The Bravest Daddy I Know.

19 Jun

I’m not exactly sure when the first time I said it to him was, but I know it was in one of those transparent, dark and hurting moments that we so often shared in the weeks following Kingston’s death.

“I don’t think I can lose anything else, Justin.  Especially not you.  Promise me you’ll keep talking about this?  Promise.  I don’t want this to ruin us.”

It’s interesting the pleas and desperate questions that are whispered across tear-soaked pillows; that linger among the sleepless nights following the loss of a child.  The color of grief running so desperately over everything you once knew. Everything sounding, tasting, smelling and appearing slightly different than before.

We both personally knew several couples who had lost everything else, after they lost their children.  Homes, marriages, friendships, spirituality, finances.  Somewhere, sometime, it was whispered to me that on average, only 1% of marriages survive the loss of a child. I remember thinking when I heard that… why?  Why wouldn’t you cling more than ever to the love of a spouse after losing a child?  Why give up then?  Why not use your marriage as a way to survive?

I’m not sure if this awful statistic is accurate, but it stuck with me in the months after the baby passed and today, I know the painful answer to those questions that my former, naïve self didn’t.  Yes, I know why.  Why the 99% let it all become ruin and I don’t even dare to judge them for it.

Because the truth is, survival is about our natural instincts and those instincts would take one look at this thing called “marriage” in the midst of such loss and they’d tell you to get out.  To run away.  No one will blame you for trying to survive this… so go ahead, do it.

Close off.  Shut the door. Roll over in the darkness and let the numbness take over your heart as the space between your two souls grows distant, further apart.  It’s easier, after all, to fight over small things, then to dig through the mess left in front of you- isn’t it?

Because the mess in front of you contains so much sorrow.  It’s the place where the regrets are.

The place where the hard questions, and the past and the future and the fear and the dreams all collide and at the core of it, the real reason you should run, is the fact that the marriage-relationship mimics the God-relationship, and the God-relationship is the last thing you want to deal with when your God has refused to answer the most desperate of prayers for the sweetest of babies.

Yes, I know why only 1% of marriages survive the loss of a child.  Because there is this enemy that is very real.  He comes to kill, steal and destroy and when you’re already so devastated, so defeated by loss… surviving could mean just letting this enemy have it all, because surely you’ll fail if you try to fight back in the state you’re in, right? And what are you fighting for, anyway?  One more precious thing that death could take away from you at any moment?

But I think the heartbeat of God would ask you, what is this wild, beautiful thing called life worth, if we’re merely surviving?  Is the purpose behind this vapor you have been given, to merely survive?  Don’t you feel it beating within you?  That you were created in the image of More. 

I want to live this life, not just survive it and to live, in this vapor we have been given, to fully love the rest of what we have left after the loss, that takes more than primal survival skills.  Choosing to stay and to fight for one more thing that you have no guarantee over.  Agreeing to relentlessly love something else you could so easily lose.  That’s not the easy way out.  That’s not the survival way out.  That, my friends, is the narrow road. The path less-traveled, where the beauty broken pieces are found.

We were created for the adventures found on the paths that are less-traveled.  Our Lord, walked the narrow road Himself so that we could choose to be brave and follow His self-sacrificing, relentlessly-loving footsteps.

He was just a boy when I met him, this husband of mine.  Young, tan and handsome with coke bottle glasses and a back pack too big for his thin body to carry.

Different from the boys I had been dating.  Not the most popular.  Not what would “appear” to be the bravest.  Not the tough guys I was used to. But he was gentle.  And kind.  And if I had to pick one word to describe him then, now, it would be: good.  To his core.  He’s just good.

I needed good in my life when we became best friends.  The gangster, broken girl and the shy, nerdy guy.  As shy as he was though, he was never intimidated by my fight.  By the fire and the polarizing force that can be me at times.  In fact, he always let me shine.  Then, now.  A steady, grounding force he quickly became to my heart.

