I finished The Book Thief last night. It took me two nights.
It was probably one of the best books I’ve ever read. A bit hard to get into, but once I understood what was going on, I couldn’t put it down.
Even though many times I wanted to.
When the main character, Liesel, goes through loss after loss in such detail – I felt tears fall down my cheeks. It’s rare for me to cry from a book, but it happens. Charlotte’s Web. Anne of Green Gables when Matthew dies. I can’t remember the last time I cried as an adult though.
In a small way (because I am not ever going to relate my pain to those who horrifically suffered time and again in Nazi Germany) I felt what she was feeling. I knew the shock, the screaming, the disbelief of the death of someone you love. I was there, I felt her hesitation when happiness came and she wondered when it would end, and end in tragedy.
When the book said, “She held him for an hour after he died” (paraphrased) I felt the guilt heap on me that I didn’t hold Kaden longer. Why didn’t I just ask everyone to leave and sit with him for a while? That was all I had; he’d gone from a brief time with me, to NICU, to Children’s, to my arms, to heaven. I ached to hold him for months and months. And in all that time I ended up with just minutes.
I could have held him longer. Remembered him more. All I could think of in those moments were, “He’s not here, he’s gone. This isn’t him.”
As Kaden’s first birthday approaches, and so many others celebrate the children born around the same time who lived, I am thrust back into this never ending, back and forth game of, “Why me, what if, how could, maybe if, had I…” and my mind spins until I fall asleep . I know deep inside that no one has a perfect life. I know this, but sometimes? It’s so hard to believe that when you look out from such a fractured viewpoint.
Lately there has been so much pain heaped on people I love. I don’t understand any of it. Good, kind, beautiful people and families that are facing the most awful, devastating news anyone could ever hear. It makes me sick and it brings back my questions to God of, “Where are you?? Step in, change this, make something happen. Where are your miracles? Why do you allow this?”
Then, when I ponder this more, I realize something. The Book Thief and others like Unbroken, are incredible because they are based on real events so powerful, so altering, that it grips you and opens your eyes to another facet of life. Others move me because they are willing to share the daily grind, the ins and outs of ordinary life that so many of us still cover up. I need to read your stories. Even if someone puts at the end, “But you have so many other children living!” or “You should focus on the positive!” – your honesty makes me feel less alone and afraid. Honesty in the good and the hard.
So as hard as this is for my own life and others I see walking this path, my prayer starts to become, “Lord, let them see their story in all of this. Let their lives eventually become one so beautiful in a way no one wants, that others can’t help but think of You. Wonder about You. Let them persevere and rise up in the middle of the broken and change the world around them with the life you gave them.”
Everyone, whether you’ve had tragedy or life rolling by, has a story. It’s when you drop the need for perfection, to have others envy instead of perhaps pity, when you can embrace the broken, when you can tell your story to others and refuse to feel ashamed – that’s when God is able to use it for His glory.
I hate this for so many of us facing the impossible life after death. My hope is that we all know this isn’t it. We will hold and love them again. We will have moments of happiness again, and one day a lifetime of joy. In the midst of it, our story is created to be shared; because someone, somewhere, needs to hear it.