Monday, January 19, 2015

How Death Can Change Your Life and Your Perspective On It

            The death of someone close to you always changes your life. Death always causes you to have to adjust to a "new normal." And then after you experience the thrill of victory again, and you're running on adrenaline and euphoria, you kinda feel as though you have life by the horns and nothing's ever going to go wrong for you again. 

           Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. And eventually you start to settle down, remove your rose colored spectacles and see life in reality again. And sad, ugly things continue to happen to you and others you love. And your heart hurts again. 

           But this time you have a better idea of who's in control, and you learn you can't always answer life's tough questions. And you get to know the One who can.

           Three days before Parker’s fifth birthday—almost six weeks after Cory was born—my precious Shetland sheepdog Beau died at home of kidney and liver failure. He had managed to hang on for me, and then begun a rapid decline immediately following Cory’s birth. Ironically, the week before his death, he and Parker had been playing “baseball” in the entryway of our home, reminding me of his energy and thirst for play when he was a puppy. Chris and I grieved deeply over the loss.
            A year later, I was able to cry with and comfort my friend—the neonatal nurse who supported me through my confinement, and whose baby girl I had initially been unable to hold—when she suffered a devastating miscarriage of her own and lost a baby boy. She poured out her heart when she admitted that even though she had counseled many parents during their own personal losses, she never really knew what they had been experiencing; never knew the depth of their anguish and grief. She never really knew what it was like—until it happened to her. She said she called me because she knew I would know. I did. In one devastating moment, we were bonded in another type of sisterhood, and suffering together through a typically silent sorrow.
            Not long after Cory’s delivery, Dr. Landry performed two more cerclages on patients, one carrying twins. In both circumstances, the amniotic sacs ruptured within a week of surgery. Shaking his head one day during one of my post-delivery office visits to him, he said, “I don’t know how you made it. It must have been determination.”
            I knew how I’d made it: solely by the merciful hand of God. And I told him so. He first looked at me as though I’d just dropped in from Mars, and then he nodded knowingly. He didn’t have a comeback. The stats screamed Miracle, and there was no arguing to the contrary.
            And Dr. Landry could still not understand how I could have ended up with an incompetent cervix after a normal pregnancy with Parker. There had been no obvious deformities in the cervix, or evidence of damage or scarring. “Then maybe Parker’s the greater miracle,” I offered.
            Now that I was staying at home full time and not returning to work, I began to immerse myself in Bible study. Becoming transformed by what I learned, and what I’d endured, I wanted to feed continuously on God and His word. I was unable to be satiated; always desiring more. I began learning how to view Chris as my total, consummate Savior whom I trust and rest upon. His mighty work continues to this day, and every day that I get to know Him better, I love Him more and more.
            I’ve mentioned before that I’d like to think I would have eventually embarked on the awesome and fulfilling journey of walking with God on my own volition, but in my heart I know that idea is absurd, and I would not have embarked upon it. With assuredness—because of my life history—I knew I did not deserve His blessings. None of us deserve them. None of us are “good” enough. Yet I had asked for an almost unreasonable bounty and received it. But before receiving it, Jesus led me into the darkness to see Him shine, and to experience the immensity and power of His grace. Chris and I were both bruised and blessed in that darkness. In it, we began our journey of real salvation, of coming fully to Jesus Christ. And we both bear wounds that remind us of His unending grace.
            I did not replace Victoria. She was not replaceable. She is part of our family; a member we simply did not get the chance to know. Yet, she is still a child on our family tree. She was a child from whom I experienced the precious movement of human life, and a child who God used to teach me about the preciousness of human life. Something I had forgotten. Although she is physically gone from our lives, she remains a well-defined memory and spiritual part of our existence.
            I’ve been asked many times over the years if I believe God caused Victoria’s death, if I think that was His plan all along. Many people don’t like my answer. I tell them I think God took a look at me, the way I was living my life, and knew something had to be done to get my attention. Whether He “caused” all of those things to happen in just that way, I won’t conjecture. What I do know is that nothing happens outside of His will. So if that is truth, then if God did not want those things to happen to me, He could have stopped the events in their tracks and saved Victoria, in spite of the careless, devastating medical care I received that compromised her life and mine. He could have made sure I had a breezy, carefree and barefoot pregnancy with Cory. But He didn’t. Even if He didn’t cause them to happen, He did not stop them from happening, either. I’m good with that. God is God, and I’m not. His ways are not my ways, and I need to let Him stay on the throne and be God, and trust Him, even when my heart is breaking, and my brain is screaming, Why!? Is that easy? No. Sometimes I need to remind myself of it every second of every day. But when I do—and I believe it—life is so much easier and fulfilling. And purposeful.
            So, with escalating and undiminished passion for life and our Lord, our family strives everyday to renew the spirit of hope, wonder, joy and love, with the guiding hand of the Savior. We are continuing to awaken to the life Jesus wants us to possess, with all of its simplicity, fullness and joy. It is a daily journey, an adventure we cannot possibly make alone (successfully, anyway), and a trip that will fall woefully short of its possibilities if we try to run it solo. I came perilously close to having my journey abruptly curtailed before I even had a chance to step on the lighted path and experience life in its fullness. Against all human reason and odds, I had traversed the darkest and deepest valleys, and then soared to the mountaintop, all on the wings of His grace.
            The grace that gave me the strength to step out on a transparent bridge of faith, and try again.


I Needed the Quiet
                                                 I needed the quiet so He drew me aside,
                                                Into the shadows where we could confide.
                                                Away from the bustle where all the day long
                                                I hurried and worried when active and strong.
                                                I needed the quiet though at first I rebelled,
                                                But gently, so gently, my cross He upheld,
                                                And whispered so sweetly of spiritual things.
                                                Though weakened in body, my spirit took wings
                                                To heights never dreamed of when active and gay.
                                                He loved me so greatly He drew me away.
                                                I needed the quiet. No prison my bed,
                                                But a beautiful valley of blessings instead—
                                                A place to grow richer in Jesus to hide
                                                I needed the quiet so He drew me aside.
                                                                                    ~Alice Hansche Mortenson


NEXT WEEK: Things I learned from losing a baby…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!