By Sam George
I sat in the movie theatre crying, trying to hold it together so that I wasn’t sobbing (there were other people in there after all), but still enjoying the tears as they rolled down my cheeks. Here I was, three weeks after my son Clive had died, watching an animated movie that resonated so deeply with my hurting heart. That movie was Inside Out. Without giving too much away if you haven’t seen it (and you should go see it), the movie centers on the emotions of a young girl. Throughout the movie the emotion of sadness is pushed to the side until eventually it becomes apparent that sadness is not only necessary but also can bring healing and completeness to a person’s life.
It’s a deep concept for a kid’s movie. In fact, such a deep concept that most kids will fail to realize the depth of it until they are much older and have seen what sorts of sadness this world can throw at them. I am actually quite grateful that many kids (and even some adults) are ignorant of this truth. For me, I didn’t learn it until the past couple of years.
My wife and I struggled to conceive, then miscarried, then eventually conceived again and were blessed with our son Clive.
When I go back and read that sentence by itself it seems so simple. We struggled and miscarried and then we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy. End of story. Except, that wasn’t the end of our story. Clive was indeed a beautiful baby boy, but he was sick and had a heart condition. He was born at 32 weeks and lived 39 days in the hospital before eventually passing from this world.
There are more details to it than that, of course, but they aren’t the important part.
Except, in a way, they are. Every laugh, every cry, every minute we got to hold him, rock him, read to him, feed him, and pray over him were all extremely important, more important than I can even fathom. Although, I think during those times I did almost fathom it; there was something holy in it. I think other parents can relate to that fact, even if their kids weren’t in the NICU.
Still, we got to be Clive’s parents, and Clive got a chance to live on this earth and experience love. Those are the important things. not the medicines, or the tubes, or anything else. And we get to be Clive’s parents still. I get to be Clive’s dad, and that is such a blessing, and it’s so extremely hard that he isn’t here for me to father.
And then there’s the loss, the emptiness. It’s crippling. Except, for me one of the hardest parts is that it hasn’t been completely crippling. I can still go about my life. I can still go to work. I can still tell a joke. I know some of you may not be able to relate to that. Your story is different, of course, but after a pretty short amount of time I could do “normal life” again, except I didn’t want to. None of it was satisfying, and the color and the joy was seemingly drained out of it all. I could still tell the joke and crack a smile, but I’m not really laughing… nor do I care. It’s crippling, but I wish it were more crippling. The part of me that is crippled is invisible, and on some days it’s perhaps quite detectable, and on others it’s probably not.
It’s been eight months now and some days have more color to them and some are still quite grey. My hopeful conclusion is quite similar to the movie Inside Out. The sadness can be mixed with joy and become a core part of you. The two become inseparable, and the one makes the other sweeter. If anything, the sadness shows me colors I hadn’t noticed before. I notice the person who seems depressed, and I understand and can offer support. I notice how beautiful things are. I notice how lucky people are to enjoy the small things, even if I feel like I’m not able to enjoy them yet myself, I can notice and appreciate it all the same. I remember how blessed I am to walk this road with my wife. I remember how grateful I am to be Clive’s father. Over time the joy mixes in with the sadness. The sadness doesn’t go away. I wouldn’t want it to; the sadness is its own sort of blessing. But it’s important to remember it only colors in part of the picture. To be complete, you must allow the joy to trickle in, to catch you by surprise, and to color in the rest of the picture.
We recently received this picture of Clive in full color. Before we only had it in black and white. I can’t think of a better example of my heart being filled up with such joy and such sadness all at once.
Sam George is in the greenhouse supply business, owns a coffee shop, and loves Jesus. Read more of Rachel and Sam’s story at their blog, CliveWins.com, or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. In Clive’s memory, they’re also working on getting Jesus Storybook Bibles in the hands of families in hospitals or families experiencing loss. Find out more at room423bibles.com.