember these souls that had changed my own? Nothing in me would ever forget. We set a date for our photo session, and met there on the appointed day. Meeting them at our location was like once again stepping onto holy ground. They brought sacred places with them, because God was with them, their response to His love radiated - even in the grief of capturing their family in such a time as that.

Throughout our session together I knew there was more than just a timely meeting, I knew with everything in me that we were meant to do life together. I knew Christian and David could blend personalities, something about that time around Christian just set me so at ease that I could tell joining our two husbands would be easy. We wrapped up the shoot and were preparing to leave, me talking about getting together sometime. Of all times, so soon after our hospital meeting, and yet I couldn't leave without saying something. They seemed interested in getting together, but they didn't know where I was going with it yet. I asked more specifically this time, "What are you doing tonight?" They looked at one another and had no plans, so we chose a location and I called David on the way home, letting him know to get Little Abear ready, we were meeting these folks for dinner. David wasn't with me at the hospital, he wasn't there at the memorial, and he wasn't at the photo shoot. He only knew what I had said, and what I had said was all in awe.

We met for dinner, and remarked within moments that Judah and Little Abear were already best friends. Our conversation around that little dinner table flowed, and leaving just left me wanting more. It wasn't for a couple of months that we got together again, and from there on out we walked through life together. It hasn't been an "easy" friendship, we have had valleys and mountaintops and everything in between, but that's real life. It's the kind of friendship that's stuck because there were moments that didn't feel so sticky and yet here we are, mourning our loss because it's so great.

Watching our husbands grow as friends, stand by one another in the toughest of times, and look out for one other like brothers has been a greater blessing that I've deserved to see. Having Esther by my side, being greeted by her warm hugs and tender smile has only exposed God's grace ever more. Ella coming home to them as part of our community mattered, because these are some parts of our world she needed to know. Even little Judah and Little Abear have pushed and pulled and stretched their friendship to lead up to a moment where tears of genuine grief were shed by my son as they embraced last night. There is a love shared here that won't end here. I have gained a brother, a best friend, and a little five year old baby face of joy.

God is faithful, He gives in seasons of loss, He uses us to carry one another when we can no longer stand. These are some of those friends that inspire us to be better humans. God has been so merciful in the giving of friendships, my heart is full just thinking of the names of people I would give my life for. The fact that even last night one of my longest and closest friends was telling me that she was sad to see this family go is a testament to their character. Christian, Esther and Judah are tender-hearted, long suffering, kind, patient, bearing with one another... they are arms and feet and hands of Christ, they are mountain movers, and they will be surely missed.

Until our first visit, and all the visits after that lead to Heaven's gates, I pray that God would use them mightily; that they would serve Him humbly, and that we would know each other until forever.