Two years ago, I stepped out of teaching elementary school and into nannying the children of my friend and mentor, Jamie. I didn’t plan to make that move. But none of us were planning on Jamie dying either.
She died two years ago. Suddenly. Shockingly. Leaving four children including eight-week old Madeline, a husband, a community, and me with that black hole question: “Why?”
Knit Together Before Being Torn Apart
I met Jamie when I was a quiet, homeschooled seventeen-year-old with crunchy curly hair. Jamie was the first person I knew who shopped at Whole Foods. She wore jeans and Teva velcro tennies in the summer. She had traded locks for a pixie cut. She rarely wore makeup. Her kids ran the sidewalk barefoot and drank hot chocolate every morning.
Jamie mentored me through college and into my early twenties. She was the first person I knew who admitted the reality of anxiety. She told me hard things. She asked me hard things. She was comfortable with the uncomfortable. She left room for pause. In words. In life.
When I doubted God’s goodness, I called Jamie. When I felt overwhelmed or confused by life, I called Jamie. And her response to my countless freak-outs was unfailing. “Life is hard and doesn’t always make sense. But God is good. He is sovereign over what we see and don´t see. And He is near.”
She was peacefully reserved. Resolved. Kind. Simple. Open. She was everything my awkward seventeen-year-old self wanted to be when I made it to adulthood.
The Hands of Jamie and Jesus
Never before had I experienced so closely the sting, the pang, the darkness of grief and death until I lost her. The grief of death is all-consuming. Nearly choking. And to listen for the whisper of truth in the midst of screaming doubts seems an impossible feat.
But the still small voice remains steadfast. Pressing itself upon my soul instead of ringing in my ears: For such a time as this.
Yes. Such a time.
Today, I’m holding Madeline. Jamie’s baby. She’s two now. I sing the songs Jamie should be singing but can’t. I say the words Jamie said to me and would have said to them. Life is hard and doesn’t make sense. But God is good. He is sovereign over what we see and don’t see.
Regardless of whether I “feel” loving, regardless of if I’m this baby’s “mom,” regardless of the work and emotions balance, regardless of a thousand other things, God marked this moment as mine to be the arms that cradle and care and love Jamie’s baby and her other children.
For such a time as this.
I record the moments, the small small ones when holding a sleeping baby moves me to painful but surrendered tears. And one day, these kids will need to read back on them. When I’ve moved on to whatever is next, when life changes again, I want them to know that in the midst of heartbreak, and change, and everyday life that God is good. He is sovereign over what we see and don’t see. He is near.
Knowing Where My Feet Stand
These last two weeks have been insane. All four kids at separate times have had the stomach virus. And I’ve been overwhelmed by the thought of another year out of my career as a teacher.
But today, when we got back from eating dumplings, I wiped M’s feet off and she passed out with her arms around me, holding on, with her little head buried in my chest. She’s never done that before. I sang our usual round of songs (“Jesus Loves Me” followed by “You Are My Sunshine”) and cradled her there for a moment. Then I just cried and thanked the Lord for that reminder of her tiny, still dependent life and where I stand in it. And where I stand in him. He has placed my feet upon a solid rock for such a time as this.
Cover photo by Alex Pasarelu.
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