What do you do with loss? The sense of loss is a powerful feeling. So powerful, that at times it can be overwhelming. It’s odd, because the word itself would imply we should somehow feel lighter, that we carry less because something is gone. Instead, when we lose someone or something we love, life becomes weightier, and we end up carrying more. So what do we do with loss? The answer to that question lies in the story of a young woman named Wendy who taught me how to handle the tragedy of loss.
Wendy and I first met about a year and a half ago. It was a chance meeting. Surrounded by people and brick buildings, the two of us were both leaving a class. Typically, most people just pass by without making eye contact, although sometimes there’s a smile or a nod. Wendy was different. As we passed each other, Wendy smiled at me and spoke. I looked over and saw a short young woman who appeared to be around 21, although I later found out she was older. Her frame was petite and she was obviously Asian. When she spoke, her voice was soft, and when she smiled, so did her eyes.
I returned the “hi” as well as the smile. We began walking together across the busy parking lot, dodging between the cars as we moved along. There was something very inviting about Wendy, which made talking with her extraordinarily easy. The conversation flowed, and before long, we found ourselves at the end of the parking lot and ready to go our separate ways.
In that short period of time, the two of us had already covered so much. Let me share with you what I had learned from Wendy that day. She had talked about her family, and I knew that Wendy’s parents were still in China. Wendy had come to the United States a few years ago as an international student to attend Arkansas Tech in Russellville, Arkansas. College for Wendy in the U.S. had been a goal for her parents, and they had worked hard to give her that chance.
“Do you have any other family here?” I asked. As I did, I wondered what it would be like to head to another country alone and just out of high school. To me, that would take nothing short of some pretty bold emotional courage.
Wendy replied, “No,” she had come on her own. But she was not alone long. Upon arriving at Arkansas Tech, she began attending Missionary Baptist Student Fellowship where they offered classes to help international students with their English. While there, she met a woman who has since become like a mother to Wendy. So much so, Wendy calls her “Terry Mom”.
Two years later, Wendy transferred to the University of Arkansas. There she met her husband-to-be, Gary, whom she married after graduation. Three years later, Wendy and Gary were excited to announce that she was pregnant and they were adding a new little one to their family. Unfortunately, this is where the conversation took a heartbreaking turn.
At 24 weeks, just as her second trimester was ending, Wendy stopped feeling the baby moving. Upon seeing the doctor, they were told the devastating news that no fetal heartbeat could be found. Their precious baby boy had died.
Wendy said she had to go through labor to deliver her baby boy, who they named Isaiah. No specific cause was ever found for his death. Wendy shared her great sadness and heartbreak at delivering a child she would never take home. Even though I didn’t know her well, I felt that great sadness with her. As a pediatrician, I remember having to tell parents that their child had died and the heaviness of that moment. It seemed as though time stood still.
As Wendy shared this memory of her greatest loss, I saw in her a quiet immovable strength and an unmistakable peace. There was no sign of the turmoil of unanswered questions or the need to lay blame. I wondered why at the time, but as Wendy relayed the rest of the story, I understood.
You see, there was an amazing set of circumstances occurring in Wendy’s hospital room that day. Becky, the nurse who was caring for Wendy at the delivery, had lost her first child at delivery 25 years earlier. Immediately, the two shared a deep, unspoken bond.
Later that day, Becky returned to Wendy’s room bringing a small box. Even though the box was small, the gift was not. It was a green box with bright pink roses containing items to comfort a grieving mother’s heart. There were all kinds of things in the box – things to help physically, things to help emotionally, and things to help spiritually. Wendy treasured the thoughtfulness of her precious gift.
Without missing a beat, Wendy went on to say that she had begun making her own box to give away. Her plan was to help other women struggling with the loss of their baby. Wendy found a way to give through her pain and out of her loss. We can do the same. We can offer to others what can’t be bought. Deep inside, we all know it isn’t just about the things we can put in a box, it is about what can’t be seen. It is about giving away part of your heart. And for the receiver of the gift, your heart is what they will never forget. It is, in fact, the heart of Jesus.
As my sweet new friend finished telling me about Isaiah, Becky, and the box, I was awed by the fact that someone so young was also so wise. What came spilling out from Wendy was utter confidence that Jesus had a good plan, and she trusted Him. Resting in that trust, Wendy and I prayed together before we left the parking lot that day. Among other things, we prayed for her to be able to carry and deliver a healthy baby in the future. On April 8th, 2019, I received this beautiful text from Wendy.
Josephine was born July 30th just one day short of 35 weeks gestational age. Although she required a short stay in the NICU, Joey is a thriving adorable little girl with a smile as precious as her mom’s. One day she will meet her older brother Isaiah.
These days, most of Wendy’s time is wrapped up with Joey and Gary, but her box is ready for the next woman who needs it. Wendy also made a website that journals the testimony of her journey through one of life’s greatest losses and how God is continuing to bring beauty out of ashes. You can find Wendy’s journey on her website at wendyzhougreat.wixsite.com/littleisaiah
Wendy’s example calls out to our hearts. It is encouragement not to waste what is possibly the most valuable thing we have to help others – our loss. The thing that was meant to make you less can be given away to make you more. What devastated your heart can be used to heal someone else’s. And what destroyed you once can be the very thing you use to save another. Don’t waste it. It is the great reversal- ….. -and THAT is what you do with loss.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. John 1:5 NLT
He (God) comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. 2 Corinthians 4-5 Msg
He (God) heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. Ps 147:3 NCV
I (God) give new life to those who are humble and to those whose hearts are broken. Isaiah 57:15 NCV
The Lord has put his Spirit in me, because the LORD has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken, to tell the captives they are free, and to tell prisoners they are released. Isaiah 61: 1 NCV
He's the God of every story,
He sees each tear that falls.
We may not understand - but one thing is certain.
He is faithful, He's a faithful God.