The moments of that day still linger in my mind. Some memories find themselves woven into your senses. Sounds, words, and smells quickly remind me of the events that transpired.
At times, I catch myself pushing back tinges of fear as I watch my daughter rest. Is she only sleeping?
How did deep despair and overflowing hope meet in one day? I can never forget watching my daughter’s life slip away before my eyes. And realizing I was helpless to stop it.
I had comforted friends in their grief after losing a child. My heart broke with theirs. They bore a pain that appeared inconsolable. At least by anything on this earth. I, too questioned how one walks forward when one feels such deep despair. But the initial sting to my soul as I shared in their pain eventually diminished.
Until the day I watched my daughter’s life gradually flow out of her body. Her breathing labored; the color of her skin reflecting life flowing through her seemed to fade lighter. Watching your child suffer draws out a fierce desire for control that previously lied dormant.
How can a mother not save her own child?
News about her illness spread. My friends sat with me as I had with others. But it was different being on the other side. We prayed for God to grant healing. People tried to sustain my body with food. But I couldn’t eat. Worry had consumed my appetite. My concern wasn’t for me. It was for her. I had never tasted desperation like this.
Someone save her!
In the midst of keeping watch over my daughter, the commotion outside caught my attention. As scheduled, Jesus had arrived in our town as was expected. But, in the midst of my crisis, I had forgotten about it. I wasn’t quite sure what I believed about his identity. However, stories of his healing touch were many. The timing was ironic. Perhaps he could do something. It appeared hope was out of our hands.
Jesus, save her!
Jairus quickly ran to find him. I was certain that Jairus’ position would assure a prompt response from Jesus. But it didn’t. In fact, he didn’t come right away. And neither did Jairus.
Although my friends surrounded me, I felt abandoned. By my husband. By Jesus.
What was more important than healing a child?
My child took her last breath. While we waited. The devastation erupted out of my soul. My body felt numb. I remember pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t a bad dream. The tears began welling; eventually flooding into a forceful stream down my face. A loud high pitched wail made its way up through my body and out my mouth.
Never had I felt such despair.
As the world appeared to spin around me, someone ran out to tell Jairus. After what seemed to be a long time, he entered. My mind struggled with what to do. Part of me wanted to collapse in his arms. Yet, I felt betrayed. I watched my child die without him. But I paused when I realized he not arrived alone. A few others accompanied him; including Jesus.
Did he not hear that our daughter had died?
I won’t lie. Anger began building in my heart as I spotted him. I felt betrayed. Why was our daughter not worthy of healing? What reason did he have for showing up after her death?
But then Jesus spoke. With an authority and a calmness I had not witnessed in anyone else.
“Stop Wailing,” he commanded. I did not understand. We were grieving. Yet, his voice beckoned obedience.
He continued. “She is not dead. She is asleep.” His words made no sense. How were we supposed to believe that she was only sleeping?
Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. He walked over to her and took her hand. The same limp one I had held. And he commanded her to get up. I stared in amazement at what I witnessed. Her eyes opened, and she stood up!
He not only healed her, he defeated death!
Who is he?
I grabbed her hand. The one that had felt clammy and lacked any presence of life earlier. This time her fingers, warm with the blood pulsing through them, bent around mine. I watched her breathe; her chest rising up and down. My girl was alive!
How do you grasp that reality?
I couldn’t save my own child. Jesus did. I think all of us felt a taste of that restoration. I couldn’t wait to tell others what I experienced. However, Jesus quickly ordered us not to share. It didn’t make sense.
But earlier he didn’t make sense either. Yet he spoke and acted with an authority that commanded trust. It was unlike anything I have seen on this earth. Jesus saved. But not in the way I expected—there is more to this mysterious man than my senses could explain. I saw, I heard, and I long to understand this miracle I just witnessed.
This post is inspired by the account found in Luke 8:40-56.
Words barely express the ways your actions have breathed life into my daughter. Movement into unknown territory involves risks. Your willingness to do that does not go unnoticed. Connecting with her isn’t easy. I know that. As you know, she’s not one of those outgoing social butterfly types. She’s an observer. In addition, her mental illness, makes identifying and controlling emotions challenging. She realizes the impact of her actions and words, yet, managing the whirlwind within becomes difficult at times.
By inviting her into your space, you moved beyond the walls of fear that easily keep us from engaging. with those who seem different from ourselves. Sometimes the fears are rooted in real experiences,yet, each of us has our own narrative. You have demonstrated to others that learning how to give and receive support is a significant life skill. There is no “us” and “them.” Everyone faces their own struggles.
