We were about to eat dinner last night when we heard our neighbor through the open window, telling an eerily familiar story to a couple of Mormons on her front porch. “Holy crap,” Steven said after a few minutes. “She’s telling about us and Sam. How does she know that stuff?” I had never had an in-depth conversation with her about the situation. We’re still not sure how she knew everything she knew… maybe she follows the blog? If you’re reading, neighbor lady, now you know we can hear every word you say on your porch with pristine clarity!
It startles me sometimes to know how many people have heard our story. It’s not like we’ve made national headlines, or even local headlines, but I know that people are watching this story unfold. At first, I feared it was an interest of sensation, like when you’re riveted by the plot of an underdog movie. But as I’ve heard others’ perspective, I’m seeing that people are taking the events of the past few months very personally, as though they were actually Sam’s aunt or brother, and not just an acquaintance. Readers, your heartfelt compassion for Steven, Sammy, and me is such a comfort.
Sometimes I am afraid of the variety of pain people bring to their understanding when they read my story. In conversation, I often hear statements like, “I know I’m not going through anything like you’re going through, but…” or “I struggle with ___, but I know it’s about half of what you’re having to bear.” I hope I haven’t set myself up as the only one with valid pain. I fear being misunderstood, and I would hate to be alone in this desert.
My good friend stopped by Monday to spend the afternoon together. We talked about how the most beautiful older-and-wise ones we know are all familiar with pain and loss. Is it because they were just given a hard life? we wondered. Our conclusion was that their beauty was born out of a heart willing to suffer. All are presented with suffering. My friend gave the example of a person in hard pursuit of material gain and unaware of his lack of character, who nonchalantly mentioned his mother’s death when he was sixteen. He was presented with pain, but he sought insulation rather than healing. Sometimes in suffering, we feel like we have no choice, but do have the choice to hide. But by hiding, we forfeit beauty.
When my story is viewed from that angle, the angle of a choice between hiding or healing, the question of whose pain is worse is answered with the truth that the entire world is broken. All experience pain and loss, which is why I feel I ought to explain what I wrote last night about my frustration with complaining parents. I fear I may have communicated that the pain of watching your child navigate a broken world was not valid compared to mine, and that parents who have living children should never share their problems around me. This is not how I feel. To watch your daughter struggle in school, to see your son have a tough time making friends, to wrestle through how to save for college… these are part of parenting and are valid struggles. My frustration was with parents who take their blessing for granted, complaining about having to carve time out of their schedule to bake cookies with their daughter or walk slower in the grocery store for their son. My frustration is with selfishness in parenting. I ache when I see these tiny treasures, these beautiful little people, taken for granted.
Readers, not all of you have lost a child, but I am confident that all have experienced loss and pain. My hope is that as you read my honest reflections through this journey through grieving the loss of my child, you will be inspired to heal through your loss, rather than hide. I hope that you will be inspired to live authentically in your own journey through this broken world, that in illuminating my deep need for grace your need will be illuminated as well, and that you will share with me your experiences in drawing closer to the Lord.