August 10th came and went. Life is normal. Things keep moving, keep going. But there has been a knot in my stomach for the last week. It’s the most conscious, yet simultaneously unconscious, awareness of the dates. My sweet son was born and met Jesus on the very same day. A day that happened 18 months ago yet lives in my heart and my mind as if it were only yesterday. I’m not sure that I will ever really get over that freshness of his day. Part of me desperately hopes I don’t. That there will always be a closeness to my boy because of how vivid the memories of his day are. The touch of his soft skin. The smell of his newborn body. The sweet, and heartbreaking, coughs as he took his final breaths. I don’t ever want to forget those moments. I share them with people as often as I have the chance, because all of the love a mama can muster for her children doesn’t go away simply because that child isn’t with her. My son lived only 16 hours, but I have enough love for him to last a lifetime and then some.

Perhaps that is the hardest part of this loss. Knowing my son, loving my son, but not being able to actualize that love in the way my heart desires. Instead of snuggles and kisses on toes, I have pictures and memories; often accompanied by tears. I don’t have laughter from my 18 month old who is getting into everything and chasing his sister around the house. I have hard conversations with my 3 year old about death. That it hurts but it’s not scary. That everyone will die, hopefully when they are old and grown. Try to explain to a tender heart that the permanence of death, and it’s inevitable sadness, isn’t actually the worst that can happen. She tells me often that she wants to go to heaven to play with her brother. She also tells me often that she doesn’t want me to die like her Grammy and her brother. And that she is not going to die until she is very old; and married to a prince. I just hug her and tell her that whenever death comes, for me or her or anyone, we can rejoice in the beginning of the best days. Because heaven is eternity with Jesus. And Jesus is pretty dang cool. And while we miss the people that die before us, we can rest assured that they aren’t missing us. That there is no sorrow to be had on those streets of gold. And that while we miss our son/brother/mother/ etc, it is only temporary, for we are destined for heaven because we are Gods children.

Audrey starts preschool soon. It’s a day that I have been both anticipating and dreading. She is going to love school. She will thrive on the social parts and be wonderfully stimulated by the educational stuff she will also likely get in trouble a lot. For talking, or bossing, or typical 3 year old first born stuff. It’s going to be good for us, for our family.  It it’s going to be hard too. Because with each milestone we reach as a family, there is a big, obvious hole, where George Mason should be. And where her daddy and I can process that internally, she cannot. So her entire class will know her brother. That’s both the sweetest and most heavy thing I can imagine. I’ve been praying for those kids in her class, that their hearts would be prepared to love George Mason in the same way as Audrey Nole. That the weight of his death wouldn’t be a weight at all. That they will not be burdened by Audrey’s grief, but instead be encouragers to her as she moves through this next season. God is good, that we know. And in this next transition for our family, we can know that He will be the same foundation he has been over the last 18 months. He will also be exactly what we need for each day, each minute, and every memory or moment that comes upon us.

We survived the first 18 months. Thank God for that. Now we keep trusting that our survival continues. But that we can also begin to thrive as we hold tightly to God’s promises. We follow His lead and we live out this story He has written for us. Because death has not won nor will it ever. And the hero of our story is not of our own making, but the one who made everything. Who is everywhere. And who is committed to His children, through all of the ups and downs.