by Janet Caldon
Janet’s book, Life After Loss: Questions No Parent Wanted to Ask but Need Answered, is now available for purchase. The book explores eight of the hardest questions grieving parents face. It is designed to be read on your own or use in a small-group setting. To purchase:
Cost is $10.00 plus an additional $5.00 shipping and handling charge for mailing purposes.
Checks made out to The Love and Loss Foundation
Checks mailed to Janet Caldon, 9423 South K Street Tacoma, WA 9844
All good children’s stories begin with “Once Upon a Time.” And although this article is anything but a children’s story, it does involve our children. The child you loved and lost. My child that was here and suddenly gone.
The first moments of my story began on April 24, 1990. Labor had started, so it was just a matter of time until I would give birth. With each passing hour we knew it was going to be a longer road than anticipated. Complications developed when my labor stalled, so I was rushed in for an emergency C-section. I had no idea that the course of my life would forever be altered after this routine procedure.
I gave birth to a daughter that would not live. Twenty-five days later, May 25, 1990, the Lord ushered Rachel into His presence while I began a journey that can best be described as a living hell. Telling my children the sister they loved was dead. Making funeral arrangements. Attempting to memorialize a daughter I barely knew. Saying goodbye to a cold, lifeless infant that would never say my name, lose her first tooth, go to school, graduate from college, walk down the aisle or have children of her own.
The grief felt endless. The mourning, grueling. I meandered through life after loss trying to find healing even though there seemed to be no hope. Trying to find answers that seemed elusive. I privately wished that someone, somewhere would come alongside me and tell me that I wasn’t crazy. That my questions were normal. That I wasn’t alone. And that I didn’t have to suffer in silence.
Years passed, and as I found my way, something else happened along the way. An underlying burden and growing passion to minister to families who had known the havoc and heartache of losing a child emerged. Not in the first months or year. Not even in the first decade. But gradually, as my heart healed. And behind the scenes God was masterfully authoring my story.
The most recent chapter of my story developed in 2012 when seven mothers met for a weekend ocean retreat to encourage one another in their grief. It was raw. It was real. Like nothing I had ever imagined or anticipated, including a vision straight from God’s heart to mine.
Jesus is in a spacious meadow, next to a babbling brook. On His left and right, the seven children represented in the cabin below heaven’s clouds. My Rachel bounces on His knee. He pulls her close and whispers, “I have great plans for your Mommy!”
Her brown eyes widen, her blonde hair flows in heaven’s gentle breeze, as her curiosity peaks. “What will she do, Jesus?”
He smiles and points to the cabin. Denay sits on His other knee and squeals, “There’s my Mom! She’s going to sing!”
Jackie sits down at the keyboard. The mothers in the room close their eyes and listen as words pour from her heart to His throne.
What if our blessings come through raindrops,
What if our healing comes through tears…
As Jackie sings, the ladies dab their eyes with tissues while the lyrics from the song penetrate the deepest part of their hearts. Their open wounds. Their scars. The tender tissue still protected, not ready for healing. And then the next chapter unfolds.
“I see it, Jesus! Will Mommy?”
Jesus smiles. “Yes, Rachel. She will. And she will never be the same. I have another chapter in her story. One that I wrote before the beginning of time. It began with you but it will extend through your mother to countless others. Watch! It’s about to begin!”
And then I saw a church filled with women that had buried a child. They were in the sanctuary, some sitting closely, others holding their friend’s hand as I spoke from the stage, not just of the pain of losing Rachel, but of my hope of seeing her again.
I saw women all around the church, in rooms where they gathered in small groups, each of them sharing their stories of love and loss. And heartache and havoc. Of healing and hope. And then I saw Jackie, this time singing from the stage, What if our blessings came through raindrops? What if our healing comes through tears?
The vision expanded to thousands of parents gathered at a large facility receiving healing, not at a church, but by the church. Parents of every color, race and age. All hearing of the healing that comes from heaven.
And then, in a way that only God could, the next lines of the chorus were not part of this vision, but presently sung by Jackie in the cabin at the ocean.
I couldn’t wait for her to finish! I had to tell the ladies what I saw! What God showed me and of His plans for the future! Theirs and mine.
I asked Jackie to pause before beginning the next song. I told my cabin mates of the vision. This was bigger than our wildest imaginations and broader than anything we could ever dream.
One month later, the next chapter of “Once Upon a Time” unfolded as I sat down with my pastor and his wife in his office to tell them about this vision. Except that unimaginable shock, pain and uncertainty accompanied us. Theresa’s adult son was on life support, not expected to live, even though she had already lost her infant son, Nathaniel, and had miscarried three other babies.
Suddenly, as though time had not passed from the previous vision, I saw Nathaniel approach Jesus. He put his hand on the Savior’s still-scarred side and asked, “Is this part of Janet’s vision? Will my mommy be loved?”
Jesus pulled Nathaniel into His arms as his three siblings gathered around Him. “Yes, my dear children. She will be loved. Your brother Joshua will be here soon and she will need this love like never before.”
Troy, Lina and I prayed for Theresa and her family. We prayed for Love and Loss, and believed that God would indeed do great things in spite of incomprehensible pain.
Eight months later, I felt like an expectant mother as I waited for and then welcomed 40 women to the first Love and Loss Conference. I sat on the stage, awed at the goodness of God as Jackie sang of blessings through raindrops, healing and tears, just as God had shown me. And I looked into the audience and saw Theresa. Ripe and raw with grief, receiving love, just as Jesus had promised.
In the months after the Love and Loss Conference, God continued to unfold my story with the next chapter that included the Love and Loss Facebook Page. It started small, with women that had attended the conference “liking” the page, along with several others from my church supporting it. And then something happened in a way that still is indescribable to me. Something that makes my head spin.
The Love and Loss Foundation developed, as an official non-profit ministry, with a webpage linking families to Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. The
social media sites caused Love and Loss to explode. With likes, and posts, and tweets and messages and interactions. More than I can count. From more cities and countries than I ever imagined. Speaking languages I will never comprehend yet with pain we all understand, “My child died.”
For every name I could mention, there are over one thousand that I don’t know, yet God does and has entrusted to the ministry of Love and Loss. Thousands will become hundreds of thousands … which further compels me to follow God into this next chapter.
Writing a book for grieving parents. One that includes questions no parent wants to ask, but every parent wants answered.
I am honored to share my “Once Upon a Time” story with you. And should we meet on this side of heaven, coffee and conversation is on me!
Janet Caldon, Rachel’s Mom
About the Author: Janet Caldon lives in Tacoma, Washington and is the Director of The Love and Loss Foundation. Her daughter, Rachel, passed away in 1990 from a birth defect. Janet’s passion and mission in life is to lead parents to hope and healing.