Keep Holding On

It’s been 5,479 days since we last saw our son take his last breath. It was a day of unexpected proportion and one that plays out in my mind often. Often as Christians, we feel that we are doing something bad if we grieve long after our loved one has died.

You hear the words, “But he’s rejoicing in the angels?!” My mind knows this and for him I’m grateful. Yet my heart still grieves.

I want him here.

Our days with Elijah.

My son was born without kidneys. We knew early on in my pregnancy that his life with be a battle. Yet, like any mother, I was unfazed by the challenge. I was willing to give up my life whatever that looked like. If it meant care 24/7, so be it. If I ended up losing my life in the process, I’d do anything for my child.

More often than not, Elijah’s pass-away date falls around the Easter season. I often am able to take this time to remember that death is not our end, but rather a new beginning. This year as it follows Resurrection Sunday, I was reminded of Mary’s grief. We watched this amazing production of “Jesus” by Sight and Sound theaters. One particular scene where Mary is screaming guttural cries as Jesus is being merciless tormented and finally dies, they flashed back to her holding him when he was a baby. She sat there sweetly singing over him and emotion hit me like a ton of bricks.

Maybe it’s because I’ve always thought she was so faith-filled that while she was sad, she was somehow prepared. Yet, at that moment I was reminded that she was a mother watching her son suffer and no amount of knowledge could take away that grief that she bore to see her child die before her very eyes.

My mind immediately brought me back to the OR when Eli was about to be born. It was filled with people waiting to see the baby with no kidneys. I just wanted to see and hear my son. I held my breath as he finally began to cry. He sounded like a little lamb bleating and my heart soared! Oh, how I wanted to stay in the moment as joy overwhelmed me to see our beautiful boy alive!

With the flip of the switch my mind switched over to the Pediatric ICU room six months later and seeing my son laying on the table while the nurses and doctors swarmed the room. Alarms were beeping like crazy and I felt paralyzed as if I was in the water and couldn’t come up for air. I helplessly watched our boy flat-line.

It felt surreal.

I as a mother could do nothing to fix and bring him back. I wanted to go with him, I was his mother, he couldn’t go alone.

As I watched this production and saw that scene in that moment to recognize the agony that Mary felt moved my heart in a unique way.

I believe that when I have hard days where it’s hard to accept that he isn’t here, G-d knows. Not only that, but he understands. I don’t believe He sees me as faithless, I believe He sees my mother’s heart and He weeps with me.

Our son died from a blood infection in his dialysis line. I learned at an early age how dangerous germs have been. I’ve tried to explain to others about my overprotective germ-conscious parenting, but I know it’s hard for most to understand.

That is, until Covid-19.

As I’m watching the whole nation switch to a way of life that has been ours for the last fifteen years my heart grieves. I now see on a broad scale the ravages of the fear of death and sickness. I see people fearing for the lives of their loved ones and I can so relate not because of the news, but because we have lived it.

We had been trained to live this way every day that our son was alive.

Out of trauma, I couldn’t put my rose-colored glasses back on and we continued to live this way. Then we had another son with severe asthma and I almost ended up losing my life so this further solidified this way of living.

Yet, the lesson in all of this is I realize now how much fear has robbed me and so many of us. Fear has often held me in a prison of bondage reminding me over and over “What if it happens again?”

I remind myself:

Yes, it was messy and hard.

But he was worth it.

Life is worth it!

I want to encourage you that whether you are facing the loss of a loved one, loss of a way of life, loss of freedom, loss of control…

I know it is so hard.

Keep holding on.

Keep living and don’t let fear win!

Let out all your emotions and know that our sweet Father in Heaven is weeping with you. He can handle your questions and your pain. It’s okay that we are struggling, that doesn’t mean that you are lacking faith. Rather it’s the admittance that you need Him.

These are places where healing can begin.

While today marks 15 years since our son’s life ended on earth, it also marks 15 years that his new life began in Heaven. I rejoice for Him that he feels no pain or sorrow and someday we will be together again.

But today I miss him and that’s okay.

Elijah Praise Nickerson
Our Sonshine

The Messy Side of Faith

I’d love to wrap this all up into a pretty bow, but what I’m about to reveal is the messy part of my faith. I haven’t written like this in years, probably not since our son died. I used to write with rawness in my years of grieving. I found it hard to be met with judgment when writing with such transparency, so I prettied up my writing. I did this because it hurt so much to share the pieces of my heart and feel that I had done something wrong.

