Three months ago one of my college roommates (and one of my dearest friends) had a beautiful baby girl named Victoria. It was fun to be pregnant at the same time as she was. She ran a marathon in her second or third trimester. She swam in the water. In Maine. In a wetsuit. And she made it look good. She inspired me to go outside and enjoy the beauty that surrounded me.
So much can happen in three months.
A little while after my friend’s baby girl was born, I got an email from my old roommate. Her sweet Victoria had Down Syndrome and would need heart surgery–and a few days ago she had heart surgery and a few days after that, she finally got to go home.
On Thursday, I read my friend’s news–all was well, things were going great, and Victoria was at home on oxygen.
“Thank you for your prayers! They were answered!”
And then I felt an overwhelming, intense feeling that was completely unexpected. My heart was breaking, and the Spirit told me to pray–to pray hard for my friend and her family–and He asked the question,
“What if all of the prayers have not been answered yet? What if those prayers are yet to be answered in a way that is not expected? Pray for them.”
And then I worried.
And then I prayed. Hard.
And the next day, Victoria went back to her Father, and I prayed some more.
And I thought about those three months my beautiful friend had with her daughter.
It doesn’t seem like it was enough.
I guess no matter how much time we have with our children, if they Go Back before us, it doesn’t feel like it was enough.
Yes, I know families are forever and our little ones are in heaven and we have the gospel. I am sure my friend knows this, too.
I think that can make it hurt more.
And it can make it harder, because you feel like you should be more happy and you shouldn’t cry so much.
But it hurts. And it takes a long time not to hurt. More than “the first year.”
It’s not true what they say about time healing all wounds.
How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on… when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend… some hurts that go too deep…
The Savior can heal all wounds, but sometimes it happens after mortality.
I am beginning to understand that the hardest part of this journey of Life After Joy is that there is no going back. Everyone else goes on, going to the grocery store and complaining about the weather–but I cannot go back there to that road–and neither can my friend.
I find myself pushed off the edge of worrrying about what to make for dinner, that extra five (or fifty five) pounds, and should we keep the girls in dance lessons or not?–and I am falling, falling, and at some point that I cannot recall, I stop falling.
And at first, I can’t even stand.
I am there, face downward, my body in too much exhaustion-filled torment to move, but I do try to look up.
And there is nothing but darkness and nothing is visible, and I hear the echoing rush of the deep, deep, unfathomable trenches that surround me. And I wonder if I will fall again and never stop falling–and if I think too hard about her, then I fear that I will be lost in that abyss that nearly chokes me and suffocates me with its immensity.
But I crawl forward, inching my way in the dark, in the pain, in the agony. And I try to make sure others know that I know that Families Are Forever.
And I find myself summoning my Mother Teresa smile:
Smile, girls. The more it costs you, the more precious it is…
It costs me.
And deep down inside of me, I wonder if there is something wrong with me because “families are forever” or “she is with God now,” or “she was so special,” cannot lift me out of this canyon and put me back to my old life and it can’t even hope to penetrate the depth of pain that threatens to swallow me.
And then, the guilt comes–why did I let someone else get up in the middle of the night with her? Why did I get upset when she smashed Chapstick into every crevice of every toy she owned? Why did I make her go to bed so early?
Why didn’t I spend every single second I could with her instead of taking all those stupid naps when I was pregnant with her little sister? Why didn’t I go outside that beautiful day and play with her instead of working on cleaning the house?
Why did I have postpartum depression for two months? Why couldn’t I have overcome it? Why did I spend all that time upset right after she was born because John lost his job and started his own company? Why did I worry so much about moving to Idaho instead of playing with her?
And I scream into that darkness that I want my baby back. In those moments, I don’t care that “she’s in a better place.” I want her with me, next to me.
I want to touch her.
And the longing is excruciating, and I can’t breathe, and then I look into that abyss and it is endless.
And then I cry out:
Oh, Jesus, Thou Son of God, have mercy on me…Lord, I believe…Help thou mine unbelief.”
And He is there. He has never failed to come when I call Him. And He lights the way. And He never says, “She is in a better place.” He knows that I know that. He says:
I have overcome the world…and I love you.
Sometimes He doesn’t say anything, He just reaches out his hand and lifts me up before I fall into that terrifying abyss and He clasps me in His arms and I can breathe again. And the path is lit a little and I push forward, inch by inch.
The worst part is when I watch my husband suffer. It pains me far more than my own suffering, and I can do nothing to ease his pain. I can do nothing to cushion the landing. I can only watch and pray in agony as the love of my life aches for his baby. And John knows me. He knows my Mother Teresa smile. It cannot bring him comfort. I can only cry out to Jesus that He will save my husband, too. And He does.
And sometimes I wonder why we have been chosen to travel this particular road…this road that constantly threatens avalanche if we even begin to be distracted by day to day cares–we still can’t be. There has not been a day that goes by that I don’t realize that most things in this culture are Ridiculously Unimportant and a Waste of Time. Sometimes I ache to be ignorant of that. Most of the times I am beyond grateful that He has placed me and my family here, where we cannot help but hear the sounds of eternity whispering to us in a dull roar,
Remember what matters. Time is short. Don’t waste it. And always, always choose love.
And we can empathize and we can remember those precious ones who have gone so very early…
Please, please–take a minute to feel your heart break for my friend and her indescribable loss–even though we know they will be together again. Take a moment to mourn with her and with all the mothers whose babies are taken too early….
And then pray for my friend and her family that they will feel the light and warmth and love of the Savior and of your prayers, and that someday through the pain, they will feel joy and hope and peace…