Though these things are part of my heart, my mind is stubbornly overwhelmed with memories of this season one year ago. Though we have so much to be thankful for and I know how it all turned out - I still feel the weight of the grief, dread, and denial so heavy with us the week of Samuel's birth. I long to remember the day of his birth only with incredible joy - but it wasn't like that. It was a hard day. It was a very difficult week. It was hard for so many reasons; some obvious, some still so sensitive I can't find words to explain them, even to myself.
A year ago yesterday we received news that Kent, our brother-in-law, tested positive for Ebola in Liberia. We hadn't even known he was feeling ill, and we were blind-sided; knocked literally off our feet.
It was a Saturday night when Geoff's father called us. I was 41 weeks pregnant that day. Our emotions were already high. When we saw it was Geoff's dad calling, who normally would text and never called so late in the evening, both of us froze. We knew it was bad news, though we had no idea how. I leaned as close to the phone as my very pregnant belly would allow, as Geoff sat down on the bed to talk with his dad. I heard Donnie's voice crack as he said, "Kent has the virus."
I don't remember the rest of their conversation, though it was brief. I collapsed forward, my head on Geoff's legs, praying without words - my thoughts gasping for air.
I posted a blog, "Urgent Prayer Request" that same night. I wanted as many of our friends praying for Kent and our family as quickly as possible.
Our friends did step up. Immediately.
So did the media.
That simple blog that I hastily posted had over 30,000 hits within a couple of days. That was a bit above my average.
The media attention was overwhelming. It added an entirely new level of vulnerability and invasion to highly personal and sensitive moments. We received updates sometimes only moments ahead of a news leak. Sometimes these were reported with surprising accuracy - sometimes far from it. It was all at once amazing to see how many people were concerned about Kent with us, and at the same time overwhelming to feel like our family was the media's new favorite circus act. How many really cared, and how many were just up for the sensation? Didn't really matter, but it was a bizarre new reality.
This year we are in a very different place. Kent lived. He's okay. Amber has her husband. Ruby and Stephen have their daddy. But the grief of that week is still very real. It still exists in so many realities that will not, and did not, end as ours did. So many did not get their loved ones back. Kent shares one such story in their book, Called for Life, as a young boy is scolded in his grief:
"It's okay for him to cry," I said. "You may be used to being around death,
but he is twelve years old. He has lost four family members in a week.
It's okay for him to be scared and to cry."
- Dr. Kent Brantly, Called for Life (pg. 10)
I have thought of several ways to end this post with some uplifting turn of how it all is as it should be, and God's in control; all the things I "should" say, that are true, and sound wonderfully inspiring.
But honestly, right now my heart is just hurting, remembering the grief, regret, and heaviness of this week a year ago. And I want to leave this here. Because some experiences are just hard, and no matter how "well" they turn out in the end, they leave scars. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. It helps us remember others who are hurting and grieving. It helps us remember to be thankful, for good times, and the bad. And it teaches us how to know comfort.
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.