Something in Common With a Stranger

child grasping handIt was a hot, muggy afternoon as I made my way across the large, gravel parking lot. I was on my way to watch the high school cross country meet that I had both a sister and a brother competing in. Kyla skipped along beside me, and I noticed an older gentleman nearby chuckle. As he walked the same direction, he said, “Aren’t they just great!” His genuine comment caught my attention since more often than not, I hear people complain about kids, especially two-year-olds. He smiled at Kyla, and asked that notorious question, “Is she your only one?” I barely hesitated, unsure of how my response would be received, but unwilling to leave Esther out. “She is my only one here, but I have another one in heaven.” Without missing a beat, he exclaimed, “I do too. My little girl…I lost my nine year old daughter.” I said I was so sorry, but he went right on. “We were able to have four other children, and now we have seventeen grandchildren, with another one on the way. It’s just wonderful.” I expressed my agreement at how wonderful children are, he said goodbye, and we parted ways at the end of the parking lot. I walked away feeling like I had just spoken with an old friend, yet I didn’t even know his name.

As I drove away awhile later, I was still thinking about this mysterious father and grandfather. Would he have mentioned his daughter in heaven if I had not mentioned mine? I’ll never know, but in just an instant, I saw a glimpse into this stranger’s heart, and found two things in common with my own:

1. A parent missing a child, and;

2. A person recognizing the absolute blessing of life.

More and more on this journey, I am learning that these things go hand in hand. Of course I have always valued life. Yet I realize now how much I took it for granted. I understand the immense gift of a beating heart like I never could before.  Most people I know would say they value life, too. But there is a depth of understanding that is impossible to grasp until you have lost a life.

I wish it was possible to learn this without really learning it. I’d give back the depth of my knowledge, experience, and new perspectives on life and death, just to have my baby in my arms. But since I cannot change what happened, I will note this: losing a child truly changes the way you see life. It changes the way you see pregnancy, childbirth, morning sickness, and stretch marks. It changes the way you see sleepless nights, dirty diapers, car seats, and spit up. It changes the way you see pediatrician bills, crib and stroller costs, and grocery budgets. It changes the way you see the time, effort, heart, and life that goes into parenting. It changes everything…

The man I met in the parking lot had experienced this perspective change, and now expressed absolute joy in the gift of new life, whether it be through his children or someone else’s. I have met so many other parents who have walked through a loss, and this is something I have found to be quite common – a true recognition of the blessing of children.

When the future with your little one is snatched away in an instant, you suddenly realize everything about a baby, a child – a son, or a daughter is a joy. It is all a blessing.

I’m thankful for the friends (and strangers) I meet who walk out this truth through the heartbreak of loss. It reminds me I am not alone in this journey – others have walked here. And others have found joy even in the midst of pain by valuing what God values…Children.

Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Psalm 127:3

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