I've been thinking a lot about suffering lately. I don't know what brought it on but I've been feeling some stirrings from God (which is refreshing since I haven't felt His closeness for several months now) and then I read Kristen's post.
To top off Kristen's post I got an email from a family member that was along the same lines and I finished reading Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, which was given to me by my cousin Luke after Carleigh's passing. Ok, God, I get the point.
Grief is an ugly, yet necessary word. A word I am all too familiar with. With grief there is suffering. I've experienced what I consider great suffering twice. First with Jordan and now with Carleigh. Now, it's a normal thing to grieve and I've done my share of it. I would say I've suffered with a pretty positive attitude (my sole opinion), but it's also taken a toll on me. There have been changes in me that I didn't anticipate, both good and bad. These changes are perhaps noticeable by the people who know me.
While I'll take the good any day, I'd rather not have to deal with the bad. What is the bad? Well, for starters my patience can run a lot thinner, especially when I'm dealing with a large group of people. I mentioned this when I had a not so good experience at an outing. I'm glad I've at least recognized some of these things so that I can work on them. I know there's no quick fix. It's gonna take some effort and time.
I'd like to share a portion of the email I received (mostly for my own purpose): I am totally convinced we all have to accept who we are in life and accept the individual gifts given to us when we take that very first breath. God doesn’t ask us to do anything else. We are told to accept ourselves as being made in his likeness. If you accept the idea of a Supreme Being who created all things then it follows that you were put here as part of a greater design. You have always been a crazy, fun loving nut. It is who you are. It is how he made you. To be anything else is denying yourself and the rest of the world the joy of one of God’s works. God didn’t give you Carleigh to hurt you. He brought her into your life so you could show others that the will to overcome is far greater than the desire to give up. When I was growing up we were poor. The house was not insulated and the furnace was not that great so in the winter we were very cold in the bedrooms. It was cold enough that on many mornings in the winter we would wake up and scrape the ice off the windows so we could look out. After one particularly bad storm we found a window had leaked enough we had a mini snowdrift on the bedroom floor. Even today I shiver at the memory of how cold some nights were in that bedroom. One day my Grandma and Grandpa visited and they were carrying dark black moving quilts for one reason or the other. If you are not familiar with moving quilts I need to explain they are very heavy blankets placed on and around furniture when households are relocated. That way when the furniture rattles around in the truck the moving quilt protects the furniture from scratches and dings associated with moving. Did I mention these suckers are heavy? Well, we got the idea of crawling in under the moving quilts and it felt much warmer than the thin blankets we had on the beds. We loved those things. In the end our Grandpa left the moving quilts for us to use on the beds. I remember the moving quilt almost suffocated you it was so darn heavy but it was comfortable compared to what we had before. There were many mornings after waking up I would lie in bed as long as I possibly could before facing the cold and the seemingly freezing walk to the bathroom 8 steps away. Once I got moving I seemed to be OK. But oh how I hated leaving the quilt on these cold winter mornings. Those heavy blankets were the only bedding I ever knew. It wasn’t until I started dating and went to my girlfriend’s house that I ever saw a quilt that was different. I remember thinking those lightweight, frilly things looked pretty enough but they would never keep a person warm. Once I got married I found out that I didn’t know a darn thing. The lightweight, pretty quilts were not only beautiful, they were far warmer than anything I had ever known. Today I can’t begin to imagine sleeping under one of those black quilts that comforted me in my youth. Bear with me, there is a reason for all this. You know how much I hate to have discussions of a religious nature. I am not that religious at all. But I won’t hesitate to use teachings that are a part of any faith if it supports my argument. Yeah, I know if you are religious you are not supposed to do that but I have already explained I am not religious so in my mind that rule doesn’t apply to me. So here goes. Depression, disappointment, and sadness are like those quilts I used to lay under as a young boy. If you don’t know anything else you can find great comfort in a dark, suffocating existence. Back then I didn’t really mind that I couldn’t easily roll over or shift positions in bed. The discomfort was worth it in my mind because at least I felt warmer than before. In fact, it was so much better than what I had before that I never even opened my mind to the possibility that anything