Sunday, April 23, 2017

The pain of letting them hurt

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. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Because He lives

My darling new baby boy Caleb is perfect in every way. At night I stare at his sweet chubby face in my quiet moonlit room as he sleeps peacefully next to me. I cannot help but think that Caleb would not be a part of our family if Tony hadn't been sick. I'm not sure he would have been born if Tony was still here; it's a difficult thought for my mind to process but there is much gratitude within it, as I know without a doubt that God has a plan for my family. Seeing the empty space in our bed where Tony would sleep makes my heart drop every time. And then I turn to my left and see Caleb tucked safely in my arms and I feel so much hope-- hope for his future, hope for the future of all my kids, hope for the life ahead of me, and especially, hope for an eternity at Tony's side, this time with me tucked safely in his strong and gentle arms.

Ten years ago when Tony proposed to me, we watched our favorite animated movie together, "Beauty and the Beast." We both grew up watching this movie and Tony always would joke that I was his Belle and that he was the Beast (thankfully he only had a temper as a young child and is now very patient!). The music, the story line, and the magic in the movie had us coin it as "our movie" and upon hearing of the new live action release, we planned to see it together opening night. Well I didn't see it opening weekend (I had a baby instead!) but I did finally see it this past week. Feelings of excitement, nostalgia, and even dread clouded my mind so much that I almost didn't go. Tony was supposed to be there with me to see it and now he can't be. I went anyway knowing Tony wants me to enjoy and move forward with hope in life, so I did. 

As most, I really enjoyed the movie... but I almost fell apart at the end. Even though I knew the Beast would die and then be transformed to his true self after his death, I died inside watching that moment. Belle has the lifeless Beast in her arms, clinging to him and expressing her love for him and it took every fiber of my being to not break down and sob. All I could think of was the night Tony died and I held him in my arms, begging in my heart for him not to be gone. It was too fresh for me, too soon, yet I needed to allow these deeply painful feelings to surface in a small way. 

And then it came, and I knew it would come. The Beast regains new life and transforms into his true self, and then true joy can be felt between Belle and the Beast as they have broken the spell and overcome the evil within. What a beautiful and powerful story that I've known since a child. But there is an even better story that is true and is not a fairy tale.

One day, Tony will be whole again, transformed into a perfect state, free of his earthly pains and sorrows. He will become his best self that is only possible after learning true charity and he will overcome death. One day, Tony will be perfected and will stand with me. And the best part of all of this : We can all become transformed and live again.

Because Jesus Christ lives, we can practice charity in this life and improve ourselves. We can look to our Savior for any mistakes or sorrow we have and He will be at our aid. Because of Christ, we can overcome the bonds of death and live again, even live as eternal beings. He broke the chains of death so that we may do the same. Because of Jesus, we can live with our families and with Him and our Father in an eternal family. We can all have joy that is everlasting.

Because He lives, so will Tony. And so will I, and my children and my family and my friends. And so can you.