My little ginger Tanner (age 3) loves to say the prayer at every meal and begs to pray every night when we kneel as a family before bedtime. Out of nowhere this past week he has been praying for his daddy to get better and come home. He doesn't want his daddy to be in heaven anymore.
Sophie's (age 4) big brown eyes well up with tears whenever we talk about her daddy being sick and going to the hospital. She always holds it in as her chin quivers and then she hugs her teddy bear made from Tony's sweaters in one arm and grabs me tightly around my neck in her other arm.
After receiving her special book of pictures and a letter from her daddy, Lily (age 6) has me read the letter from Tony to her every night before I tuck her in. Every night. Always. She smiles with a faint sorrowful longing in her clear blue eyes.
Emma (age 7) asks several questions about her daddy every day. At night she always gets very sad and sometimes begins to cry, and she doesn't understand why. Same goes for when she hears certain songs that Tony would play frequently around the house. She hates to cry in front of others but sometimes can't hold it in any longer.
Playing basketball and baseball just like his dad did as a child is all Landon (age 8) wants to do as he grows up. At baseball tryouts a few weeks ago, he looked around at all the fathers present and then turned to me and whispered that he wished his dad could be there, just as he was the last time he played.
Little Amelia (15 months old) doesn't understand much of Tony's absence, but she loves any man with a beard. It's as if she is searching for Tony and the comfort of his bushy face that she used to rub her sweet cheeks against.
Day to day, my kids do well and have adjusted the best I could expect. There is a lot of laughter in our home and many good moments of reminiscing about the past as well as excitement for the future. Life has to resume and they are a good reminder of that for me. But there is still a lot of aching in their hearts.
And the aching just plain hurts... and a lot at certain times. When the pain hits my kids in a bigger wave, I immediately want to react and "fix" their pain. I want to give them a distraction so that the pain subsides quickly, so it doesn't linger and rest comfortably in their heart. Really, I want so much to just take all the pain away and make everything all better again, as if it was all a bad dream.
The reality is that it is not just a bad dream. It really happened: Tony died. Nothing can change that. As I continue to weave myself through grieving I rely a lot on my Heavenly Father and my faith in His plan to cope. But turning to God doesn't take my pain away; in fact, my faith in Him and turning my sorrows to Him doesn't fix my heart at all. All the sadness and at times, feeling of despair, stay right with me but what God does for me is send me comfort. He doesn't lessen the blow of Tony's death and the intense emotions of missing him, instead His arms blanket around me and give me peace. The pain remains the same but God makes it more bearable because I know I am not alone and that I can keep going. His love motivates me and allows the pain to help change me for the better.
Just as my Father in Heaven wraps his arms around me, I do the same with my children. When they ache, all I can do is hug them and rock them as long as they need. Sometimes we don't even say anything to each other; holding them in my arms is all they need. I can't take their pain away, and if I was able to do so, I still wouldn't. Because they feel so deeply and have experienced such a difficult event (and it is a continual event for us), they have learned to persevere. They know that hard things happen to everyone in life that cannot be avoided but can be overcome with faith and trust. They understand that God has a plan for their life and that their sorrow has turned them outward instead of inward. Compassion and empathy are becoming a part of their character. What mother would I be if I took this experience and learning away from them? How could God be the perfect parent He is if He didn't allow us to struggle and change through those experiences?
As hard as it is for me to see my kids undergo such a difficulties, how much harder it must be for Him to see us struggle to wrestle with our emotions. Oh, how He wishes He could take our pains away and shelter us from all the hurt we feel! I can only imagine. But how thankful I am that God lets us feel, that He helps us to learn and grow, and that our life here on earth is not in vain!
Whatever heartache you may be experiencing in your life right now, let it seep in and then fully feel it. Then turn heavenward and let our Savior wrap His arms around you. Feel the comfort of His love and allow His motivating love to push you forward to grow and learn from your pains.
I promise you that it works.
I promise you that it works.