I am your worst nightmare.
Or at least that is what I have been told too many times to count. Once you have lost a child, no matter age or circumstances, you are put into a separate box from the rest of the world. Here, you are stared at with horrified expressions, raised up high and admired, and even gawked at as if you are some kind of freak show with two heads. To lose a child is perhaps the deepest loss there is out there. It’s the only death that comes in an unnatural order. Siblings can go before you. Spouses can go before you. But you should bury your parent, not your child. I am fully aware the uncomfortableness I bring to a room when my story is told. I am also very aware that I am, perhaps, their worst nightmare. But witnessing the death of my child does not make me some kind of role model, hero or strong being who has conquered the unconquerable. What this makes me is broken, weary, and completely and utterly dependent on my Savior.
Molly was a lively little thing full of so much life and humor that she brought a little sunshine to us every single day. Sure, she was stubborn and obstinate. There were days when winning a battle with her simply meant I was exhausted and beat down. But a small part of me admired that in her. I secretly loved that she fought me on certain things because she was showing early on that she was a thinker, intelligent, and going to do things in her time.
When Molly was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor in June of 2014, our seemingly perfect world came shattering down. We had seen our share of hard times and trials. We had health scares in the family, including Molly who was born with a small lung, and times of separation due to military life. But nothing, absolutely nothing on God’s green earth could have prepared us to hear the news that our daughter would be dead in less than a year. One cannot simply digest this and move on. In fact, if I was honest about it, I still digest this news almost daily. So where do you go from here? How can life continue and the world always be turning?
The answers are simple and yet unbelievably complex. But this one thing I do know. From day one, as I stood over my five year old girl, wondering how long I get to watch her sleep, I knew I could not do this alone. I knew that I would never, ever be the same. And a choice needed to be made right then and there. Would I trust God or would I forsake Him? I needed to find truth. I needed to find something that would level me off and help me know up from down. In the past, it was always God’s Word. Always. And what I knew as truth told me many things. One being, I was not alone. Two, saying He knew everything. Three, echoing that I can do this because I have the strength of God within me.
As I write this it sounds distant and unattainable. But I am telling you, this is how we made it. This is the very legs we stood on every single moment. Through MRI’s, neurosurgeries, radiation, hospice set up, and watching our sweet girl take her very final breath on earth, we knew we had the Lord carrying us through it all.
Throughout the last two years, the simple question has popped up innumerable times.
If our God is so great and loving, then why did He allow our daughter to be taken so soon? Why did He have her suffer so? Did I do something wrong? Why not me, then?
It’s human nature to ask these questions.
And I would be lying if I said I never asked them. Some I have answers to. Some I do not. Some I still ask on occasion. But here is what I do know…
God is good in the beautiful and the ugly.
Whether our lives were sparkly clean, smooth and lovely, or disastrous and scary, I see God in every bit of it doing a work. Was it’s God’s plan to have Molly die of this horrendous disease? No, I don’t believe it was his plan. His plan was to have a perfect world, full of beauty, fellowship, and joy. But instead, we have strife, disease, and misery. I do, however, see that God took something so awful and changed us for the better. My family is more compassionate, empathetic, and aware of other’s pain. We’ve grown closer to one another and more importantly, to Him. I understand who God is so much better now than I ever did before. This is good. If I didn’t lose, I would not have gained. He’s good because He’s always working and doing something in and around me. I may not always understand it, but I know that I am not alone, no matter what.
I know to BE in the moment.
Before Molly’s diagnosis, I was your typical mom racing around like my head was cut off. Raising three girls only three years apart, homeschooling, serving, and trying to look glamorous while doing it was a busy task. I looked down at my check list instead of looking up at the fleeting memories that were passing me by. It’s so easy to let this happen. Now, I get it. Now I sing way too loud. I dance way too crazy. I laugh until it hurts. And I smile like it’s going out of style. I don’t want to miss life. Life is fun, lovely, and beautiful. I don’t want to miss my girls. Every inch they grow, every battle they conquer, and every note they sing doesn’t need to be caught on my phone but I do want to catch it in my heart and hold onto it forever.
There is suffering all around us.
I don’t say this to depress. With social media, it’s easy to see that people are hurting, but it’s also that much easier to ignore it. The reality is, everyone has a story. And it’s our job as human beings to reach out and touch other lives. Whether it’s a listening ear, a whispered prayer, a meal, or a smile, we can do something if we are only willing to open our hearts up to feel other’s pain.
To say that this journey is over would be foolish. I am still living it. I still ache. I still laugh. I still weep. And I still smile. It’s a constant adjustment and a life sentence to miss part of my heart. But I have hope to see her again. And besides the love of my God and family, THAT is what gets me to tomorrow. I will get to dance with Molly again. And let me tell you, I am not sure I will ever let go.