Happy birthday, precious one. It's 10:24pm on the night of your first birthday, and as I sit here wondering how to encapsulate 365 days into one post, I'm remembering you. I can't remember the exact time, but I know it was close to now when I was finally able to see you. I remember being wheeled through the hallways, up the stairs and praying that they were able to revive you... your heartbeat had plummeted, you know. I was so consumed by the fear that I would arrive in your NICU, and they would tell me you had passed. But the Lord sustained you -- and us -- and allowed us to love on you before you went to Jesus.
We celebrated Christ in you this past Saturday. We wanted to acknowledge your birthday, and give our humble props to God for how tenderly He moved us this year. Gwen, it was such a beautiful party. It was just how it should be - beautiful, full of friends and laughter. It's just what we wanted. And we got to light a wish lantern! Did you see it, lovely?
(Oh Gwen. I am anxious for the right words to say, as if I only get one chance to speak to you! Thank God we have all of eternity.)
In the last year, I've often felt like God gave you the best... and I've been thankful for that. But have held a hurt, begrudging heart toward Him as if to say, "Lord, you gave her the best... but you gave us the short end of the stick." Yet somehow in the past few months, the Lord is shifting my theory.
Gwen, I have seen Christ in one thousand faces. I have been touched, hugged, and kissed by Him every day for the past year. I have been fed meals, sent cards, had my house cleaned, been provided for financially, been given memorial gifts, vacations, days off from responsibilities... all little gifts of Love to salve my broken heart. I love your dad more now than I thought possible. I value life, family and friends more dearly. I (hope) am more empathetic and compassionate to ALL suffering, no matter the cause. I LONG for Heaven - that in itself is a miracle! I know the character of God in a way that I honestly would never have attempted to find.
And maybe, darling, it sounds terrible. You know that I love you; that is unchangeable. But I don't know that I could trade what God has done in me to have you here... what kind of a mother would I have been? Selfish, consumed, petty, close-minded. (I am obviously not perfect, and struggle in a thousand ways.) But Gwendolyn - I know Jesus better. And I know that you value Him above all else... so I think it's okay that I can value Him and knowing Him above you.
This wasn't the short end of the stick for your dad and me. This was His best for us too... just in a much more raw, unimaginable way. God's best may seem like a stone to me, but that doesn't change the truth. And the truth is that He always intended you for Heaven, and us to grow from your death and our short separation.
So here we are... 365 days later, one year closer. I think I wanted today to be some kind of "sob day", where I felt close to you and full of you. I was looking behind Gwendolyn, instead of ahead. Because what you and I have is yet to come! I have all of paradise to chase, tickle, laugh, explore, dream, and create with you.
Our best is coming soon... closer by the day. In the meantime: Gwen, I love you deeply and am so profoundly thankful to be your mom. God took this unformed, unresponsive clay and wet it with the tears and prayers from one thousand friends, family and strangers who have loved you. He began to pull, stretch, roll and shape me into something useable... something of value. I am so humbled to be your mother.
I love you deeply, forever and ever.
If you were one of the amazing friends who have loved, prayed, written, served, gave, or in some other humble way have loved us --- please know that Christ used you to shape us, drawing us closer to Himself and into His likeness. He is sufficient, and He works through His children.
And if you do not know Him... can I tell you that you are missing out on the best thing that will ever happen to you? There is no hope, no future, no paradise awaiting you without Him. Don't miss out.
Christ - You saved me. From eternity away from you, yes. But You also graciously saved me from a year spent in bitterness, anger and depression, have saved my marriage from becoming torn apart by grief, and have sustained my relationships with those who still have earthly children. You have redeemed my soul, and I love you so much more. Thank you for being the best part of my life.
Gwendolyn Hope Cushman
October 18, 2010 - October 20, 2010
First time we ever saw her was this photo.