February 27, 2009
If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, then you probably remember that I lost a pregnancy this past fall. At the time, I tired to be relatively quiet about the whole situation--discussing my feelings, but not too many of the nitty-gritty details.
In case you're curious, I'll let you know that I was eighteen weeks pregnant and my due date falls this week. The circumstances of the actual miscarriage were beyond traumatic, and I don't know that I'll ever write about in a public setting like this.
The last five months have been very, very sad for me--but unbelievably happy at the exact same time. But, beyond everything else, I've grown. I've grown as a mother, a wife, and a human being in general.
Two weeks ago, I was asked to give a talk in church based on an address titled "Come What May, and Love It," by Joseph B. Wirthlin, one of the former leaders of the LDS Church. In honor of my little boy's due date, I'd like to share my talk with all of you.
It's far from my best writing (cut me a break, it was a talk), and it's got a whole lot of Mormon lingo goin' on, but I hope it will help you all appreciate what I've been though and how I've managed to come out as a broken, yet stronger, person on the other side.
by Amy Lawson
Brothers and sisters, I am here today to testify of the truth that from time to time, life really stinks. You all know what I'm speaking of. It can range from scratched bumpers to questionable job security to ill parents, but every now and again we all go through long, dark seasons where our lives are absolutely horrible.
On the other hand, I am here to today to tell you that life is good—really, really good. Again, the goodness of life falls on a spectrum, ranging from a well cooked steak, to a windfall of money, to a new baby. But there is no denying the fact that lots of times, life feels great.
I find it interesting that something as important as life itself can be so conflicted—that two opposites statements can be true at the very same time. Life is great, and life does stink...now what? What are we supposed to do with that kind of disjointed knowledge?
According to Elder Joseph B Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve, we are supposed to accept what comes our way in life, and love it. Not deal with it or put up with it, but actually love it.
He begins his talk by discussing the little annoyances of life—things that we're all to familiar with, like getting lost on the highway. Years ago, Elder Wirthlin was on a road trip with his family to Cedar City, Utah. He and his wife were both under the impression that they were headed in the right direction until they saw a huge, light-up sign that read “Welcome to Nevada.” Instead of screeching on the breaks, muttering some very unholy words, and announcing to the entire station wagon that 'the vacation is now ruined,' Elder Wirthlin laughed—and probably took his family to lunch--in Nevada.
He's a good man to react in the way he did—after all, he had eight children and this was before the days of DVD players in minivans. Come to think of it, it was probably before the days of air conditioning in cars, too. Would I have the ability to laugh about something so discouraging, something so annoying? I hope I would—because basically, there were only two possible outcomes to his navigational mistake.
Elder Wirthlin and his wife could have become angry. They could have yelled at each other and at their kids. This probably would have riled up the eight children, caused all kinds of fights and spills, and genuinely ruined their trip.
Or Elder Wirthlin and his wife could have laughed about their flightiness. Stopped the car, let the kids stretch their legs and kept on going.
His story reminds me so much of my Grandmother, or Memere as I used to call her. She was a tiny woman, but a tough woman. A woman who was forced to temporarily leave her kids in a convent to seek a better life, a woman who battled and beat breast cancer in the 1950s—when the disease was shameful and survival was almost unheard of. She was a woman who single handedly supported her large family, since her husband was failing from heart disease, and most of all, she was a woman with perspective.
She died when I was five, after, but not from her second battle with cancer. Since I was so young, I only have two real memories of my Memere. I remember that she was always singing—when I'd go to visit here at work, or watch her wash the dishes, or listen as she put on her makeup, she was singing happy little songs in French.
And other than that, I remember a specific event...
When I was in kindergarten I refused to wear anything but overalls. I even wore overall dresses. One day, as I was playing in my parents' living room I noticed how shiny their rocking was—I distinctly remember thinking, “That chair looks fast.” So I backed up as far as I could, ran across the living room, and slid onto the seat of the chair on my belly leaving two deep, long scratches in the wood from the buckles on my overalls. My Dad yelled, my mom cried, and my Memere? My Memere said, “Oh lay off it you two...someday you'll love those scratches.”
Like I said, she was a woman with perspective.
