Let me tell you why I am grateful for my friend Robbyn.
On January 11 of this year, Robbyn gave birth to a precious little boy named Zion. Zion was not expected to live long because he was born with a condition cablled Trisomy 18, which typically results in fatal medical complications. Some children with Trisomy 18 don’t survive their own delivery, whereas others can live for hours, days, weeks, and in rare cases, years.
I go to the same church as Robbyn and her family, and our whole church community had readied itself for Zion’s birth. We anxiously wondered if we would get to meet him. We prayed that we would.
Then on January 11, we did. Zion was born. In fact, he defied the odds by living 10 whole days. Robbyn and her husband Josh brought Zion home to spend the time with their 4 other sons, each new day being a miraculous answer to prayer.
Then on January 21, Zion returned to Jesus.
As you can imagine, Josh and Robbyn were beyond devastated. We all were. The loss of a child is the greatest tragedy one can experience.
However, amidst their great and consuming darkness shown forth a pin prick of light. Out of their story of pain and loss, God was doing something amazing.
At the funeral we watched a video about Zion’s important life, and it has gone viral. Zion’s story has captured the hearts of people all over the world, and, perhaps more importantly, it has given Josh and Robbyn the opportunity to talk about their faith in Christ.
On the Today website, you can actually read the story in Robbyn’s own words, as well as watch the video and see photos of Zion. I hope you will. Not only is the whole family just beautiful, but God is doing a mighty work through Zion’s mighty life.
In addition to the press, Robbyn has been Instagramming photos of Zion’s days on earth. Every day since his passing, Robbyn has posted a new photo of Zion, accompanied by her thoughts and struggles, her grief and her faith.
And out of that, a ministry has emerged.
I’ve watched as Robbyn’s Instagram followers have grown, and I’ve read the comments of complete strangers who were encouraged and heartened by her words. Every day for the last month and a half.
There are a lot of reasons I am grateful for Robbyn, but I am perhaps most grateful for this daily practice of sharing a photo, and sharing herself.
It has taught me something.
The death of a loved one invites a swirl of care. For weeks after the loss, family and friends surround the bereaved with attention, meals, cards, flowers, gifts, anything they can think of.
But over time the comforters dwindle. Day by day, people go back to their busy lives, the tragedy no longer at the forefront of their minds.
Even those who suffered the loss must, eventually, resolve to walk forward. They must keep on living, return to jobs, return to raising children, return to the world.
So they do. And to outsiders, it might seem like they are doing better, that time eases the pain.
But Robbyn’s photos have given me a glimpse into the reality of the journey. Every day she invites us into her mourning. She lets us know where her heart is at, which lets us know how to pray for her and care for her.
Romans 12:15 says,
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn.
It’s easy to think of mourning as a finite season, during which we weep, we bake casseroles, we send cards.
But I don’t think mourning is a finite season. For some, mourning will be a lifelong path. Some stages will be easier than others, but I would imagine that the loss of a child is something you never really get over.
That’s why Robbyn’s photos are such a great reminder. She is not the only one missing her child every day. She is not the only one who lost a part of her heart, and carries the ache of its absence with her.
Though the rest of the world resumes its frantic pace, there are countless mothers who feel the emptiness of their arms every day.
I know many of you reading this have suffered that very loss, and carry that same ache with you. To you, dear sister, I want to say that I see you. The loss may have been years ago, but you are in pain, and that pain is real, and Robbyn’s photos have challenged me to do a better job of caring and praying for you.
To the rest of us, who want to love and care for our friends in their loss, I hope you will remember Robbyn. Though I would never generalize her experience as representing every woman, her story reminds us that grief does not end when the meals and phone calls stop. Our friends need us to bear with them through the long journey of mourning.
We may not be able to make the journey much easier, but we can make sure they don’t walk it alone.
As a final note, I am hesitant to make suggestions on how to care for mothers who have lost children through death, miscarriage, or failed adoptions. If you have experienced this loss and have the courage to share, please leave a comment below about what was helpful (or not helpful) to you. Or even a prayer request if needed. Because you are loved, you are seen, and you are not alone.