could be better. Those of a religious nature may draw a correlation between the heavy quilts of my youth and what happens when Satan starts taking charge of your life. If he can get you to bury yourself in a dark quilt of depression during a cold and lonely period of life he has a chance to turn you. Let’s face it, compared to the day you buried Carleigh, today is at least a little better. You have something around you, even if it is overwhelming sadness. But isn’t this just how Satan works? He gets you to embrace anything but the life God intended for you. Once you get used to darkness it just gets harder and harder to throw off the quilt that keeps you there. Eventually you can reach a point where it is easier to just stay under the quilt. But the life God gave us is like the bright airy quilts I discovered after getting married. It took getting married to teach me that life isn’t meant to be restrictive, suffocating or heavy. Our lives are meant to be filled with laughter and joy and crazy nuts like the Holly we remember. It is his promise to us. I am afraid you might be under a moving quilt, Holly. A place where thoughts of your loss overcome the joy of the gift. A place where not understanding why takes the place of accepting that a Supreme Being is in charge. A place where what might have been pushes aside what is. A place where staying in bed seems better than facing the dawn of a new day. I don’t know how else to say it, Holly. You were chosen to do something many of us could never do. I don’t think it was fair or right. But it was. And if everything in the Bible is true then we-not just Holly, but everyone around her-have to accept that you were not given a burden greater than you can bear. You shouldn’t accept anything less of yourself, nor should those who love you. But here is the kicker. I think you are expected to bear that burden with the spirit and fire in your belly that God gave you. I don’t think you are allowed to bear that burden wrapped in the cloth of the dark prince.
I wasn't sure how to react to this email at first (remember I only posted a portion of it) because I thought I had been doing pretty good in my grief journey. While I don't necessarily think I am dwelling underneath a dark quilt, I see the love and concern behind the words so I had to take the time to evaluate where I was.
I have certainly asked the question 'why?' on this journey. I think it's human nature to want to understand why things happen the way they do. Do I feel God did this to me? No, but I do believe He knew the road that was ahead of me. He could of prevented it, yes, but He obviously saw the bigger picture and thought it was good. I trust that He is right.
I have learned quite a bit these last few days about suffering. In Man's Search For Meaning it says, "Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."
I couldn't control that my daughter was diagnosed with anencephaly. I couldn't prevent my daughter from dying. I can't do anything but control how I choose to live my life without her here.
I think of how my daughter would want me to live my life. Would she want her mommy to be sad, angry, frustrated, or impatient? I don't believe that is what she would want for me and I don't believe it is what God wants for me either. So, I've taken a new resolve to change my attitude. While my outlook may have already been good, I know it could be better. I can be happier. I can live more fully.
I don't want the gift of Carleigh to be overshadowed by sadness. When I think of Carleigh I want there to be only joy. I won't stop missing her. I'll always miss her until we are together again. But I can keep my trust in God to take care of her until my purpose on this earth is filled and I can join her in Heaven. She really is in the best place she could possibly be. There's no greater place than being in Heaven with Jesus.
I know that it is possible to be pulled out of great suffering and back into life. I experienced this with Jordan. I was actually in a much darker place in dealing with my grief and guilt over Jordan than I have ever experienced with Carleigh. I managed, with the help of God and counseling, to live my life again and to live it with a greater joy and purpose than before. I can do it again.
Choosing to be happy in no way means that I will forget the pain and sadness that I have endured. Do I want to forget the pain? Absolutely not!! In a way, feeling the pain reminds me that my experience was real-that she was real. I am sure that there will still be moments when those emotions hit me out of the blue. I am sure there will be times that I want to cry. In these moments, I won't turn away from these feelings but will turn to God to comfort me. He will bring me back to where I need to be, where I want to be. Happy.
You are like the salt for everyone on earth. But if salt no longer tastes like salt, how can it make food salty? All it is good for is to thrown out and walked on. You are like the light for the whole world. A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one would light a lamp and put it under a clay pot. A lamp is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. Make your light shine, so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16