Ezra's 5th birthday in heaven

Today was our day to welcome the Christmas season in our home. We've done it this way on December 2nd for the past four years and the meaning behind it is incredibly significant to us. Five years ago today I was in labor, expecting our second baby boy, Ezra Shepherd Sweat. I was in an abnormal amount of pain, and when they put the doppler to my stomach for a heart beat they found none. My world spun. I literally remember the room spinning, Steven crying, and all I could say was "oh God". I still don't know if I was saying that as a cry to God or as an exclamation of my shock and pain. I gave birth to him a few hours later. I remember feeling a wonderful excitement when I first saw him after my final push, then the next second complete devastation when I remembered that his beautiful, tiny body was lifeless. But he looked so perfect. So incredibly perfect. I held him and I loved it. I loved him. I held him our entire 2 day hospital stay. The real pain began when we had to leave him and somehow begin to live life again after leaving the hospital as a postpartum woman with empty arms.
In many ways I'm thankful that it was Christmas time. It gave me a reason to get out of bed. It gave me things to do with my family that felt purposeful. Eternal. And that's all I wanted to engage in - eternal things. I praise God for the foundation of truth he had laid in my life leading up to this painful time, because it all came back to me then. In songs, hymns, verses. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that my baby was in heaven. I think he just blessed me with never doubting that. And so out of complete desperation and pain, I read the scriptures. I listened to hymns and music about Jesus. Anything that would keep my mind fixed on heaven because that kept my connection to my baby who was in heaven. It gave me hope. For me, losing a child so suddenly left me feeling utterly helpless and gave me a raw, deep down, soul realization that I am completely powerless and I need the complete power, compassion, and love that only God can give. Otherwise, I was sunk. That Christmas season, though filled with pain, was the beginning of the most intense time of spiritual growth in my life. The meaning of advent became deep and real. I could suddenly identify on some small level with the pain God must have felt when he sent his only son away from him, to a place where his son was destined to die. To give his life to save the lives of his father's creation. I still feel like I haven't connected all of the ways in which this experience of my loss deepens my appreciation for God sending his son at Christmas. And I suppose I prefer it that way. Each Christmas season there are new dots to connect and little pieces of a bigger picture continue to find their place and I relax a little bit more into the mystery of how God loves me. It seems that he often reveals his love in ways that don't make sense to me. Sometimes it doesn't feel like love, it feels like pain. But I know that my ways are not his ways, and his thoughts are higher than my thoughts. So how could I understand? How could I know why he does things the way he does? Maybe the goal isn't for us to know how, but for our trust to deepen. I am the created of my creator. I could not possibly know his ways. And when I count all the gifts he has given me, when I look at my amazing husband and my three little miracles that follow me most everywhere I go, I feel very loved by my creator. And when I look at the star on the top of my tree while "Hark the Herold Angels Sing" fills my living room, then I am filled with wonder that God really loved me so much that he gave up his son. I know that kind of pain. I would never have chosen it, but God did. Only a truly loving God could make a sacrifice so great.
And so our Christmas season is bittersweet. Bitter because we will never stop missing our baby while we are here on earth, but it is so poignantly sweet because of my renewed hope of heaven and deep assurance of God's love and Ezra's life is what points me towards all of it. Though it was a painful and mysterious gift to unwrap, he truly gave us an unspeakably sweet gift when he gave us Ezra. He gave us life. Eternal life.
So today we ushered in Christmas with Christmas traditions and Ezra's birthday traditions. We made Christmas cookies, let balloons "go to heaven" for Ezra, trimmed our Christmas tree, and dedicated the whole day to being together as a family and enjoying the gift of one another.
Happy birthday my sweet baby Ezra! We love you and miss you!


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