How Great Thou Art: Reflections on Life and Death
I have found that getting pregnant is in many ways an incredibly isolating experience. For several months, you are going through one of the most significant times of your life, and–for the most part–you are supposed to pretend that nothing is going on. But now the cat’s out of the bag! I have shared my news (For those who haven’t heard yet, I’m pregnant.). And now I can finally reflect with you about what those first few months were really like for me.
We found out I was pregnant just a few days before we went to Taiwan for my father’s funeral. I haven’t decided if the timing of everything was miraculous, cruel, or just strange. We bought the plane tickets to go visit my dad in Taiwan the day before he died. So we just missed seeing him alive one last time. I had been hoping that I would be able to go to Taiwan, hold my dad’s hand, and tell him he would be a grandfather. And–in a crazy twist–I actually would have been able to do that if he had lived just few weeks longer.
The timing of it all just made me so sad. But I know that there is no favor or malice in the timing of death and life. These things just happen, leaving us to be broken and put back together in the aftermath.
Now that I can finally talk to you all about the emotional roller coaster of my summer, I feel like I should try to share some kind of spiritual lesson from all that happened. But really all I can say is that this summer has simply left me with a profound sense of gratitude and awe.
I’m sure those of you who have experienced this may have had a similar feeling, but pregnancy has given me a whole new appreciation of life itself. This new appreciation comes out of a hard-fought first trimester. Before I ever started feeling sick, I started having symptoms that caused my doctor to warn me I was at risk for miscarriage. Every day for two months, I felt anxious that I would lose the pregnancy. Keeping the baby alive felt so precarious, unlikely, and difficult. All this while I was famished but disgusted by food, dead tired but in the bathroom every few hours of the night.
Every time I was on the subway, I found myself looking at moms and kids and just thinking, I cannot believe all those moms went through all of this anxiety and physical strain for every one of those kids. For every one of us, a mom had to go through all of that. And there’s nothing like learning all the things that can go wrong with fetal development to give you a sense of awe when things actually go right and a living baby is actually born.
Not only do I have a new appreciation for the biological forces and the maternal sacrifice that went into making me. But I have also spent the summer having moments of extreme gratitude for all that my dad poured into my life. Eating Chinese take-out tofu the other day, I was suddenly reminded of how my dad cooked tofu for me most days of my childhood. How every dish he made for me was created for the sole purpose of keeping me healthy. Throughout my grieving process, I have had waves of gratitude for everything he provided me in life, from warm coats to an education.
So my big spiritual conclusion from all that has happened this summer is just that I have not ended up where I am by my own will power or chance. God has put into my life parents, teachers, church folks, friends, and so many others who have loved me and sacrificed and supported me into the person I am today, and I take so much of it for granted so often. So today, I just want to take a moment to simply be grateful to God for life. What an unlikely, undeserved, incredible gift it is just to have this day. I am thankful.
I invite you to join me in a day of gratitude and to pray with me the great thanksgiving hymn:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
How Great Thou Art, Stuart K. Hine