This Friday marks the beginning of a new Fall/Winter season of Mom’s Ministry, a gathering a women from various churches, including Newsong, that meet weekly for fellowship, learning, and the sharing of good food.  A month after it happened last year, my friend Linda invited me to attend a Mom’s Ministry women’s group. I hadn’t been able to go back to work yet, and felt that I needed to ease myself into new social situations.  I thought this would be a good way to get myself of the house.  I put on clean clothes and drove out by myself, alone for the first time in weeks.  I drove to church and walked to the back, to a meeting room full of women.

“Hi,” a woman said to me.

“Hi,” I answered back, aware this was the first time I had spoken to someone I didn’t know in a long time.  I had been cocooned at home, surrounded by people that knew me, knew my family, knew what happened.  That wasn’t too bad, I thought to myself.  And with this one social interaction successfully under my belt, I made my way to the coffee.

Another woman approached and greeted me. “Hello. I’m Lily.”

“Hello,” I replied, “I’m Grace.”  I was getting the hang of this.

“It’s nice to meet you, Grace.  Do you have kids?”

And there it was.  The question.  How had I not thought that someone at a MOM’S Ministry would ask this question?!  How had I not thought through my answer to this question?!

“Yes” I stammered, flummoxed, not knowing how to answer. “…a daughter.  I… um… I have a daughter.”

“Oh me too!  My oldest daughter is in high school.  What about yours?”

“Um.  My daughter is in 8th grade.”

“That’s great.  Do you have only one child?”

“Yes,” I murmured.  I could barely get the word out.

“So, your daughter is an only child?”  Lily persisted.  I almost laughed at how torturous this was.

I nodded my head.  Then, before I could break down, I broke eye contact and walked away. This woman was asking the most normal question in the world, but I was going through an absolutely abnormal time.  I walked to a different table.

“Hi,” another woman said as I approached. When I returned her greeting, she followed up with, “So, do you have children?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “I have two.”  I replied automatically, giving the response I always gave, which I realized was different from than the answer I had given just a minute ago.  And then I stopped.  I couldn’t do this anymore.  I left the room and headed to the bathroom to be by myself.  All of my answers were true, and none of my answers were true.  None of them felt right.

I returned to the room and made a beeline for my dear friend, Vera, who had just arrived.  I collapsed in Vera’s arms, relieved to find someone who knew me, who wouldn’t ask me how many children I had.  I had spent all fifteen years of Dragon’s lifetime saying I was his mom; how could I say anything otherwise now?  But at the time, I was also nowhere near ready to talk about what happened.

To be honest, even now, I have trouble saying it outright.  Instead, I use euphemisms like “what happened” or “when it happened.”  Saying it out loud makes it more real, and sometimes I can’t handle that reality.

Remembering back, that first day out was so hard. We had lost so, so much, and our loss was so incomprehensible.  It’s still unimaginable.  Now, a year later, I plan to sign up for another season of Mom’s Ministry.  Through that women’s group, I made good friends who have walked with me this past terrible year.  They have listened while I cried, and they have shared their own struggles.  Together, we’ve turned to God to be with us, to see us through both the difficulties and the joys of this life.  I’m grateful for their gentle acceptance of my brokenness.  They became part of the life raft that I held onto to survive this past year, one Friday at a time.

This time around, when asked, I’d like to be able to say a new truth, which I’ve had to practice saying out loud: I am the mother of two children — Hannah, who’s in 9th grade, and Dragon, who’s in Heaven.