A collision of joy and sadness: Lessons learned from ‘Buried Dreams’
When I first read about the opportunity to be a part of Lindsey Dennis’s “Buried Dreams” book launch team, I jumped at the chance. I had been following her story since 2013, soon after she and her husband, Kevin, learned via ultrasound that their first child had anencephaly.
Defined as the absence of major portions of the brain and skull, anencephaly is considered to be incompatible with life outside the womb. Still, Lindsey and Kevin chose to honor the life of their little girl, whom they would call Sophie. With the help of their family and friends, they celebrated weekly with special treats, dates and outings, including a Disney princess encounter and even a boy band concert.
These celebrations are how I heard of the Dennis’ story. Lindsey had started a blog, “Vapor and Mist,” to chronicle their journey with Sophie, and thanks to mutual Facebook friends, I saw one of the shared entries. I began reading and was inspired by Lindsey’s honesty, vulnerability and faith. Despite being largely a sad story, Lindsey’s journey with Sophie, who lived for 10 precious hours before meeting Jesus, would come to give hope to people across the country and even the world.
A few months after Sophie’s death, Lindsey was pregnant again — this time, with a baby who had acrania, another shockingly terminal condition. Fourteen months after Lindsey and Kevin buried their firstborn daughter, they met her sister, Dasah, and spent 12 hours with her.
Two babies. Two deaths. Two tiny caskets. It seemed unbearable to me. But Lindsey remarkably kept writing through it all.
So, back to the book launch team. Because I subscribed to get regular emails from Vapor and Mist, I received one announcing the formation of Lindsey’s book launch team. I raised my virtual hand and a week or so later, I found myself in a Facebook group, digitally meeting other book launch team members. I quickly realized that most of them had stories with similarities to Lindsey’s. I read about child loss or other extreme suffering that I could not imagine.
I have three healthy children and a life largely without tragedy. Sure, I’ve had sad times; for example, I’ve been very open about my fertility challenges and a miscarriage. My life is certainly not perfect and there is always something I’m working through with the Lord, surrendering to Him. But my struggles seemed so small compared to losing a child.
I wondered, what did I possibly have to offer as part of this launch team? It took me a couple days, but I got over myself and inwardly said, “This is not about you, April. It’s about God and what He’s going to do through this book.”
There was anticipation in my spirit to read Lindsey’s book. Although I didn’t actually know her, I kind of felt like I did. By the way, Lindsey is a well-read author and a completely gifted storyteller, as you will see when you read “Buried Dreams.” Because you’re all going to read it, right? Anyway, I always feel a kindredness with other writers, and Lindsey is no exception.
And I knew there was more to the story than what appeared on Vapor and Mist. I read “Buried Dreams” with the mindset of simply sharing it with the world, not whether I related to the heartbreak the Dennis family experienced. Because I knew I couldn’t.
Well, God and Lindsey wasted no time and quickly met me in the first chapter with this sentence: “But truth be told, even without what we would define as tragedy in our lives, we all ache in some way for the things in our lives that are not what we thought they would be, that are not as we know they should be.”
This is the essence of “buried dreams” — hopes for our lives that are not realized. Everyone has them, and God meets us all in those times, revealing his faithfulness. Lindsey proclaims God’s sovereignty and goodness in her book, but she is also honest in discussing her grieving process. She bravely describes how she learned the true meaning of the word “lament.” She did not shy away from asking God the hard questions because it is a critical part of lamenting.
I don’t want to give away any of Lindsey’s realizations because they are exquisite and are best read in the context of her book. However, I will say that “Buried Dreams” is worth reading. Everyone who reads it will learn from it.
“Buried Dreams” offers wonderful insight into grief — for those who are experiencing it firsthand, but perhaps, more importantly, for those who are coming alongside the lamenters. As a culture, we are generally really bad at dealing with others’ grief. We say weird things like, “Everything happens for a reason” and “Time heals all wounds.” Neither of these is true or helpful. Lindsey’s story emphasizes the importance of praying for grieving people and simply sitting in the pain with them, crying with them and not feeling the need to fill the space with trite sayings.
A story of redemption, the book beautifully captures the tension that life brings as we deal with suffering. “Our culture likes to categorize stories — happy or sad, joyful or painful,” Lindsey writes. “It seems we are uncomfortable living in the tension of the joy and the ache our stories, and ultimately this world, hold. When faced with tragedy, this is what begins to take place in the heart of the one in pain. There is a constant collision of joy and pain.”
I cried through much of the book, but I was amazed at Lindsey’s uplifting words. Despite staggering loss, hope and joy were recurring themes. As God guided her through a season of deep pain, Lindsey consistently points to Him and provides brilliant teaching on the Lord’s character.
Fittingly, she ends with an invitation: “Bring your broken, bring your tears, bring your disappointment, bring your questions, and surrender. God has met me in the waiting, in the suffering, and in my daily surrender. These are the places He has forged and is continuing to forge in me the kind of hope that doesn’t disappoint. And these are the places God will forge it in you.”