We, her parents, are walking in unfamiliar territory. We have gleaned much about the way our society values others as well as the assumptions aimed toward families who don’t capture the “All American Dream.” Stigmas and fear feed the perceptions of parents whose children’s disabilities appear “fixable.” When behavioral and emotional issues manifest themselves, the journey becomes a lonely one for the whole family.
You have witnessed the storm of emotions blow out of her with a breath-taking pace. Out of her mouth, harsh words may have been hurled in your direction. Yet, you saw that she was more than those utterances. The open invitation to your home created a refuge and gave her purpose. How could you have known that her desire to conquer an 8 hour day of cognitive and emotional difficulties was rooted in the reward of spending time with your family? Thank you for loving her unconditionally.
To those unsung heroes at school, you are appreciated more than you can grasp. Her struggles impact our whole family. As parents, we transport, cajole, and encourage her to embrace the school day. But the reality is that some days, we all feel wiped out my 9:00 am.
How do you fight the clutches of anxiety/depression which attempt to pull your child back into bed? Some days, the nuances of battle were apparent. She arrived with eyes, swollen and puffy. But you welcomed her nonetheless and let her sit. Sometimes, you even provoked a smile and a laugh. You far exceed your job expectations.
Thank you for loving my child. Whether you welcomed her with a simple gesture or invested time with her, your kindness reaps a harvest in her soul.
This post originally appeared here: https://themighty.com/2017/05/a-letter-of-gratitude-for-loving-my-child/
I asked myself this a few months ago. After years, consisting of very long days, of family struggles with mental and medical conditions, the season began to change. At first, I dared not believe it. So many times, there had been brief glimpses of light as we forged through the darkness. But those moments seemed to fade quickly. Once again, we would be left trying to find our footing and walk forward together: my daughter, my two sons, my husband and myself. To say the relationships between us were strained would be an understatement. When one person in a family struggles, everyone is affected.
The dynamics between us does not resemble the picture I had in my mind before my husband and I started a family. My daughter began treatment for bipolar disorder at 9 years old (she is now age 15). My older son (age 18) has battled anxiety and depressionalong with a host of unexpected health concerns along the way. The youngest son (age 13), whom I call the “comic relief,” manages mild anxiety. None of their conditions define them, but they do affect the climate of our home. It hasn’t always felt like the refuge I hoped my husband and I would create. We have tried to initiate traditions, affirm each other’s strengths and attempt to carve moments of time together. We have sought out therapy, utilized resources and developed a support system. Humor has even found its way in. Yet, we couldn’t always keep the storms at bay.
Truthfully, the winds, at times, seemed so forceful I wasn’t sure I had the strength to resist them. My husband and I could be a strong force together; yet each of us developed our own methods of survival. We also felt as if the storm was invisible to everyone else. Mental illness carries a stigma. There are plenty of opinions regarding how to “fix” your child. “If we would just . . .” Meanwhile, the unpredictable nature of episodes and triggers as well as the financial stress and school concerns mount. And in the midst of it all, you are trying to sustain your marriage, pay bills and pray for endurance, provision and healing.
It occurred to me one day that this long season of storms may have finally transitioned into a season of calm. When you are so used to living in survival mode, you don’t always realize the storm has weakened. Weeks no longer seemed packed with doctors’ appointments, evaluating medications, financial distress, school battles, emotional burnout. It may be the beginning of a season of restoration. On the surface, a calm after the storm sounds welcoming. But, truthfully, the implications are daunting.
How do you begin cleaning up the mess?
Branch by branch, piece by piece. I remember a horrific storm that erupted suddenly about 10 years ago. When it was safe, we made our way outside to access the damage. Thankfully, our belongings remained intact. However, our street and our yard were filled with tree limbs and branches scattered everywhere. In order to move toward restoration, you must begin cleaning up the mess one branch at a time. It may take a while. And I’ve learned (reluctantly) that’s OK
Restoring our relationships with each other will take time. One branch at a time. I often wonder how my kids would relate to one another had our situation been different. I will never know the answer. It would be tempting to dwell on the “what ifs,” but that would require looking back. We are heading forward. The medical concerns have not resolved. The winds may indeed return. We have found space to breathe and rest. We have found our footing once again and set our eyes on God; who is in the business of making things new. I find inspiration in the promise given to the Israelites:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)
Originally published at http://mudroomblog.com/cleaning-up-mess/, this post also appeared at https://themighty.com/2016/10/when-things-calm-down-parenting-children-with-mental-illness/