not ready to say goodbye yet

on a hike near our home in Sicily in early January 2012

I’ve attempted to write this post several times and it just isn’t flowing out of me.  “Goodbye 2012, you were great!  Bring it on, 2013!”  That is anything but what I feel right now.  When you stare at your computer screen, attempting to write, and then end up sobbing in bed instead, you know there’s no joy in your heart about sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.

How do you say goodbye to a year in which your baby sister died?  How do you make yourself look forward?  How do you celebrate what a new year could bring when this last year brought such sadness and loss?

The tears were mostly caused by looking back through old photos and videos.  I was trying to find a photo from a year ago that I could use in my post, but this search led me to albums of images from the trip my family and I took to the Balkans last year.  I found a video of Dec 31, 2011, when we were exploring Zagreb, Croatia.  It was just a simple clip on my iPhone, but it included a scene–such an ordinary scene!–with Elliott and Julia standing side-by-side and taking pictures of my parents with Zagreb behind them.  At the end of the video, Julia walked forward to show my parents the picture she’d just taken on my dad’s phone.  Everything about that moment was so ordinary, so familiar: the way she walked, the shape of her hands, the expression on her face as she glanced at me to see if I was done filming before she started talking.  She was so real in those few seconds, so present, so alive.

I guess I haven’t watched any videos of her since she died; maybe that’s what shook me up so much.  Or maybe I am so busy a lot of the time that I just don’t think about it.  Unexpected moments like this take me back to Square 1 of grief again.

And so… I don’t know.  Sometimes I think I’m still in the denial stage of grief.  (Actually, what I really think is that you go through all the stages multiple times… probably for the rest of your life.)  And so, on this New Year’s Day, I hold many different emotions in my heart.  Sadness as well as joy.  Sorrow as well as hope.  Disappointment as well as thankfulness.  Anguish as well as peace.

I often go back and read this letter from my dad, which reminds me of truths I confess, truths about Julia, truths about life even when the night is very dark. Truths that give me joy, hope, thankfulness, and peace, even in the midst of sorrow.

This will be, I do hope, a beautiful year for our family.  We will be welcoming a new baby in about 4 weeks!  We will be making important decisions about Elliott’s career, our life after Sicily, and the future for our family.  I also have a lot of personal goals and hopes, which I’m eager to share with you soon.  Even this blog will see some exciting changes.  We have good reason to be hopeful, thankful, and faithful. 
And yet… there is this fear that instead of respite from turmoil and sadness, I may in fact experience more turmoil and sadness, or worse.  I wonder if I was just living in a happy bubble before Julia died and now I really know “the truth.”  The truth that most of life is sorrow, that the peaceful times are the exception, and that sadness and suffering is the rule.  It’s a rather bleak picture, but perhaps it’s a more accurate way to view this life.  What do you think?
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11 Responses to not ready to say goodbye yet

  1. Emily January 1, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Happy New Year to the Garbers! Becca, thank you so much for your candid posts about grief and loss. Praying for your sweet family. xo Emily

  2. Joy January 1, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    Thanks so much for your honesty. I know how you feel. Thinking about your loss and others like you, and knowing i am just as vulnerable to loss as anyone, gives me some trepidation about starting a new year. We also have some huge changes and trials we can see looming.
    Please know i am praying for you! I truly hope it is a happy New Year for you and your family.

  3. Anna January 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    I hope this coming year will be memorable for more happier reasons. The tough years make you truly appreciate the good ones. You have such a sweet little family, thank you for sharing your adventures with us!

  4. Hollie Shannon January 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    Thank you for being so real. I love your authenticity and it brings me to tears often! It is true that much of life is grief, much of our time here sorrowful, and that for this we have so much more reason to run toward Jesus and hold on to him. Because whatever in this world is not of sorrow, but rather delight is merely a shadow of the joys to come. The Joys that Julia is experiencing now! Love you Becca!

  5. Erika January 1, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    I’m so sorry to read your story. May 2013 be filled with much love.

  6. helen-ramblingthoughts.blogspot.com January 1, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    Ah, dearest,

    Thoughts of Julia also flooded my new year.

    Even though the pains I am going through at the present moment are rending, I know that your pain is overwhelming.

