As we approach Hannah's birthday, I'm in that time of year of intense remembering. Remembering what our lives were like five years ago and how innocent we were. Remembering how much has changed since then and where God has brought us. Some days this remembering is subtle. And then there are days like last Thursday.
One of the most prominent memories this time of year is the weather. There is a certain perfect fall day that is very reminiscent of the first week of November, 2011. The sky is absolutely clear, the temperature is cool enough to need a jacket, but we're all in denial that winter is coming and likely refuse that extra layer, and the sun is intense and beautiful. Last Thursday was exactly that--amazingly crisp and clear and just lovely. The kids and I met some friends for lunch and ran a few errands, and I welcomed the cool reminders on my face. I remember how weird it felt that November 3, 2011 was such a beautiful day. Didn't the world know the news we'd just gotten? Didn't it care that there was nothing beautiful about our life that day? I woke up the morning of November 4th to more of the same--headed to the hospital under the clear, blue, sunny sky. And November 5th, the sun came up outside our hospital room as we held our dear, tiny daughter. We drove home, empty-handed, with the heat on in the car. Because, well, no jackets. So when these fall days threaten to steal my joy and bring me back to a place of bitter pain, I don't let them. I live for the reminders that Hannah was a part of our lives.
On Thursday night, Dan and I went to an All Sons and Daughters concert at Open Door. The opening act was their friend Sandra McCracken. I knew I'd heard of Sandra before, but I didn't think I'd recognize anything. And I didn't--not any particular song, anyway. But as soon as she began to sing, her very distinct voice transported me, again, to 2011. I knew right away that she'd sung a song with Indelible Grace, one of a handful of songs my cousin had sent me after Hannah died. It was a song that I listened to multiple times a day for many months. "Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul" is a perfectly honest hymn of grief. It was exactly the song I needed in those first days (and weeks and months), when I wasn't yet ready to say "It is well with my soul."
Thy mercy seat is open still
Here let my soul retreat
With humble hope attend thy will
And wait beneath thy feet
Oh, how grief sneaks in when we're not expecting it. And even sometimes when we are. I know it's inevitable in these next couple weeks. And I welcome the memories.