She was right. Over the years the scratches have become a happy memory. My Memere was obviously a woman with a light outlook on life...didn't let herself get too worked up about the minor inconveniences. But do you think she felt that way when her kids were in the convent? Did she brush it off when the doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer before there was a cure? Did she sing her happy songs when her husband was on his deathbed?
I guarantee that she did not.
In his conference talk, Elder Wirthlin asks, “How can we love the days that are filled with sorrow?” His answer? “We can't—at least not in the moment.” And brothers and sisters, we are not expected to feel joy or peace or happiness in the middle of a horrible life event. Heartbreak is not a sin.
In his sermon on the Mount, the Savior himself says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that in life, there are times to weep, and times to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. There's a time to break down, but also a time to build up.
Mourning and grief and struggle are all pieces of the human experience that should never be denied—we've all probably met the people that pretend to be okay, or even happy after a terrible life event. This is not what's expected of us as Children of God. We are not asked to downplay our true feelings—and actually, it's a dangerous habit to fall into—a habit that can lead to a life of emptiness and loneliness and pain. But I also believe, and I think Elder Wirthlin and the Savior would both agree that mourning and grief and struggle should be reserved for life situations that truly warrant such feelings—not rumors that fly around at school, or an ugly glance from a stranger. Certainly not a dent in your car.
I experienced true, gut wrenching grief for the first time this past fall, and I can tell you that I've never felt such raw pain in my life. I couldn't eat, or sleep, or smile. I was angry and confused and physically I felt like I had been run down by a truck. I was just not willing to pretend that everything was okay.
And then, when I didn't know if I could take it for one more second, I got a card in the mail from a casual friend in New York. She had experienced a similar loss, and her inscription in the card read, “Amy, the only advice I can give you is this: Grieve, but don't wallow. Mourn, but don't dwell.”
And that's the advice that put me on the road to healing. I took it to mean, it's normal and okay to struggle with this, but when you're ready, let yourself move on.
Just like Elder Wirthlin said,
"How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can’t—at least not in the moment. I don’t think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don’t think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life. If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness."
And he's right, in these recent months after my biggest trial so far in life, I believe that I have grown. I also believe that I'm the happiest person that I've ever been.
Is there a piece of me that's broken beyond perfect repair? Yes. At least for the duration of this life. I'm shattered, but more importantly I'm patched. I still think about what happened every single day, and I still cry when I talk about my loss—but honestly, I'm happy. I laugh. I'm funny. And I have changed.
Now when someone tells me that I dropped the ball at work, I don't waste my time feeling angry or attacked—I listen to what they have to say and decide whether or not it has merit. If it does, I change it.
When my three year old accidentally puts a dent in the wall with a toy, I don't give him a timeout and continue to let my anger rise every time I see the belmish in the sheetrock. I give him a timeout and if the dent is truly bothersome, I repair the wall.
But I'm still human. I worry about the economy and I worry about our income—but when I feel the worry getting the best of me, I stop and tell myself, “We're definitly not going to starve to death.” and then I get on with my day and find something to smile about.
Elder Wirthlin is right, in the midst of my loss, there was no way I could feel happy. But now, five months later I've grown, and I'm a happier person because of what I've been through.
This attitude is yours for the taking, but you have to take it. You have to choose it.
Elder Wirthlin takes it to the next level when he says, “
"I know why there must be opposition in all things. Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. We can learn to love it."
To circle back to the beginning of my talk, life stinks—it's part of the deal. We agreed to it when we came to live on this Earth. But life is also good. We can't control the trials and adversity that are thrown our way—no matter what you do, they'll come, and they'll be painful and terrible and hard. But you can be happy, you can be positive, and you can grow. You can choose to let the Refiner's Fire shape you into something new, instead of reducing you to dust.
And I'll leave you with the words of President Gordon B. Hinckley, “In all living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.
My little boy was barely around, and probably won't ever be remembered by anyone except my family or by God himself. But honestly, I'm just as grateful for him as I am for Jared and James. He changed my life for the better, and if that was meant to be the extent of his mission on Earth, then I can accept it.
He was tiny. Small enough to hold in the palm of my hand. But to me, that little boy is huge.