By: Shirley Brosius
The trill of a jenny wren still sends a pang of sadness through me. Many years ago, 45 to be exact, my youngest child, my only daughter, died a few hours after her birth. It was a chilly spring, and as I hung out laundry, a jenny wren sang from a tree. But its cheerful song sharply contrasted with the chill that gripped my heart. That birdsong continues to remind me of what might have made my life just about perfect.
From the moment I realized I was pregnant, I pictured us as a family of five. In those days you didn’t know if you were expecting a boy or a girl, but in my mind I saw us seated around our kitchen table—my husband Bill, two sons, the baby and me—a perfect family. I prepared a nursery in shades of green and yellow.
My church family prayed for me. My sisters held a baby shower. Surely all would be well. Christy Marie arrived five weeks early, but the only cries came from my husband and me. Within a few hours she returned to her heavenly Father. I flipped through my Bible, searching for hope, but the pages rustled like dry leaves. How could this happen? Why would God permit this tragedy?
I begged to see Christy in the hospital, but the head nurse leaned across my bed, took me by the shoulders, and said they knew what was best for me.
Only my husband was allowed to see her. A good friend bought Christy a white dress with red-threaded tucks across the bodice, and we scheduled a private viewing.
At our graveside service our pastor spoke on 2 Samuel 12:23 where David said of his deceased son: “I shall go to him, he shall not return to me.” That was true but hard to accept. We went home, and I felt people dismissed my pain, since no one talked about the baby.
People seemed to think that since that chapter of my life had closed, I needed to move on.
Wanting to be helpful, my sisters took away the shower gifts before I got home from the hospital, so I had no mementos of our little girl. Years later I saw the gifts on my mother’s attic and quickly turned away. Why didn’t I retrieve them? I guess it just hurt too much.
Nowadays hospitals let grieving parents hold their babies. They give them bereavement blankets and tiny caps to treasure a baby’s memory. But in those days, hospital personnel didn’t know the comfort such things might bring to a mother’s broken heart.
It’s devastating to lose a child, even a child you’ve never held. But God sees your pain, and He sees you through the darkness.
God provides scriptures to help and to heal. For me it was Psalm 42. The Sunday after Christy’s funeral, Bill took our boys to church and I heard the song “As the Deer Pants” on the station. That chorus led me to Psalm 42 (KJV), which expressed my feelings.
The psalmist spoke of thirsting for God as the deer thirsts for water. A deer needs water to survive, and I thirsted to know God better to survive this tragedy. I wanted to understand what had happened from God’s perspective, in light of eternity. I wanted again to feel God’s peace and comfort.
Like the psalmist, my tears were my “meat” day and night. Just when I thought I had my emotions under control, I would again start to cry. No one taunted me, but I felt my friends expected me to be over my grief. After all, as one reminded me on a card, I had two sons. Like the waves and billows described by the psalmist, grief washed over me.
The psalmist wrote of feeling “downcast,” and I certainly felt depressed. But then the psalmist remembered what God had done in the past and trusted him for the future. That gave me hope that things might get better, that I might move through my grief. So I reminded myself of the good things God had done for me. After all, the card was right—I was blessed with two sons and a wonderful husband.
I memorized the Psalm and ran it through my mind as I cried myself to sleep. Gradually, over time, my tears subsided, but because I had never talked about my grief, some stayed bottled up.
About 30 years later I spoke at a women’s retreat and again tears surfaced as I referred to Christy’s brief life. Afterwards, two women came up and asked to pray with me. I don’t remember their words, but what they said helped me to picture Christy in heaven. I began to include a “Please say ‘hello’ to Christy” in my daily prayers. That gave me a different perspective, a heavenly perspective.
Through my pregnancy, I had lost my hearing and needed surgery and a year later needed a hysterectomy because of cancer. In those days they put you in the maternity ward to recuperate. By the time I came through all that, I felt I would never again lead a productive life.
But a few years later, I enrolled in seminary, and my studies got my mind off my grief. In time I returned to my profession as a teacher and later served as a director of Christian education. Then the Lord redirected my life to include writing and speaking.
I’m grateful that God restored my life and helped me again find purpose and meaning. And I’m grateful that He helped me to accept a different path than what I had expected.
Like anticipating the birth of a child, I look forward to a reunion with Christy in heaven. Yes, I still chill to the trill of a wren. It stirs a bittersweet memory of what might have been. But it’s a much softer pang of sadness.
About Shirley Brosius
Shirley Brosius is an author and speaker from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, who enjoys reading, doing jigsaw puzzles with her husband Bill and keeping up with two married sons and five young adult grandchildren.
Her inspirational and devotional articles have been published in many magazines such as Guideposts for Kids, The Upper Room and adult Sunday school take-home papers. She speaks at women’s events as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through skits, messages and songs (www.friendsoftheheart.us).