First Person: Hope Arising from the Ashes of Grief, Part 1
*Here at Mormon Women: Who We Are, we celebrate both the ordinary and the extraordinary in the lives of LDS women. Today and Thursday, we will feature the story of two women who each have experienced serious grief and difficulty in their lives, but have, individually and together, turned outward in a spirit of charity and service to influence the lives of thousands of Heavenly Father’s children for good.
“We think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting – any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “you have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another. The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.” –CS Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 85
Choice friends cross our life path at unexpected times and often in ways we don’t recognize at first. Severall years ago, my dear friend-to-be, Cindy, served as the Stake Relief Society President and is a midwife by profession. We had a Stake Relief Society service project in conjunction with the Relief Society broadcast that was no different than many others I’d attended over the years. And yet, this event would end up being a significant experience in the tapestry of my life.
This particular Saturday, we had gathered donations and were assembling birthing kits to go to Mozambique, Africa. Cindy had joined a medical team to give training to traditional birth assistants in rural Mozambique. These kits included a sheet of plastic (for the mother to lie on the ground), a shoe string (to tie off the umbilical cord), a razor blade, and several disinfectant wipes. She then showed a video from her experience there. I cried for the mothers in Mozambique. How is it possible that nearly half of the almost 6 billion people of the world live today in such abject poverty?
A few months later, in my role as Primary President in my ward [local congregation], we were setting up for a Primary activity. I was expecting our 5th child and had to leave early and to go to a doctor’s appointment for a routine monthly checkup — which I felt was a waste of time.
But this checkup turned out not to be routine at all. There was no heartbeat.
Ultrasound confirmed our baby had died inside of me. After a difficult induced delivery, our baby daughter, Ann, was born four days later with a kink in the umbilical cord. We held her, dressed her and buried her in the dust of the earth.
Here I became acquainted with death, grief, and God.
I am always astounded at the depth of pain I felt for a little one I had for such a short time. This heart-searing pain came from the depth of love a mother has for her baby, given only by God. My greatest desire was to hold, love, raise and nurture this beautiful daughter.
Grief was a confusing mystery to me. The anger, the depression, the forgetfulness, the loss of time and motivation all came in waves I did not recognize or understand. Most surprising to me was also the loss of self-esteem and confidence. It doesn’t seem to be mentioned much. But all that I was, all that I knew, all that I believed was crushed into tiny pieces, mixed together and left in a pile of mess at my feet. How do I begin from there?
I won’t go into much detail on the year following except to say that after much fasting, prayer and a priesthood blessing we decided to have one more little baby. Not to replace our little girl, for no one will replace, but we felt to move on. In full confidence and faith we were delighted to learn another little daughter would join our family. Having paid my dues to death and with such astronomical medical odds of such a problem, I moved on in courage, not fear, and hope.
But again at a regular appointment in nearly identical fashion and timing, there was no heartbeat. It had never even remotely crossed my mind that this could happen again. The surprise and shock was more than I could wrap my mind around. There are no words to express the stunned crushing blow that moment held. I literally thought my own heart would stop and I would die of pain on the spot as I collapsed to the floor. It is far more horrific when you know what is ahead and I was hysterical. I learned that death twice is exponentially more painful and difficult.
I fought depression with anger. I was mad. Mad at the world, mad at people, mad that I would have four out of six children to raise here on earth. Logically, I understood everything about the plan of salvation but my heart would not match my logic. The river of emotions came despite my knowledge and faith. It was several years but felt like a lifetime. I felt 90 years old. Then I was numb. I felt nothing. I wondered if as a mother I could ever find joy after such grief or if I would have to die first. I prayed many times my other children would forget and not be too damaged from the difficulty of those years.
Here is where my friendship with Cindy changed my life….
(Please follow this link for Part 2.)
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