    May our Lord comfort you in the certainty that Julia is experiencing the perfect love of our Savior, she is on the other side of Jordan, drawing pictures in the sand…

    Much love to you dear Becca and may the birth of your son bring you overflowing joy in this new year.

  7. Di January 2, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    You have written eloquently and beautifully about the life we all live, the one where sadness and happiness mingle together a multitude of times over and over. I too hope that 2013 brings joy – and in the shape of your beautiful “to-be” little boy I am sure that will happen.

    To 2013 Becca….may you continue to face it with the grace and fortitude you have shown us all.

  8. megarber January 2, 2013 at 3:45 am #

    I do resonate with your mixture feelings here. What can one expect in the months ahead? When we think of the sadnesses of the past year, we hardly dare go forward. And yet, there is a lot to go forward for, as you said. Will it all turn our mourning into dancing? Some will — we do hope and expect. Nevertheless, we will continue to slog our way through this valley of tears as well, with God’s help and a lot of grace. We know we’re not in that bubble of happiness, but we are in a reality that is full of both beautiful joys and bone crunching sorrows somehow woven together–“Love among the ruins.”

  9. Jorge Ibarra January 3, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Becca,

    I was listening to an XM radio show called Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd. It was about 2 years ago and every show he has every day has a section where callers call in to have the whole listening audience pray for that persons intentions. After the last intention/pray request, Gus proceeds to thank our Lord for every trouble, pain, suffering and anguish that each caller had been through. He says, “Thank you Lord for allowing us to go through this suffering and pain, for we know and have faith that we are going through these times in order to come closer to you.” I recently put this prayer into practice. Abi may have told it to you, maybe not, but we had just arrived in Paris for our honeymoon and Abi was experiencing a crippling migraine, becoming dehydrated and at the same time, 7 weeks pregnant. I was nearly taking her to the ER in PARIS! Then I received an email from my brother telling me to call our financial advisor since someone had stolen our identity and taken our life savings. At this point I had nearly given up. I had feared loss of both my wife and baby and had already lost my life savings. At that moment I decided to run to God because I had no where else to turn. I held Abi’s hand as she lay in bed barely able to speak and I prayed in thanksgiving for everything that was happening. I told God that I had faith in Him and I knew in my heart that these were times to bring us closer to Him and strengthen our faith. That’s exactly what has happened too! We were able to recuperate our savings and Abi ended up fine and the baby is fine. Becca, we must understand that we can’t see the BIG picture. We are but the small picture in the salvation story. I will tell you this my sister, placing your every fear, sorrow, joy and gladness with our Lord and thanking him for these things and saying “Thank you for taking my baby sister, for I know that you have great plans for her and you have great plans for me” will bring you immensely closer to our creator. Believe it! I am a witness to this form of prayer! Becca, God bless you and your family. I can’t wait for our little ones to meet and play soon! In Him – Jorge

    • Becca January 3, 2013 at 10:43 am #

      Oh Jorge… thank you. This is SO TRUE and it is such a good and honest witness. I need to be reminded of this every day! Thank you for reminding me to “always give thanks” (1 Thes 5:18).

  10. Sarah January 3, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I’m with you, Becca. This past year has been exciting in many ways, but I’ve also experienced more pain and been exposed to more suffering than ever before in my life. I think I’m realizing, like you, that life is good and joyful but somehow at the same time full of difficulties and pain, and that I can’t continue to have a child’s outlook on things and live in the “happy bubble.” But even though that seems like a painful and scary realization, I’ve been grateful for it for a few reasons. First, it means I’m more mature now than I was a year ago, praise God! Second, because I’m beginning to learn the truth of Romans 5. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope […]” Not that I know how to rejoice in suffering yet, but I’m learning to see how the Lord uses it to increase my faith and strengthen my character. Third, I’m grateful because somehow, when I accept the idea that life is hard and suffering will come, it doesn’t lead me to despair. It leads me to rely on the Lord more, to pray for more faith, and to be much more serious in my pursuit of Christ, because I know I will need His strength to endure. It makes me more deeply thankful for times of peace and plenty. In that I feel somewhat like a soldier getting ready for a coming battle- training and working and waiting, and hoping and praying for peace, but confident that if battle comes somehow my Lord will lead me through it to victory. That gives me hope, “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

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