The Stranger: Afton’s Story, Part Eight

This post is part of a ten-post series I’m sharing about the life and loss of our son, Afton. Click here to read more of Afton’s story.

Afton's Story

Every day, there are new Brave Things.

Going to the grocery store for milk. Walking Sage around the block. Seeing babies. This week my Brave Thing was getting on a plane and going to Hawaii. I know, right? Dreamy. And four weeks ago, it would have been. But I’m living a new life now – one where following through on a would-be babymoon to Hawaii falls under the category of Very Brave Things.

As we checked in for the flight, we realized that Bjork and I wouldn’t have seats together. Row 5 and Row 15 – not even close. We got on the plane hoping for a flexible seat mate, and we lucked out. Row 5 was not a great seat (hello, bathroom), but the guy sitting next to me – Brian – agreed to switch seats so that we could sit together.

Being the super nice person that he is, Bjork took a few minutes during the flight to write Brian a thank you note. He explained Afton’s story and why it was especially meaningful for us to be able to sit together on this flight. I woke up just as he was walking up to Row 5 to deliver it.

After we landed, we stepped into the gate area and saw Brian waiting for us. He introduced himself and thanked us for the note.

And then, quietly, with tears in his eyes, he told us that he knew the pain. He had lost his first son at a premature 26 weeks old – almost the exact same as us. “It will be 6 years this month,” he said. “And it’s still hard. It never completely goes away. But you’ll make it through. With time, you’ll make it through.”

Even (or maybe especially?) as a Christian, I’ve always been really uncomfortable with the overuse of cliche faith words. For example, God will bless you, that was a blessing, hashtag blessed. But Afton’s life has given me so many instances where using those cliche words is so very justified.

Brian, you were a blessing to us in the deepest sense of the word. You softened the blow of airports and luggage and crappy seat assignments, and you reminded us that we’re not alone. That the world is full of good people who will love Afton with us, and that God is close to us, the broken-hearted.

To healing, Hawaii, and a Very Brave Future.

Afton's Story
I’m sharing more about life with and after Afton on my personal Instagram account. I’d love to have you follow along here.

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39 Comments

  1. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Sometimes when you go through suffering, it’s so profound how you crave “normalcy” again. Just getting up in the morning and doing everyday things without that searing pain. Physical pain is one thing, but pain in your heart….ouch. Still praying for healing. One of the most intense aspects about suffering a hurt such as this is that is changes you. You can’t go through life the same because you look at every. single. person. differently. As though….what are they suffering through today? That person who cut you off in traffic just might have lost their mom. You never know so you learn to deal gracefully with everyone. I’m so sorry. Continued prayers and hugs!

  2. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Jo

    “And I let him go. Hour by hour. Days into months. It was a physical sensation, like letting out the string of a kite. Except that string was coming from my center.”
    ~Augusten Burroughs, You Better Not Cry

  3. Pinch of Yum Logo
    tamara

    This gives me shivers each time I read it. I’m so glad that Brian crossed your paths.

  4. Pinch of Yum Logo

    That’s what’s so beautiful about sharing your story. You never know who can relate. Those connections are so precious.

  5. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Wow! Even in our pain I believe God reminds us of His love for us. What a blessing Brian must have been, indeed.

  6. Pinch of Yum Logo

    Dear Lindsay and Bjork. I was hoping that you two would be able to get away to some place warm and sunny, escaping the wintry cold of home. You need sunshine and the tropics to help comfort your heavy souls. Loved this story. It’s amazing how God puts just the right people in our path when we need them. You are not alone in this this journey, and it helps to know that. Yes, God is close to the broken-hearted and he has been with you, all of the way, as thousands of people have been praying for you. May the sunshine and warmth of Hawaii with it’s tropical breezes and blue waters soothe you. And I know that you know, God still has big plans for your life.

  7. Pinch of Yum Logo
    kimberley

    A holiday in the warm sun and tropical waters jump started our healing when we lost our first baby. I’m so glad you have the chance to get away. Your writings and insight about Afton have been so beautiful to read. Thank you so much for sharing. It’s not a club anyone wants to join but I have a feeling you are going to be a comfort for others going through this in the future. I loved that your grief counsellor suggested giving Afton a scent to remember him by for always. You’ve probably already thought of this but you could share a beautifully bound book of Afton’s story for your amazing NICU nurse and grief councillor to maybe share with others going through the same pain. Everyone grieves in their way but this particular grief is so painful it can often be swept under the rug. Thank you for being so open.

  8. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Tesei

    You are a brave family, I hope you enjoy this brave time off. Having found Brian in your path is probably a sign that recovery is on its way! Here we are your readers for anything we can do to help!

  9. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I have thought of you over the past several weeks. I have never had children. But I do understand loss. I want you to know that I pray for you and Bjork and Afton, often. I pray that God’s soft grace will be a gentle blanket of comfort. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  10. Pinch of Yum Logo

    So incredible that he happened to switch with you and that he just so happened to fully understand the pain you guys have gone through. God is amazing. And he works in amazing ways that we simply cannot understand. You both “just so happened” is God’s way of leading us.

