I spent almost an hour walking through an old cemetery looking at the different headstones. When I was a kid, I used to think of it as a game; trying to figure out how many years a person had lived or how old they would be if they were still alive. As an adult and a mother, though, the cemetery took on a whole new meaning.
I made it to one family plot from the late 1800s. The first headstone was for an infant that lived a day. The next was another infant that lived for five months followed by yet another infant that lived for only a day. In all, the family buried six babies, all under a year old. I stood there and wept. As the tears rolled down my face, all that I could imagine were my little boys kicking inside of me and how much I loved them even before they reached my embrace. I remembered holding each one in my arms for the first time and how tiny and perfect they were. I knew my life would never be the same; and my love would never be the same, either.
That mama felt all of those things for every single one of those babies. Each of them grew inside her womb and she loved them as only a mother could. I tried to imagine this mother and her situation. Had the babies fallen ill? Was there a fever? Was it an incurable disease? Was she unable to produce milk with no wet nurse in town? Was the baby just too weak to take another breath? With each new scenario, steady streams of tears fell down my face. I imagined the emotional hardship that this mama faced having to bury six infants. How hard had it been to hold a sick child knowing that all she could do was rock him and watch him die?
Brokenhearted, I moved to another family plot. There was a mother who buried two infants and one other child under five years old. She died at age 36, within a year of the death of her youngest child. Did she simply die from a broken heart?
I left the cemetery that day with a new realization: life matters. Each of those graves represented someone’s life. One life. One chance to love. One chance to impact others. One dash. I won’t get the chance to meet those mamas on this side of heaven, but I’ve got the opportunity now to live my life and accompany other people on their individual journeys. I don’t have to try to imagine what it must have been like when someone went through a tragedy; I get the opportunity to hold a real hand, feel real emotions and work through real hurts on this side of eternity with people who matter.
Those grieving mamas of the past are no different than grieving mamas of the present; all of them need caring people to come alongside and hold them up. Our families matter. Our friends matter. Our communities matters. Life matters. Before it’s our time to occupy a plot of dirt, let’s be intentional and walk beside each other making the most of every opportunity.