My readers, friends, and family have heard our tale of love, loss, and living with hope. I often wonder if they tire of the same old stories of when G-d touched our lives through our children who have now been received into His arms. Or of the way He rescued me from death’s door.

What I can say, is that I never will.

It is my story and I must continue to share.

Those are sacred times that are forever branded into my heart and soul. It’s within these valleys of the shadow of death, that we learned to feel His presence on the mountain top.

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way that you expect when you follow G-d. While you see His majesty in one breath, your heart aches in another.

I’d love to tell you that after everything I have walked through that I have learned to trust Him completely through it all. To be completely honest, I am a work in progress.

I’ve always been a perfectionist, but after all of this I became a control freak.

A couple of months ago before this virus hit America, G-d gave me a dream. I won’t go into it, but He showed me things that at the time made no sense to me. He’s done this several times in my life when something big was coming. At the beginning of March fear was gripping me tightly as I realized my dream was coming true, everything started to make sense. We called our friends over for prayer as I sobbed because of what I felt was coming. It was all too much and I realized, I am not in control.

That day I sobbed harder than I had in years.

I realized I have been so afraid of losing our two children G-d so lovingly blessed us with, that they haven’t really gotten to live. I tightly monitor everything they do and it has cost us relationships and experiences because of fear.

Anytime anxiety rears it’s ugly head, everyone pays the price.

When the kids were little they had such unconditional grace, which was great for me. As they are now approaching teenage years, they now call me out on it and it sucks.

Yes, I said it sucks.

Stinks just isn’t harsh enough. It needs to be an ugly word.

Yet, I have always raised them to be truthful and in reality, they are right. Even though it hurts. They have been very open about questioning why they didn’t get to do certain things and how they had wished they had. I never realized how much my fear and protection had actually suffocated their living and they felt it. The crazy part is now the way we have been living all these years is what the government is instructing us to do, and it’s so suffocating.

I find myself asking, Are you hanging on so tightly to the future that you aren’t living in the present?

As I let out those guttural cries of all that had been stifled that day, I felt a release and a shift in my heart and perspective.

As we’ve watched this whole pandemic unfold my daughter sweetly says, “Mom, we’ve been preparing for this for our whole lives.”

I smiled but my heart sank inside.

The old ways of life have passed away and it’s time let go. Those things don’t work anymore. I need to do things differently and I believe G-d is calling me to trust Him in a way I’ve always known I should but haven’t.

Do I believe we can have fear and faith at the same time?

Yes. I do believe so.

I believe that with every great faithful person who stepped out in courage, the enemy was right there beside them intimidating them. I know Moses was trembling when he went to Pharaoh to tell him to let his people go, because he actually argued with the Lord. G-d didn’t poo-poo him, He let his brother Aaron go with him!

Most times faith and fear do collide, but I still believe that G-d is big enough to hold our arms up while we battle. He wants us to do something new!

One of the lines from the movie “I Still Believe,” hit me to my very core (If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it!)

The lead actress ends with a line that was a bulls-eye to my heart. She said:

“I’ve learned suffering doesn’t destroy faith, it refines it. And G-d is worth trusting, even when we can’t see.”

As we approach these unprecedented times, I want to encourage you that G-d is big enough for all our thoughts. I never realized how much we would miss seeing people. I realize now we were created for community. He knows the social distancing isn’t the way things are supposed to be. He knows we are lamenting our seniors not getting the much-due celebrations of prom and graduation and kids getting to play with their friends. He knows the heart-ache of those who are living alone or are sick and may never get to physically get to say goodbye to their families.

He knows our need for connection and community.

He knows and He is weeping with us.

Yet my belief in this is that when this is all over, that everyone will live much more intentionally. I pray we will come back to the basics of being so grateful for what is right in front of us and not be so busy. We’ll be tired of binge watching TV and social media and find reason to connect face-to-face with get-together galore. We’ll be moved to compassion to helping one another work through hard things and knowing what it feels to feel isolated. Hopefully, we can put this divisive nature of who is more right about politics and focus on everyone being loved. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves…

We all have so much time on our hands and if you are anything like me you are planning on how to plan so that you can escape the pain. I feel like we have a moment in history like no other, a time to bear our hearts and change the way we live our lives. Maybe this time will shift our family, parenting, and society dynamics for the better? Perhaps this a time we have all been created for, to shift our perspective from the world to why we are really here.

That is to learn to love and live with gratitude and celebrate all life.