Five years ago today I turned 24 and you left the arms of your mommy and daddy to be with Jesus, where they will join you someday. I was a newly-wed when you entered this world. All energetic and excited about the wonderful things that were in store for my new husband and I. I was dreaming of decades to come. You were frail and tiny. You only had 99 days.
I had been in community group with your mom and dad, so I knew you were coming, and I knew your life would look different than the lives of most babies who are born. I prayed for you. When you came, I knew it was an honor to get to hold you - to get to celebrate a couple of your daily birth-hour parties with you. I knew your parents were strong. I knew God was making them strong; but since I wasn't a parent yet, I had no clue what a miracle it was that He was sustaining them the way He did. I still really don't understand it.
When you left this life on my birthday, I assumed that I would always remember you on the day I celebrate the life God has given me; but I didn't know that I would so often think of you on other days, as well. I also didn't know that your 99 day long life would impact mine more than the lives of most people, who get nearly that many years.
Eliot, the greatest lesson you have taught me is about the beauty of life. Not life that goes the way we want it to. Not life that is always happy and healthy and wealthy. Not life coated in all the trappings and baubles that we try to decorate it with. Just life, itself. Life, because God creates it. Life, because God sustains it. Life, because it is, in the one sense fleeting and rare; yet in another sense, eternal and abundant. Through your life, and your parents', I started to learn how to embrace and celebrate the little moments on this earth while we have them, while at the same time setting my eyes and heart on things above.
You helped me find a joyful freedom in this life. Freedom to celebrate the now. Freedom to let go of the now (even if it is terribly painful) because I know something better and perfect is coming. You helped me learn gratefulness. My son is a year and a half old now. He is my first, just like you are your parents' first. During those early months of long, wakeful nights, I thought of you all the time. You reminded me that there would be other months and seasons of my life when I could sleep or shower or feel sane; but those moments cuddling my son ... those were irreplaceable.
When we dedicated our son before our church family, I wore the necklace your mom designed in your honor. I wore it because it helps me remember that all life belongs to the Lord and is created for His glory. Your parents were willing to allow Him to use your life as He saw fit, and I want to have the same willingness to let Him use my son's life, however that may be.
When I lost a baby I never knew last month, you reminded me that I was honored to get to carry that life, even if I only knew about it for three days. I hope you are friends with my little one. I like to think that you are.
Happy 5th birthday of life eternal, sweet Eliot. I look forward to the day I can tell you all of this in person and we can celebrate together, once again.
(If you'd like to learn more about Eliot's 99 days, you can check out his blog, here).