This is the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, to the death of Christ. It's the time when Christians are supposed to reflect upon their sins, make sacrifices to remind them of the sacrifices Jesus made. Reflection - that seems to be all I have done in the last 5 years - think about Ben, what might have been.
Because he was born on New Year's Eve, by the time my husband and I decided to venture back to church, it was nearly Lent in the liturgical year. It was the right time for our moods: reflection, sorrow, waiting for this terrible death, this horrible sacrifice.
But then there was this: Ash Wednesday. Ashes in the sign of a cross on foreheads everywhere. Ashes, the ashes sitting in a bag in a funeral home, the remains of our son, waiting for us to feel strong enough to bring home. And that, that day, that was too much. And still is. There will be no ashes for me.
There was also the topic of sacrifice. Many Christians believe in giving something up for Lent, to mirror the sacrifice of Christ. (Which, when they talk about giving up diet Coke, or sugar, is really pretty laughable.) This isn't something my Protestant family every did; it just wasn't our tradition, but these days it seems to have moved into more mainstream Christianity. People would ask me if I was giving something up, and I would stare at them dumbly: hell, I sacrificed my son, isn't that enough for the rest of my life? No, it wasn't a true sacrifice, in the real meaning of the word, but it was the most important thing in the world ripped from me by force. Oh, I'd had my pain, thank you very much, I'd had enough pain for the rest of my life, for a lifetime of Lents.
The worst thing, though? Easter. God's son, risen from the dead. A miracle. A miracle for the whole world, but not for me. And anger: why is there a miracle for Jesus, and not for me? I know, if you believe in God, you really can't compare the two. Ben was not the son of god, after all, but still. I wanted my miracle. Didn't I deserve a miracle?
I still don't do Lent very well. I attend church fairly regularly, but I don't know if I can call myself a Christian these days. Losing a child caused me to lose much of what I thought I believed in. I go to church, I go through the motions, but I no longer feel like there's anything out there. Maybe I will again one day. These days I can call myself a cynic, rather than a Christian. I can call myself a doubter, or maybe I should call myself just plain mad. Skeptical. Unsure.
One day, I may have something to believe in again. Or maybe not. I just don't know. I don't discount a shift in my thinking, my system of belief. Right now, I sit with my skepticism, with my questions, and I search for an answer that may or may not come. I'd like to have some confidence in faith and God, but I don't know how to get there. For now, that's mostly ok, and maybe this is where I am supposed to be. I have more questions than answers; I have questions that may simply be unanswerable.
If you believed in anything before your child died, what do you believe in now? How did it change you? Has it made your faith stronger, or weaker? Has it changed your faith at all? What are your answers?