A Portrait of Grief / A Life of Joy

Romans 8:38-39

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

    My wife and I were married on December 18th, 2010 on the only day with snow in South Carolina. From the time that we got married we knew that we wanted kids. I've always wanted to be a Dad and I married a beautiful woman who wanted to have a bunch of little boys. We waited a year and then we decided that we would start trying for a baby. The next month the test came back, we were expecting our first baby. The next several days were full of joy and happiness at the manifold gifts of God. But then Rochelle started to bleed. Within a couple of days, we had miscarried our first child.

    I spent the next several days talking to God. I asked Him "Why?" and "Is this necessary?". There wasn't an easy answer, but our hearts healed quickly with the encouragement from our families. God was using this to prepare me for what was to follow. Two months later we had the news that once again we were pregnant. This time we waited until the second trimester to tell family and friends. We were so excited. It seemed an eternity until 26 weeks when the doctor informed us that we were going to have a baby girl. Alexis Lorraine Scheibner. I had always said that I wanted a little girl called "Alex" and this was to be the name of our first daughter. The official day to wait for was October 11th (how weird is that), 2012.

    18 Weeks into the pregnancy God threw us a curve ball. We were settled and very happy living inGreenville, SC, when I received a surprise call from a church in North Carolina. They asked if I could drive up to interview for the position of AVL Manager. Two weeks later we packed the smallest truck that Uhaul makes (and it was barely half full) and moved to Cary, NC. It was the first time that we had moved and literally knew nobody. However, over the next several months we began to really bond with our new church family. Colonial Baptist was slowly adopting us into their fold. The months flew by. September came with the baby shower. My parents bought us a crib. We were decorating a baby room. This was that high point of my life.

October 3rd, 2012. We started having our first measurable contractions, the day was coming closer. 

October 5th, 2012. The contractions lasted for 4 hours today. We made our first false alarm visit to the hospital.

October 7th, 2012. We went home early from church because the contraction were so close together, but like other times they subsided. 

October 8th, 2012. We called the doctor in the morning because we thought that Rochelle's water might be leaking. They asked us to come into the office later in the day. Rochelle was exhausted, carrying a baby is a lot of work I had come to find out. I came home early from work to pick her up and bring her to the doctor. She had the normal work up before going back to the office and waiting for the doctor. I just remember looking at her and being happy. I wasn't sure why, because I was scared out of my mind about being a dad. But there in that moment, I was happy. The doctor came in and started to make small talk while getting ready to listen to the baby's heartbeat. He started to look for the heartbeat, but he seemed to be having trouble finding it. So we stepped to the room next to ours to have an ultrasound. What we saw would change our lives forever. We saw nothing, there was no heartbeat. When they didn't see anything they rushed us to the doctor next door to get a second opinion. Within about 2 minutes of walking in, the doctor just looked at Rochelle and me and said "I'm so sorry," and left. Rochelle broke down in tears, and I just started to go into a state of shocking numbness. The next half hour was spent talking to the doctors and finding out what had to happen next. However, in all this conversation, nobody could say the words that my baby had died. When we got to the car we just sat there numb. I turned to Rochelle and told her that I would call our families to let them know. The first person that I called was my Mother. When I got on the phone with her was when I finally lost it. It was the first time that anybody had said that Alexis was gone. I just sat there on the phone crying, unable to console myself. My Mother is an amazing woman, and despite her own tears and shock, she comforted me and told me it was going to be alright. That was the strength that I needed to make the next call. My Mother-in-law didn't take the news well at all. She began wailing and it became necessary for me to calm her down. The last call that I made was to Dr. Burggraff, my pastor. He told me to drive home and he would meet me there. I remember every painstaking minute of that silent drive. We got home and just sat on the coach and stared at the wall. There aren't words that can describe the feelings that we felt. Sorrow seems so one dimensional, despair seems too active when all I could focus on were the facts. I began repeating the same phrase in my head. "These things I know are true, I am loved by my wife, I serve a risen Saviour, I am preceded in life by my daughter". Over and over I would say this to myself, as if to convince myself that it was true. I guess this was an old habit I had learned from my Mother, she used to always say; "Focus on what is true" in those times when the "What if's" of life were screaming loudest. But despite it all, the "What if's" were starting to take over. Not a moment to soon, Dr. Burggraff arrived with his wife Lucy and they invited themselves into our apartment. They sat and cried with us for a bit, and then did something I didn't expect. They told us to go and pack our bags and that we were coming home with them. I didn't know this at the time, but that was exactly what Rochelle and I needed. That night they did everything in their power to just be normal. We watched football, layed around in PJ's, and generally did nothing. I posted my first post to Facebook and it said;

"Things I know are true… I am seeking to be a man after God's own heart. I am married to the most amazing woman on earth. I am the father of a daughter who has preceded me to the arms of my Heavenly Father. I will glorify God."

