Two minutes. Or one minute and 51 seconds where I live. We have it timed to the second and are going to be watching the clock lest we catch a glimpse of the sun and burn our retinas.
It's fun, isn't it? Not the possibility of burned retinas, but the whole process. Mostly because we know exactly what to expect. We know that it will begin to get darker, that the shadows will look strange, that the animals will act different, that the stars will come out - and that the whole thing will be over soon and the sun will come out again.
That knowledge is what the ancients were missing, and why a solar eclipse filled them with dread. What if you didn't know how long it would last? Or what if the two minutes passed...and it stayed dark. The moon didn't keep on moving past the sun. There was no diamond. You would be stuck, wondering when - and if - there was still hope.
That is what happens when you lose a baby. The shadow of loss and death suddenly eclipses the joy of life. Your world gets dark. Shadows behave strangely. You are unsure of your surroundings and your footing. The familiar is suddenly unfamiliar. But unlike an eclipse, you almost never know that it is coming. And when it hits, you have no idea how long the darkness will last. If I am still sad about my baby a month later, is that normal? Am I normal? What if it is six months later, or a year? Will I always feel this pain and devastation?
The ancients didn't know what a solar eclipse was and so they thought the world was ending. I wonder what kind of hope and relief filled them during the eclipse the moment that the sun sparkled again at the edge of totality. Maybe the same relief, albeit laced with guilt, that I felt the first time I laughed, weeks after losing our daughter Naomi. Or even, the day after, when a nurse told me her story of loss and survival, and I realized - I can survive this awfulest of awful heartbreaks. I can survive and find joy again.
Two minutes can feel like forever when you don't know if the sun will ever shine again. But when you have hope - it is bearable. Hope helped me take the next breath. Hope got me out of bed in the morning. It helped me survive until the light dawned again.
If you are approaching this solar eclipse with the shadow of loss cast across your own life, I want you to know - there is hope. Even in the darkness, we can reach out for God. The prophet Hosea remind us that God's faithfulness is as sure as the dawn (Hosea 6:3). We know the sun is still there, even in totality, and even more than the sun, we can trust in the One who made the sun.
God can and will carry each of us through the darkness, through the unfamiliar sounds and shadows in what would normally be familiar terrain. You can find joy and love again. I can't promise you when - our personal eclipses are not anywhere near as predictable as the heavenly bodies. But totality will not last forever. The sun will shine again, the darkness will lift, and you will once again be able to find your footing and familiarity.
Until then, find others to stand with you, to gently hold out hope without chastising you for railing against the darkness. To remember the sunshine of your baby's life with you.
Watch the eclipse on Monday, and when totality ends and the sun peeks through, take it as a promise for you as well. The deepest pain and darkness of this will not last forever.
There is hope.
There will be joy again.
You're not alone.
I am praying for you.