Tonight as I put Audrey in her bed, I hugged her a little tighter, a little longer, and took in all the feelings of being her mama; the sounds, the smells, the way her hair is always out of control. I just sat on the bed next to her and held her tight, holding back tears, and told her how much I love her and how much God loves her. This last year has been so hard on all of us but as Adam and I grieve our son, it’s easy to forget that our 2 year old is grieving too. She doesn’t really understand it, but her life has been turned upside down. It will never be the same as it was supposed to be. She doesn’t know it, but she lost her best friend in February. She doesn’t know it, but George Mason was born and died and his short life completely changed how she will go through life. Her experience with death in her toddlerhood is going to shape her faith, her love for others. It is going to make her so strong in ways she never knew she would need to be strong. It is building a layer of her personality that she didn’t know she had. She will never remember what life was like before George Mason but she will also not remember what life was like after him.

My heart breaks when I think about all of the ways that her brother changed her. As I hugged her close tonight, after a very long day of parenting, those tears welled up because I forget that she’s grieving. She’s smart. She’s observant. She doesn’t necessarily know what she’s seeing and hearing and picking up on, but she is feeling it. She is feeling the anxiety that consumes my days. She is feeling the stress that plagues her Daddy. She is feeling it all and processing it as best as her toddler mind allows. Knowing and seeing her grief in whatever form it takes makes me so incredibly thankful for the God I serve. This grief can be crippling. It can eat you up. It can tug at every emotion and then some. Those are hard things for even the most self aware grown up... let alone a toddler. So yes, I’m thankful for this caring and mighty God. I’m thankful for songs like “my God is big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do” because it reminds me - and teaches her - that this grief isn’t going to cripple her. Instead, this grief is going to strengthen her. It is going to point her to Jesus in a very real and necessary way. She may not know yet what it means to really love Jesus. She may not understand what it means that George Mason is in heaven with Jesus. She may not even know what it means when she hears that God loves her. But all of those things are truths that she will come to know and understand with a complexity well beyond her years. All because God, her God, cares for her.

I miss my son. I hate that his death is part of our story. I hate that my toddler knows the things she knows. But I love that God is at work. He is working in this broken mama even on the days where my patience is non existent and my anxiety is through the roof. He is working in my husband even when life is stressful and providing for and leading this family isn’t easy. And he is working in the precious heart of 2.5 year old Audrey Nole, as she takes in and takes on this life as big sister to a brother in heaven.

For God is carefully working in you both to desire and to do that thing which you desire” - Philippians 2:13