Empty Bed. Broken Heart. For Tage.

My dear friends returned a very empty baby bouncer today. They walked up my driveway and a lump caught in my throat. I was dreading this day. A little over 7 years ago, Jeff and I found out that we were expecting. It was the best surprise (TMI? Welcome to my blog) of our lives. We were showered with gifts and prayers for our new arrival. We received lots of foreign items. (Cue Sting: “I’m an Englishman in New York”...) We were in new territory. We received a Rainforest Baby Bouncer (that’s probably trademarked???) to assemble. We didn’t know just how handy it would be. Each of the McBabies would fall asleep peacefully in its comforting sling and vibration.

At that point, it was just an empty bed.

It represented new things to come. Things we knew nothing about, really.

Of course, each of the babies outgrew it and it was passed around to friends and cousins to use. At some points in between, it sat in our garage or shed with the rest of the Goodwill-store-just-waiting-to-be-opened-at-our-address.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented used stuff; stuff that was forgotten about and impertinent and in the way of our new crap routine.

Our sweet friends Josh and Molly delivered news that they were expecting. They took us up on an offer to use some of our baby things. They took the bouncer and then had a precious baby boy, Tage Thomas Monroe. He was beautiful. He had sweet eyes and (as his parents say and I concur) pouty, kissable lips; and in the nooks and crannies too small to see, he had a disease in his mitochondria. Lovely little Tage, at almost 8 months old, went home to be with Jesus just a couple of weeks ago. I’m writing this much more matter-of-factly than I’m both feeling it and than it is. I’m writing this much shorter than the tale that it is. I’m writing this while treading lightly because it’s not my story to tell. (Caveat: I’ve asked permission to even respond to this at all.) I’m writing this to point to Tage’s story and Josh’s heart and Molly’s hope and the Monroes’ written stories and the Church’s loving arms and Jesus’ blood and the Hope of a Savior.

Today, Molly texted me and, minutes later, brought back the baby things. That’s why the sight of them in the driveway with the bouncer brought the lump in my throat.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented loss and heartache. It represented what wasn’t to be. It represented a gift taken much too soon.

The McBabies immediately squished their long arms and legs and big heads (thank you McLaughlin genes) in the bouncer. I’m sure if I would’ve been monitoring the situation (wait… did I just admit negligence???), I would’ve heard the seams ripping and seen the metal frame bending. Sure enough, a fight ensued and I was yelling from the kitchen for the kids to get out of the baby bed and break it up!! The baby toys were now off limits.

Once again, it was just an empty bed.

It represented frustration at my kids. I was angry that they could go from best friends to bullies in moments. It represented guilt that I even have kids at whom to be maddened. Who am I to have a gift so fragile? Who am I to be the one in my shoes while my friends must walk in theirs?

“She hid him for three months. When she couldn’t hide him any longer she got a little basket-boat made of papyrus, waterproofed it… and placed the child in it. Then she set it afloat in the reeds at the edge of the Nile. ” (Exodus 2:1-3, The Message)

Long ago, Jochebed, mother of Moses, had a rich love for her son and a deep trust in the Lord. She received a vision from God and responded obediently by placing her baby in a basket to see his life spared.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented surrender. It represented open-handedness. It represented safety.

“Jesus, with a loud cry, gave his last breath… there were women watching from a distance… among them, Mary the mother.” (Mark 15:37-40, The Message)

Long after, another mother watched helplessly as her son was crucified. She would, inevitably return home. Home – the place where little Jesus had run and played; where she had tended to his skinned knees and scraped elbows; where she had soothed him when he had a fever or a bad dream. It is probable that she would see his childhood room - at the very least, in her mind.

It was just an empty bed.

It represented loss and gut-wrenching grief. It represented injustice.

Of course, being on this side of the story, we know that only days later, Jesus would live again. The stone would be rolled away, curious onlookers would peek in and they would see it…

It was JUST an empty bed.

Hallelujah. For the first time, it represented victory. It represented hope. It represented eternity. It, miraculously, changed every empty bed that had gone before it.

As Josh and Molly portrayed through their faith and transparency, Jesus changes everything. We will all leave behind this world. We will all leave behind, in essence, an empty bed. We all will meet a Maker who desires that we know that death is not the end of the story.

There is no way to write this without potential cliché. Far be it for me to say anything that doesn’t represent how shitty a tragedy like this is on this side of heaven.

Nonetheless, I’ve seen a steadfast family serve a steadfast God.

There is nothing more heart breaking than reading the parents’ letter to their late young son. In the case of Tage, who was so used by God and so gifted with incredible parents, there is also nothing more hopeful.

Because their story is powerful and God is still loving, I turn you over to my friend Molly. May her words wash over you and bring hope in the midst of the tension: Visit Molly's page HERE