I never knew, when I married that sweet boy.

That we’d be here only a few short years later.

And that the statistic of the 1% would be haunting me.

“What if it all falls apart baby, slowly, years down the road because we miss something or we don’t guard something?”  I desperately would say, and sometimes in my weak moments, still do “Don’t be afraid.  Don’t be fearful.  It won’t.  We’re in this with each other and Him- together.  I love you.” The grounding, steady force of that sweet boy says.

You see it, don’t you? How the marriage-relationship, indeed mimics the God-relationship?

My baby sister told me after seeing us, in the months following Kingston’s death that she learned more than ever why she just can’t settle when it comes to dating and marriage.   How Justin never left my side in the worst of emotions.  How we loved and fought through.  How whoever she is going to marry, has to be someone who loves Christ more than he loves her, so that they can walk through things like that together and do more than just survive.  I nod in understanding and I’m daily proud of her for choosing narrow paths of her own.  Brave Little One of mine she is.

We’re different now, in so many ways.  From the time we met, from the time we got married.

Life has brought us lessons that have put a few grey streaks in our 20-something strands of hair.  Our eyes are surrounded by dark circles that I’m convinced no amount of coffee will ever fix, and there are some lines appearing along our faces that I’m oddly proud of.  Our souls are older and battle-warn, but I’m thankful to report that on most days, we’ve managed together to do a lot more than just surviveWe live, in love with Him and in love with one another.   While we still have weak moments, the majority of our days are filled with tickle fights, laughter, great conversations, dreaming together, and loving each other through our weaknesses.  Joy.

Father’s Day just passed and I’m so deeply thankful for a boy who fell in love with me when we were just children, really.  He may not have “appeared” to be the bravest when I met him, but at the center of that goodness I saw in Justin is a steadfast, passionate love for Christ.  It’s that love, for his God, that makes him the bravest man I have ever known- full of the most gentle, quiet and steadfast strength possible.

You see, it takes the deepest kind of courage to weep over a lost son, feel the ashes of broken dreams stinging your eyes and choose, instead of running, to stay and fight for what’s left.  To love a woman relentlessly, softly guiding her fragile heart through the sea of emotions and back to the throne of her King.  It takes the heart of a warrior to realize that if the enemy had his way, everything else would lay in ruins as well and that we could so easily be part of the 99%… but instead, he daily dies to himself, puts me first and loves the Lord with all of his heart, soul and strength- therefore guarding my heart and fighting for us, in a way, that only he can as the head of my household.

Yes, that boy I once knew has grown into the strongest of men.

And, do you know what he spent this Father’s Day doing?

Missing his boy?  Yes.

Weeping over the breakfast in bed I made him and the sweet card with pictures of our baby? Yes.

But, also, loving some of the teens of our church who have no Dads, in only the way he can.  Pastoring people.  Dancing in the Father-Daughter Dance with our little niece, and loving on our nephew as if he was his own.  Because the young boy, who grew into the strongest of men, has the heart of a true Daddy and really, always has.

Happy Father’s Day, my love.  You are undeniably, the greatest gift God has ever bestowed on this girl.  Our sweet Kingston (and any of our children that follow him), could not have been blessed with a better Daddy.  I hope you know how much of a treasure you are to all of us!  You so beautifully represent Jesus to me and to our family… thank you for being in love with Him, for being in love with us and for fighting for us with such strength even through the thickest of life’s battles. Thank you for helping me find beauty in the brokenness!  I love you!

And to all the mommies and daddies out there who celebrated Father’s Day in a different way this year- like we did- we love you and have taken time to pray for you.  Be strong, be courageous, cling to Him and be part of the 1%.

Consider clicking here: and visiting another great post from baby-lost parents on marriage in the wake of loss, being lost instead in His grace?

Thanks for hanging in for a longer than usual blog post today.  Love to all of you!



