In the middle of a midnight drive, in a terrible rainstorm, I saw it. A giant boat rising up on the side of the interstate out of the chaos.
A bubble of laughter burst from my throat unexpectedly. “That’s a boat! I mean seriously there’s a boat on the road!”
I thrilled a little in imagining it to be a modern day Noah’s Ark sort of situation. I giggled like a kid at the silliness of finding a boat all by itself on the interstate, ready to face the oncoming deluge should it devolve into a worldwide flood.
It had been a really terrible night. And a wonderful night.
My family and I had been visiting with old friends and were on our way back from Long Island to PA where I have family, when I accidentally directed us through Time Square. Yes. Accidentally. Who does that? I still think my GPS owes me an explanation for THAT set of directions. But we got to show that place of bustling craziness to our oldest son who had lived there with us as a baby.
“Mom, what is this place? Why are we here?”
“It’s New York City. And I don’t know.”
“I LOVE it Mom! Look at all the people Mom! This is amazing!”
We skipped through the traffic and did our best not to hit jaywalkers. We both laughed heartily when a car pulled around us in our left-turn lane to turn left from the right hand lane because we were not FAST enough. And I got a phone call, somewhere in the middle of the mad dash through Manhattan, that somewhere a baby had died.
Softly in his sleep. His mother, my community member, fellow teacher and fellow Mom, sat somewhere in devastation.
And I had to look back to my family. To give us directions so that we could find Lincoln tunnel before we got lost in the labyrinth of NYC forever. To talk to my son about where we were until he fell back asleep. To squeeze my younger son’s leg and make sure he was still breathing, because I needed to hear that. Over and over again I checked.
And my husband and I had this magnificent conversation about life, and love, and sadness. I had just received permission to use the name of another Son who had died almost exactly one year before. To use his name for the unborn child I now carry, a child who is to be my third son. He will bear the name of my own family’s lost son so that we can remember, and take joy in a life well-lived, and bring forth new life in the midst of sadness.
And it was one of those conversations that marks a place in time. As if we were getting to step outside of time for just a little bit to review where we had been. To muse on where we would go and ponder how we would walk through great tragedy should it ever come to us. We laughed, and we cried (Ok, I mostly cried and my husband sat in respectable somber silence). And we were at once joyful and hopeful and devastated. And I did my best to hold all of it without dropping any of those feelings, wrapping it like gossamer and thorns around my own heart. I held the meaning of the grief and the memories and the giggling all at once…
as we drove into one of the worst thunder storms I have ever been in.
And we spent 3 hours blundering through rain so thick we couldn’t see the lines on the road, only forging ahead because every other car had their emergency flashers on too, little blinking lighthouses to follow into the night that, themselves, could take a tumble off the road. My knuckles gripped my seat in anxiety as I continued to cry and laugh. I thought about our beautiful night, the real fear of driving on a road we could not see, and that I was experiencing all this at the same time another mother somewhere was having the worst night of her life, and two more I know were remembering the not so distant worst night of theirs.
And Jonathon and I, we held all of these things up. We tried to bear the weight with courage. To fully exult in the joyful and mourn for the brokenness and loss.
And that boat rose up from the storm, like a whimsical love letter to us straight from the God I’ve always thought was just a touch sarcastic and wry (in the best way of course). And I honestly don’t know if I was laughing or crying more.
And we drove home to where my brand new baby niece sleeps in her brand new home with my brother and his wife. Where there were more snuggles to be had and new life to be enjoyed.
And I was so very truly sad-happy in terrible and wonderful sincerity.
It was a treasure-all-these-things-up-in-our-hearts-night.
And we held it all together as we crawled into our bed to try and sleep. Full of wonder, free of fear, trusting that God would hold us whatever would come.
We laid there believing he holds those in grief so closely: past and future, all who have ever mourned and all who ever will. Like children believing our parent knows where we are going in the storm and that somehow, simply because of who they are, who HE is, no matter what happens, the car will stay on the road and we will be ok.
And I still believe that we will be.