I must admit--sometimes it feels like I am a living, breathing version of the "Groundhog Day" movie. No matter my thoughts as I doze off and on throughout the night, I find myself hoping I will wake to a different outcome. To our old life. To our family of four all under one roof. Of course, that doesn't happen, and it's a tough lesson to learn. Every morning is a jolting reminder of this new way of doing life. Yes, over a year later it is still a new way of doing life. It is all too easy to get bogged down in the reminder that Paige is not away at camp or off to college or some other adventure. That she is really absent from this earth and present with Jesus. It is all too easy to get so overwhelmed by this fact that I sometimes struggle just to make it through the day. I say it's easy because that's exactly where I've found myself the last few months. Devastated. Overwhelmed. Struggling.
This week marked the two-year anniversary of Paige's bone marrow transplant. That transplant was supposed to save her life. It was supposed to mark a new beginning, and I guess this year it did--just not in a way I would ever have imagined. On that day, believe it or not, I somehow managed to start trying to break out of the fog that has had me trapped since mid-August. I reminded myself that Paige is okay. In fact, she's more than okay. She's wonderfully, perfectly healed. It's what I prayed for--it just came in a manner different than I'd hoped. I stopped and thought about the things I pray with people every week. About God's goodness and love. His amazing grace and mercies that are new every single morning. I stopped and reminded myself about the joy to be found every day, and the fog began to lift. It's not totally gone, but it's starting to lift. This journey is filled with challenges, but I am learning to face them. Again, the teacher becomes the student.
Because I've been so scattered the last few months, it only seems fitting to let a few of the things I've learned--and in some cases, simply just remembered--land here. No particular topic in no particular order, except I really did save the best for last.
Well-meaning people say hurtful things. If you haven't walked this road, it's hard to know what to say. I get it. You want to say something without causing more pain. Unfortunately, sometimes what sounds good in your head doesn't translate so well once it's spoken. Before I go any further, here are a few suggestions of things to avoid:
- "It's been a whole year. Aren't you better now? She's fine. You're fine."
- "At least you have Jeremy."
- "You know where she is--you should be happy. You should be rejoicing. You should be thankful."
Of course I know where Paige is. I know Whose she is, and that alone serves as hope to keep me going. And I am thankful. Thankful God chose me to be her mom. Thankful for the sixteen years I had with her. Thankful for our relationship that got closer and closer through her treatment. Thankful for the inspiration she was and continues to be. The grief journey is a work in progress, and each day presents its own challenges--much like life in general. We can't be expected to justify why we are feeling a certain way on a particular day. We are simply doing the best we can and trusting God to keep nudging us forward and heal our hearts. And He will.
I will always miss my daughter, and that's okay. As of this writing, time has not yet wiped the grief away. Quite honestly, I don't expect it to. I carried the child in my body, for goodness' sake. I spent just about every waking moment with her for almost three years. Paige had--and will forever have--a huge piece of my heart. I talk about her. I think about how she would react to various experiences. Paige may no longer be able to move forward in this lifetime, but her sweet memories can. I am working on getting to that seemingly distant place where I can carry her with me while moving forward without breaking down. I am trusting God to get me there. And He will.I am not the person I used to be, and that's okay. When life does a 180-degree turn and the bottom drops out from under you, it's very difficult--if not nearly impossible--to be who you once were. Maybe that's how it is supposed to be, though. Things happen in life that change us--not always in as drastic a fashion as we've experienced, but things happen nonetheless. Those changes can break us, or they can actually be part of the healing process.
I used to feel like I pretty much had it together. The wife thing. The mom thing. The teacher thing. I was a multi-tasking maniac with a slight touch of Type A perfectionist personality (my husband will argue it was more than slight). I had very specific goals, many of which flew out the window with Paige's diagnosis. She was my priority. My purpose. Since she left us, I've struggled with just who I am. I struggle with who God wants me to be now.
Every day I pray He will guide my steps in this next season of life. And He will. He already is. I'm working and serving alongside some amazing people at church. I've still got a foot in the education door teaching two undergrad classes. I've even been blessed with a few opportunities to share Paige's story and hope to make a difference however I can. When I step back and take a look at how different things have come together over the last year, I know for a fact it is God at work. The changes in my life do not define who I am. I'm a bit of a mess right now, but I am also the daughter of Almighty God. I'm trusting Him to get me through. And He will.
God really is always here with me, and that's more than okay. Not only do I acknowledge His constant presence, I truly feel it. God's grace got me through the year of firsts without my sweet girl. Now into the 'seconds,' I will continue to rely on His strength to get us through each and every day. He is here through the storms, when waves of grief try to pull me under. He is here on the sunny days, when memories of Paige leave me with a smile. I seek Him. I trust Him. He is always faithful. Always.