I never thought I’d be able to easily count, on both hands, the friends that I now have that have lost children to cancer. I also never imagined how many siblings that would mean, too. When a child is lost, it’s not just the parents that experience great sorrow, it’s the siblings, too.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, I had a few of Isabelle’s friends over to help us all get into the Christmas spirit. I had Christmas crafts ready for them to make, played festive music, ate brunch and the girls played a mean game of capture the flag. Each of those sweet girls that came to spend time with Izzy have siblings of their own to share in holiday traditions with. For us, we are having to create new ones, that no longer include a sibling.
The parents of these girls have no idea what it meant to me, and Isabelle, that they would let them spend a Saturday during such a busy time of the year with her. To the girls it was just a fun morning, but for us it was helping create new and happy memories, because when they left, she’s back to the stark realization that her sibling is not here to spend Christmas with her.
Isabelle is a tough and resilient kid, so it’s easy to forget the grief that she’s walking in as I walk through my own. I was reminded of it this week when she told me not to be sad on Sunday morning. I asked her what she meant, and she asked me to try and not be sad when I watched the Preschool Choir perform their Christmas play Sunday morning at church. This is the choir Camp should be a part of. While watching these precious children grow and learn about Jesus, it’s hard not to imagine all of the what-ifs. I know full well that Camp is sitting at the feet of Jesus learning from the risen Savior and hearing about his birthday from the King of Kings himself. While my mind knows this, my flesh and mother’s heart still grieves the childhood that has passed him by.
Days before this event, Isabelle had already been thinking about what emotions we would all be feeling on Sunday morning as we are reminded again of the ache in our hearts and not having Camp here. Her little 9-year-old mind was processing all of this and in her gentle way, had already begun to try and console me. As we rode in the car in darkness, she reminded me that Camp is happy in heaven and he’s not sick anymore. He’s where we all long to be, with our Creator at Christmas.
She’s been forced to grow up so much in the last 2 ½ years. It’s not fair, but I can’t take that burden from her. Last year was extremely hard for her at school, but I’ve seen her blossom and grow so much this year. Just this week she came in as runner-up in the 3rd grade spelling bee, sang a solo in church and performed her first solo dance routine at the Christmas performance.
I’ve watched the Lord begin to mold her in an amazing young woman and I can’t take any of the credit. While I’ve been busy in my own walk of grief, she’s been blooming into the little girl God has made her to be…strong, beautiful, confident, compassionate, thoughtful and loving.
This Christmas, I’m remembering not just the children that are gone, but the siblings they have left behind. God has laid on my heart to send out some special gifts to these children to remind them that their story isn’t forgotten either. I know that just as God had big plans for their brother or sister’s life, He has big plans for theirs, too. I pray that these children don’t just learn to survive, but they learn how to thrive. I pray that they thrive despite the grief, despite their sorrow and despite the hurt that will forever be in their hearts. They were made to be warriors, too!
Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11