“Say goodbye to where you have been and tell your heart to beat again…” “Tell your heart to beat again” –Danny Gokey
Danny Gokey “Tell Your Heart to Beat Again”
Every year since Abby was born I have written a blog post for the Smallest Gift website. Every year the post came easily, except for last year. It was as if I had the words but I did not have the heart to commit them to paper. As I was scrolling through Facebook and thinking about Abby’s upcoming fourth birthday last year, I stumbled across a post by TobyMac. He was telling the story behind the song “Tell your heart to beat again” by Danny Gokey. I had never heard of the song but I soon learned that Gokey’s first wife died of complications of heart surgery. She was born with congenital heart disease. This really caught my interest because of Abigail’s congenital heart defect. The story behind the song was amazing—it was inspired by a cardiothoracic surgeon who had just performed a routine surgery, which involves stopping the heart and placing the patient on heart-lung bypass machine. After the surgery was completed successfully, they attempted to take the person off of the bypass. This is a very crucial moment because the patient’s heart has to begin beating again on its own. This particular patient was still relying on the bypass. The team tried everything and still her heart did not beat independently, so the surgeon leaned down and whispered in the patient’s ear, “If you can hear me, tell your heart to beat again.” In a moment, her heart started to beat again. I read this and I got goosebumps on my arms. I wanted to hear this song for myself so I purchased this song and attempted to download it to my phone. As is not uncommon, it was taking forever so I set it aside and pretty much forgot about it. A few days later I got in the car and a song came on the radio that has always reminded me of Abby and it made me remember that I still had not listened to this Danny Gokey song. I begrudgingly muttered, “Alright, alright, I will listen to it!” I found it on my phone and sat back in my seat to listen. As I listened to the words ”You are shattered, like you have never been before. The life you knew, in a thousand pieces on the floor. Words fall short in times like these when this world drives you to your knees. You think you are never going to get back to the you you used to be…..tell your heart to beat again, close your eyes and breathe it in. Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace. Yesterday is a closing door. You don’t live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you have been and tell your heart to beat again.
” Honestly, I listened to this and I felt sick. This song, all tied up in various ways with my baby girl, felt like a message right to my heart, and it was one I was not ready to hear. I felt like it was telling me that it was time to begin a new chapter of healing. You know what I did? Nothing. I did not want to let go of that. I resisted— I tenaciously was holding onto my grief and my pain. Letting go felt like my heart was breaking all over again. The message to me was: tell your heart to beat again and I told the message: not now….I’m not ready. Abby’s birthday came and went and there was no blog post last year. Anyone who has lost child knows that healing and grieving is a simultaneously wonderful and difficult thing. Each day that you feel little bit better is one more day from the last time you held your child in your arms. Somehow, it feels as though healing and moving on is somehow a betrayal to our child. Yet, each of us knows that our children would never want us to suffer for the rest of our lives. Learning to live with both joy and sadness in your heart simultaneously is
not easy. Most of us hold on tenaciously to our grief because that pain is a reminder that no matter how short our child’s earthly life, they did exist and they changed us forever. THere’s also a sense of pride. We lived through most people’s worst nightmare and we survived. We are still here and we still breathing. Some days, just breathing is an accomplishment. Over the past year, I have been thinking about that song. I felt that little nudge again and several times I just stubbornly sat still. Recently, I was preparing to go to a Breaking Beauty shoot. It was focusing on the beauty that can come with loss. All week long I had been thinking about this photo shoot and trying to decide what I wanted to take along to represent our loss and struggle. No matter what I came up with, it just did not feel right. On Saturday before the shoot, I searched my house high and low for my 5 lbs. 1 oz. Abby pillow. I wanted to take that along with some other things representative of the Smallest Gift. As much as I tried to find the perfect things, nothing felt quite right.I was feeling increasingly frustrated until finally I had a revelation. This photo shoot was not to be about the children or the Smallest Gift. It was supposed to be about me
—my beauty and my brokenness. So I stop looking for those items. Instead I looked for things that were instrumental to my healing. I pulled out my red wooden rosary beads. They are well worn and they even missing a part but the felt right. WIth my few items in hand, I set out for the photo shoot. It was a very emotional experience. I cried. I struggled with allowing my pain and vulnerability out there for everyone to see. I reminded myself that sadness and pain and grief are not weaknesses. I’m so glad for the timing of and the opportunity to do this photo shoot with Nicole Benner. There’s something very revealing about looking at yourself in photographs. It’s almost like you are examining your life from an observer’s perspective. It gives you a unique vantage point. As I looked at the pictures, I was surprised to see someone whose heart has already started to beat again. Unknowingly, and apparently despite my resistance, a new stage of grieving and healing had already begun. So here I am, one year late writing the blog post I was supposed to write last year about grieving and healing and turning the page to a new chapter in our lives. I can tell you honestly that doesn’t hurt any less. It still hurts terribly but it feels like there’s something new and fresh now. It’s like my heart did stop beating but it’s now beating again. Somehow after it was broken into 1 million pieces, it’s patched back together it is something that is bigger and more beautiful than before. I’m still broken. I still cry. I still sometimes cry out to God “WHY???” but on most days, I’m grateful to be broken. From this spot of brokenness, there is much beauty, much love, much empathy. It allows me to sit quietly with a person who has just lost a loved one or walk alongside a patient who is dying, or help another grieving family through our work with the Smallest Gift. That is truly beautiful. I am truly grateful. My life is deeply, deeply enriched because I am their mother. The big surprise was, as it turns out, I didn’t need to tell my heart to beat again. Apparently, there was another quieter, persistent whisper of encouragement all along. It was my daughter. It was the Blessed mother. It was Jesus. It was the voice of the angels who came to carry my daughter home. It was the laughter and kisses of my son. It was the steady support of my husband. It was the patient ministering of my very devoted friends and family. It was love.
There’s a quote from Rumi that I love. When asked about the pain and sorrow that is carried in the human heart, God says, “Stay with it. The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” So true.
Happy Birthday, baby girl.