Often when I am out and about I get comments on the fact that I have 3 girls. Things like "Wow! You have your hands full!" Or, "Are you going to try for a boy?" Or, "3 Girls? What a blessing."
And it never fails that sweet Hope chimes in with, "We have a brother, too."
Her heart is sensitive, and she loves her big brother, Paul, fiercely. She never fails to include him in our family count, quickly correcting me if I number us at 5. After the last time we got our family photos taken, on the way home, she asked if we could include a white spot in the picture where Paul would be.
So, when she innocently puts strangers in an awkward position of responding to her remembrance of her older brother, I smile at her with approval.
Her questions about him and that season in our lives are insightful, sensitive and mature. She wants to know why we can't go look at his body. She wants to know what our sadness was like. She wants to know if he will be a baby in Heaven. She wants to know how we knew he had died. She has made observations such as: "I bet when you heard that other people were having babies, it made you sad."
She cries for him. We had planned to be in Louisville this week for his 7th birthday, but had to cancel due to some unexpected things coming up. When we told her, she burst into tears sobbing "But we won't be there for Paul's birthday?" And as we looked at his scrapbook she cried and commented, "You were so happy getting ready for him."
We were happy. And then we were really, really sad. And if you had asked me 7 years ago if I'd ever say this again, I would have never thought it possible, but we are happy, again.
Sometimes when Hope gets sad about Paul dying, I remind her of how God began to restore our joy: with her. I remind her of how we longed to be parents and knew we were parents but did not have a child to care for. I remind her that her first cry healed many wounds. I remind her of how very thankful we were and are for her life.
But I don't want to stop there, because I know that even if God had not chosen to begin to heal us with more children, He would have done it in other ways. I remind her that God is big and created all - including the universe, we are very small, and that He is good. I remind her that God wants our faith, trust and submission - even when it seems impossibly hard. I remind her that God did the impossibly hard thing of sending Jesus into the most humblest of circumstances here on earth so He could give his life for the sin I blatantly commit daily against Him... and this makes my faith, trust and submission not seem as much of a sacrifice.
Happy 7th birthday, sweet Baby Paul. Your life continues to send out ripples of impact that push us to see God more clearly. We all love you and miss you.