It has been thirteen years since I held you in my arms. Thirteen years since I looked at your little face and your tiny hands and feet. Thirteen years since I sat on a hospital bed, broken, overwhelmed with sorrow, and wondering how I would ever recover from the loss of my baby.
After everyone left, after the nurse took you away, when the room was dark and silent, the Lord met me in my darkest hour.
And that night, just hours after saying goodbye to you, the Lord began to gently bind my wounds and revive my crushed spirit.
Tears flowed freely day and night for weeks and my heart felt like it was being smashed inside my chest, but even in the deepest moments of grief, He held me tightly in His grip. He sustained me in my sorrow.
And He protected my mind. For, Matthew, I could not do so myself. I wondered ... did you feel pain when you died? Were you scared? Did you know who I was? Would you know my voice? Recognize my face when we reunite in glory?
I wondered if I could have prevented your death. Was it something I did? Something I ate? Did I put my selfish needs above your needs, preventing you from being healthy and whole?
The questions and fears did not linger long, but they made sure to knock on the door of my mind, begging to be allowed in. And each time, I had to force myself to speak the truth I knew was real even though I didn't understand it, or like it.
Your journal is filled with my questions, my thoughts, my confusion, and my praise. I knew you were fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and I knew He loved you with an everlasting love. I knew He had chosen the day of your death just as He had chosen the day of your birth. I knew He was powerful enough to restore life to you. But, He didn't. And though I didn't know "why," I had to ask, "What, Lord? What do you want me to learn from this?"
Matthew, your death changed everything. It changed how your dad and I view God's sovereignty. It changed how we view our family. It changed how I pray. How I trust God. How I read Scripture. Everything I knew before was now being seen, pondered and lived through the lens of suffering. And while it was the most intense trial the Lord has ever asked me to walk through, it is also one of the greatest gifts He has ever given to me.
The Lord used your death to strengthen me, Matthew.
I am not the same woman I was the day I held your precious, lifeless body in my arms.
He used your death to push me to my knees in prayer.
Bury my face in the pages of Scripture.
Fall in love with worship music so I could praise Him through tears.
Learn to say, "I need."
Learn to swallow pride and accept help.
He used your death to teach me how to recognize and comfort the hurting, even when it was uncomfortable.
He used your death to start a ministry that reaches out to women who are as broken and sorrow-filled as I was the night I wept inconsolably on the closet floor.
Your life, your 133 days, were purposeful and beautiful and changed the trajectory of my life, forever.
You are our son, Matthew Isaac Eastman.
From the moment we knew you existed until this very day, we have acknowledged your life.
Every year, on the anniversary of your delivery, your father brings me seven bouquets of flowers, representing the lives of each Eastman child. Though we have never felt your arms around our necks, listened to you laugh, or heard you whisper, "I love you," in the darkness of night, you are an Eastman. And you are ours. Our precious son.
It took time, years actually, but I will never forget the day I stood on the sandy shore of the Pacific Ocean on Mother's Day, with your sister Ellie bundled in my arms, and finally cried out, "Thank You, Lord, for taking my son," while tears streamed down my face. It was the most difficult act of obedience I have ever surrendered to ... praising the God who takes away.
And yet, as the sound of the crashing waves faded in the background while I walked away from the shore, I felt a peace and contentment I had never experienced. I thought I had surrendered in the dark night of the hospital room, but I had merely taken the first step into surrender.
And God carried me through every step thereafter. Faithfully. Patiently. And with grace.
Oh, Matthew, as deeply as you are loved (and missed) by me and your father, I am thankful you have only known the perfect love of the One who created you, the One who numbered your days, and the One who chose to give you - to us.
You are real. You are ours. And you will never be forgotten.
I love you. ❤ Mom