14 Responses to “The Bravest Daddy I Know.”

  1. Janet June 19, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I can hardly see to type thru my tears! What an awesome,sweet & loving testimony to your husband,my son..he, also, has been given a gift like no other, and that is YOU!! Thank YOU for standing by my nerdy “boy” and loving him relentlessly…I love you my daughter-in-love!

    • suziebarbour June 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

      Ah, thank you for raising such an amazing man my momma-in-love. 🙂

      • Jann Ley July 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

        Kingston surely runs through the most glorious of meadows with our little loves! But while he was here, it is clear that he was honored and beloved.
        Please believe with me for anointed books to be written from Heaven and penned by those brave dads AND moms who have lost babies, whether by still birth, miscarriage, and particularly abortion.
        Would love to share my testimony with you;

  2. Lori Dacek June 19, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful and moving. Thank you!!

  3. Sherry Schiavone June 19, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    WOW, WOW, WOW, what a beautiful tribute, Susie you truly are a very special woman, just as Justin, is a very special man. What the two of you have is very, very special. You are just absolutely AMAZING! I am so proud to know you & Justin & to proudly boast that I am a friend of two such wonderful, loving people! I have only know you for a few short month, but I feel like I have known you for a lifetime. I am so sorry for your’s & Justin’s loss of Kingston, he has such wonderful loving parents, his brother’s & sister’s to come will have the best Mommy & Daddy alive! I too, am having a hard time typing thru the tears! You both are very deserving of each other! God has put the two of you together for a very obviously good reason!

    • suziebarbour June 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Thank you so much Sherry! We LOVE your entire family bunches and bunches!

  4. Chris Hilderbrandt June 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    Suzie, this is the best, but hardest, tribute to a dad I’ve ever read. I pray God honors your hearts and souls with the family you so yearn for. Clearly, you will “Raise them up in the way they should go……” and be forever blessed. Thank you for sharing.

    • suziebarbour June 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

      Thank you so much, Chris! It’s an honor to share Kingston’s story! Thank you for passing it on to the BOL mommies! I was with Lori Buckner last night, and we were both talking about how much we love you, and all that you guys are doing at Breath of Life!

  5. Nurse Tammy June 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    I care for couples at times of pregnancy loss and infant death and I have actually seen VERY FEW destroyed marriages among my folks and I have been doing this for 8 years and cared for about 700 families. Im so sorry that someone told you that 99% of marriages will end, that is a scary specter to deal with every day.

    It does seem that you have a stellar husband and your kids a wonderful dad…what a blessing. Keep writing about this, your peers need to understand loss and they wont hear it from the media. Keep up the good work and many blessings to you.

    Nurse Tammy at

    • suziebarbour June 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Tammy! I’m always honored to meet other heroic women who support families through times of loss. I’m thankful to hear you don’t see a lot of marriages struggling in your practice- that’s amazing! The hubby and I are also pastors and so we do a lot of counseling with couples across the country (especially since the loss of our son) regarding this matter. In our experience, I do know it is a very real pressure that many couples who have lost children struggle with and my hope in writing this was that some of our transparency here will help any of them that may read it to work through the struggles and have a successful marriage. As I stated in my blog, I have no idea where that statistic came from initially or how accurate it is, but it certainly was something that was very scary to me in the beginning of our journey and I pray regularly that it IS inaccurate and that more people, like you and I will rise up as resources for families recovering from loss to make it even smaller- whatever it officially may be. I recently read your post on the words miscarriage and stillbirth and I LOVED it- deeply! 🙂 I hope you’ll visit again!

  6. Linda June Otero June 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    love you both. Thank you for your friendship. Youre two amazing people!!

  7. lauren mallette June 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

    just read it are both such awesome testimonies to the God we serve. Thank you for your transparency and honesty. I love the way you two love each other…. keep showing people the love of the Lord. xoxox


  1. Thankfulness and Missing- Remember Kingston’s 2nd Birthday « - December 6, 2012

    […] Blog about Justin on Father’s Day […]

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