  11. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Nicole

    God works in amazing ways when we least expect it and need Him most! Thank you for sharing Afton’s story with us, as well as your faith. It is a blessing to us all (and I mean that in the least cliche way possible!).

  12. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Julie B.

    Beautiful post. Every single one of these has made me cry. But the poignancy of this Brian story is that if Bjork hadn’t had the courtesy to write the note, you would never have encountered the amazing synchronicity of Brians’s own experience. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Dana Isabel

    🙂 God orchestrates the most beautiful moments. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. Praying for your trip in Hawaii, for healing and hope.

    Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

  14. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Emily Pitts

    Lindsay, I’m not even going to try to find words to comfort you. My husband, who loves meat, is out of town, so I’m happily making as many of my flexitarian recipes as I can. I was looking for the Bangkok Curry Noodle Bowl recipe that I’d pinned last year, the pin took me to the post on Megan’s letter (it was the first I’d heard of your sadness, I’m not a consistent blog reader apparently). My heart broke. I know when we go through difficult things we didn’t plan, sometimes people pull away because they don’t know what to say. It’s easy to click the <3 on Instagram, so much harder to type a comment on a blog for some reason. But I HAVE to say something because you are so much a part of my life, I use your recipes weekly, on repeat. I rave about them to my friends. I know when I'm feeling pseudo-vegetarian, I can count on you, you've never let me down! I feel like we are buddies. We lived in Rochester and WBL Minnesota when we were first married. I feel a connection. Any how, you need to know that you and Bjork and Afton are in my heart and prayers. We can't plan the hard things and for that reason, we need others so much more when they happen. I pray you are getting support from those you need most, but if they aren't as there as you need them to be, be patient and love them anyway. Loss and tragedy sometimes makes us see things in ourselves we're not proud of. I know I've not always been there for people when I was needed. Then it happened to me and now, I try really hard to never let that happen to anyone under my watch. You can count on this 45 year old woman you've never met. I'll leave a comment.

    PS The Bangkok Curry Noodle Bowls were AWESOME. Thank you.

  15. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Mickey Newman

    Ashley, I have been praying for your family ever since that first alert about having to go into the hospital. With every update, your story has brought me to tears. So it was no surprise to me on Saturday when I heard Lauren Daigle on Pandora singing her song, Trust in You, that I thought of you. It comforts & encourages me when I think of you two. I am so glad you know the true Source of all comfort. In Him, Mickey

  16. Pinch of Yum Logo

    What a beautiful moment, and a reminder that God puts people in places just when we need them. Continued prayers for healing <3

  17. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Tabitha

    Lindsay, you and Bjork are inspiring. I’m encouraged by your testimony and faith. Afton is a beautiful baby boy, and you know he is smiling upon you guys everyday. We don’t know each other, but through His kingdom, we are family. I’ve been praying for you; for healing and that you both continue to walk stronger with Him. God’s Will be done – always! When you get a chance, YouTube Hillary Scott’s “Thy Will Be Done.” Love the song and the words. Everytime I hear it, I think of the 3 of you. Blessings to you! Your sister,
    Tabitha

  18. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Michelle

    I think it is a great thing you are doing sharing you story. I time I read one of your posts it brings me to tears. Sometimes they are happy tears, sometimes sad tears, and sometimes just tears… Each night when my husband gets home I read each post to him. We were both blown away by this common experience you had with Brian, and that HE was the one to exchange seats. Such a great reminder that we never do know what anyone else is going through…until we make that innocent connection. Blessings to you and Bjork…and Brian. 🙂

  19. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Revital

    Here is ‘Source’ , ‘God’, ‘Universe’, give it the name you are most comfortable with – in its glory, showing you that you are never alone. This encounter was not a coincidence. I hope that you will rest well and renew. sending you both good energy , thoughts and prayers.

  20. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Robin

    You two are so very, very brave to keep trekking forth in tears and utter vulnerability. You are such a blessing to behold. The sharing of your hearts and journey draw me near to God to pray for you and grow in trust. Thank you so very much!

  21. Pinch of Yum Logo

    I’m following your story, Lindsay and Bjork. And, I also know the pain because me and my wife also loose our first baby premature. We cried, sad and need time to move forward. Now, God give us two beatiful daughters.

    I believe God will give you special gift soon. May Aston is now comfort with Him. Keep smile and stronger.

    Love,

  22. Pinch of Yum Logo
    Mary

    No words can express what I am trying to say. You are so strong and so brave. Thank you for sharing your story. Afton is the perfect name. He is a beautiful angel. He came to bless you. And yes His mama did very good. You’re in my heart now too Sweet Afton and I don’t personally know your family but your brave mom just introduced you to me in these beautiful stories and now I join the many others who grieve you and send prayers up to heaven for you and your sweet loving parents. You are loved. I pray God be with you and your parents every moment to comfort and lift the pain. May the tears that flow water and grow the seed of love you’ve permanently planted while here. God loves and protects His children and even when it doesn’t feel like it we can lean on the promise that His plans are to give us Hope and a future. ….sending all my love to you and your family….