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Happy at a Funeral

“Mommy, Why are you happy on that day when Hudson was dead?” My 5-year-old asks. He is referring to the Celebration of Life event. His question doesn’t rattle me. I hug him tightly while he is sitting on my lap watching the video I made of Hudson’s life.

“because I loved having the chance to share with everyone all the things I love about Hudson.” He continues to watch the movie but his face says this isn’t settled in his heart. I get it, why should a mother be smiling at her son’s funeral. There has to be more to the story.

“…and because I know this isn’t the end.” He looks at me with a question mark on his face.

So I continue. “I know God has Hudson. and he is safe. and happy. and I know I get to see him again.”

He moves off my lap and rolls over on the couch to finish watching the movie on his own.

These are common conversations in our home since the passing of Hudson. Sometimes we have answers for our questions and sometimes we don’t; Sometimes the answers settle well with our souls and sometimes they leave us puzzled, confused, or feeling alone.

But what caught Jack’s attention that day is the same thing that impacted me…why was Mommy happy at her son’s funeral? The funeral was 6 weeks ago, I had not realized that Jack had even noticed. This is the first I have heard him speak of it.

However, it was something I had noticed and had thought much about since that day. When I first realized I would need to plan a funeral my heart couldn’t handle it. I felt my heart push it away with such intensity it was nauseating. I couldn’t even talk about it. As the week went on, help from others helped me get the planning started. I found myself getting excited about sharing all the little details of Hudson’s life. It felt like I was getting to throw him a birthday party. It felt like I was getting to redeem some of my loss through planning a celebration.

I felt this shift in my heart, but it didn’t seem to make sense to my head. How is planning a funeral similar to a birthday? Wouldn’t it point out all the birthdays we were missing out on? All the life that was left unlived? Well, it wasn’t that linear of a comparison.

In the midst of the planning I was getting to focus on all the memories I had loved over the past 7 months. I pulled pictures, sonograms, family movies. I pulled out things I loved like his bedding, clothes, the cow with his heartbeat recorded on it. I was placing before me all my favorite memories that we had created over the past 7 months and I was working on ways of sharing all that happiness and excitement with family and friends. I was celebrating all the joy that little guy had brought to my life. For a moment, I got to relive all my happy memories with my son. I was flooded with joy. 

As the celebration day arrived, I wondered if my emotions would shift on me. If the wave would knock me over. If I would be able to stand.

It was the first time I would be facing a crowd of people since our tragic news. Would I be able to withstand well-meaning grievances that could unintentionally pierce my raw heart?

I was nervous and anxious getting ready that morning. My soul kept screaming out, “I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS.” I felt like my chest could burst from my soul’s pain. I could feel the emotion climbing up the bottom of my throat. “This shouldn’t be happening. I want a different story. I want my son back.”

Our family arrived early. I cried. We walked around to thank each person who had a part in planning the celebration. My family began arriving from out of town. I cried on many shoulders. It was the first I had seen most of them. There were plenty of long silent hugs.

Local guests started arriving and I was getting a little nervous. I was in the midst of hugging one of my aunts when I looked up and saw four women walking in the door. All four separately. None of them knowing each other. All arriving at the same time. All four women I have walked with for at least a decade. All four of those women have lost sons and I know their stories intimately.

That moment stood so still and clear for me. God orchestrated that moment perfectly for all four of those women to walk in supporting me at the exact same time with me standing still enough to notice; an intentional message from the perfect Comforter. A hug sent from heaven. These women who I admire and have suffered similar loss before me reminded me that I was not alone and that I am surrounded in greatness. I felt in awe to be in the presence of such strong women. I felt my spine straighten. My courage heighten.

I greeted every guest I could. Genuinely thankful for their attendance. As the music started, I felt nervous again. I was not sure I was going to be able to handle the message without loud uncontrollable sobs, but as Charlie had reminded me many times, it was my son’s funeral I could do whatever I wanted or needed. It was ok to sob if I needed. To walk away if I needed. Ok to greet guests or not greet guests. He reminded me to just take care of me. 

We started with worship songs and peace washed over me, comfort embraced me and my strength was renewed. I was genuinely full of joy and peace. Not like peace that is was going to be ok, but rather peace past understanding. Peace that I already was ok.

That celebration brought such joy and comfort to our life. We placed God’s message and promises in front of us and God showed up. He showed up in the people that arrived and hugged us. He showed up in His Word as we read passages about the power of God. He showed up in the music as we sung his praises and promises. He showed up in watching my husband deliver our personal story in strength and candor. He showed up for my broken heart.

By the time we had eaten I was completely exhausted. I could barely stand to leave. I was so tired. We went home immediately after the service. I found the softest clothes I could find and just relaxed into the joys of the day. Charlie and I both had such smiles on our faces. It filled us so completely and our wounds were assuaged. I slept so well that night.

I often think back on that day and the intense joy I had. I realized I found the formula for my own peace and it was not any more complex than what is taught in kindergarten Sunday School: place Jesus before you, surround yourself with those that support you, and count your blessings.

In the past six weeks, when moments fall dark, I fall back on this formula. I find I am embraced and comforted once again: sometimes that is in a book I read, a song I listen to, a friend who encourages me and speaks truth to me, prayer, indulging in play with my boys, or finding another way to capture and remember the gift of my Hudson. It has taken me making an intentional effort to plow my field and then praying for God to send the rain.

I know the Lord will not waste my pain. Unlike Elisha, I can’t see the big picture. I can’t see the angels when they are fighting my demons. I can’t see what beauty God intends from this pain. I can walk in faith that God’s promises are true. I can choose to notice the provisions God has provided for me during this season. I can choose to remember how He has held me up and comforted me in my darkest of days. I can remember God brought me enough comfort that I was happy at my son’s funeral.