Finally, Rochelle and I went to bed, for a night of no sleep and many tears.

October 9th, 2012. Lucy came into the breakfast nook and informed us that she would be taking us into the hospital and staying as long as we wanted her. When we got to the hospital both Rochelle and I had a bit of a steel resolve. We knew what we had to do was going to be hard, but we also knew that God would get us through it. Right after we were checked in, my boss, Mike Malpass, showed up and told us that he was going to stay if we would have it. The atmosphere in the room was light hearted as Mike told us stories, and Lucy offered helpful labor advice. Around noon was when I checked facebook for the first time. Both Rochelle's and my walls were covered in people praying for us. The family of God was beginning to grieve for our loss. Rochelle got an email from a person who she didn't know who told her of her loss and promised us that the pain doesn't get better, but you find a place for it in your heart and you can move on (The truth of this is evident, as I'm sitting here writing this with tears in my eyes, but I'm not still a broken man). God carried us through the day and at 7:10 Alexis was born. When the nurse handed my precious baby daughter to me I was overwhelmed with the grief of my heart, and the joy of God. He had used the encouragement of others to prepare my heart and give me strength. And there I stood, looking into the closed eyes of my daughter. She was so beautiful. I sat with my wife, crying over what was not to be, and praising God for His gift in my life. And Alexis was a gift. That night I posted again to facebook.

"I am learning that pain is real. My heart has never been heavier. But after a day of tears and more than a mountain of emotions there was one emotion that was stronger than the pain, Joy. I was surrounded by people who love me. I watched in awe as the people of God petitioned the throne on my behalf. I watched as my wife learned of a courage she didn't know she had. I got to hold my precious daughter in my arms, and look into her perfect face and say good by. I fell broken before my God and he heard my prayer. Thank you Lord for saving my soul."

    The next several days days were a complete blur, that led up to the funeral for my daughter. As we neared it though, I realized a verse that I had know for a long time.

Nehemiah 8:10; "And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

    The Joy of the Lord is revealed when we don't have the strength to have joy on our own. I was surrounded by love, comfort, friendship, and family. The memorial was beautiful, and people told us of how little Alex's life had impacted them and made them renew their walk with the Lord. Those who had grieved before us at their own losses came to our sides to offer words that can only be spoken if you understand the same pain. God was using this situation to show us that we were right where He wanted us, learning exactly what He wanted us to learn.

    As the months have passed, the grief has gotten easier. I still miss my daughter, and things will happen that will reopen the wounds, but they close quicker now. A grief like this cannot be experienced alone. Without God as the ultimate answer in your life, pain has no purpose. Somebody who was trying to prove a point about my life made the comment that they believed God had taken my daughter as punishment for Rochelle and I moving to North Carolina to serve at Colonial. While this may seem like a logical step, nothing could be further from the truth. God used this to show me where my family was, it was my church. God used this to show me where He wanted my to serve, it was my church. God used my church to comfort and fill my needs. He didn't make me do this alone, He gave a body to help heal a part that was broken. Through the comfort of the body of Christ I finally came to understand "That peace that surpasses all understanding". I'll close with a facebook post I made a couple of weeks after the funeral;

"God is changing my heart day by day. People have asked me "Why did God take your precious little girl?" Honestly, till last night I didn't have a satisfying answer. But then I read Job 2:10; "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" This verse struck me anew with the goodness of God. The passage doesn't say "adversity from God", it says "Good from God." God isn't the author of the pain I feel, He didn't "Steal" my little girl. As a fallen sinner (and I more than most) I deserve adversity, it is payment for my actions against God. God didn't choose to punish me though, He just decided to withhold a blessing that I already didn't really deserve. This adds a new perspective to the verse, "Children are a blessing from The Lord." I will never be able to hear somebody complain about not wanting their children, or being upset about an unexpected pregnancy again. If God chooses to bless you, how selfish to deny His perfect good will. So now I must ask, "Why would I blame God for my sin?" He has surrounded me with blessings, and now like the widow with the judge, I will plea my case before a righteous judge, asking for the blessing of a child. I know that the persistent prayer of a man of God avails much. Now this doesn't ease the pain in my heart, but it affirms anew that I have a Savior that knows he afflictions of my Soul. And if his eye is on the Sparrow, then I know He watches me."

 

Growing in Christ,

Peter Scheibner