This morning I awoke to a message and as usual I lay wrestling with it because I don’t want to get up. But the thoughts for this topic raced through my mind and I was forced to pay attention. So at 6 am I am up with coffee in hand to write about how to lead a life that pays tribute to your child in a positive and healthy way. While I know and understand completely the gravity of that statement…..hear me out
Perhaps it is because I have matured in my grief, or perhaps it’s because grief is not new to me, I have faced it many times, or perhaps it’s because it is my purpose or calling; all I know is that when I focus on the life lived by my daughter during her nearly 18 years on this earth, I am so proud of her. I am proud because she taught me things about life I did not see or understand. Perhaps that was her role in life to teach a few of us that very special message. I am a believer that this life we live on earth is not for us to live for our own desires, it is to live, love and support the people in our lives and that cross our paths. To extend our hearts and welcome all regardless of who they are or what they believe. This was Jesus’ message and task He gave us. Yet we struggle with this often.
In the early years of my grief I did not want to live, I wanted to just fade away. I listened to a song by Mary J. Blige called Fade Away from her Growing Pains album. It was released back in 2007 and came at a time in my life where I struggled with living or dying. That is the pain I felt deeply after the loss of my daughter. It was the last straw that I had been dealt and it was punch in the gut to all that I knew and understood about life. I sang that song to the top of my lungs every day – as if I was praying to God and to anyone who would hear me – I just wanted to disappear. Then something changed.
During this time I was very unsettled and couldn’t get comfortable. I know and understand now that was God working in my life to change my desire to fade away. He had a plan for me to bring a message to others about grief and He wasn’t about to let me and my selfishness prevent that. Honestly in looking back at that time and the 18 months after Brittany died, there were times where I made decisions with such clarity it was scary. But now understanding that it was my coping mechanism which was good and bad. I left the house Brittany and I lived in for only a short time (2 years), because I couldn’t walk past her room at night before bed, so I spent 3 months just sleeping on the couch. The house was where she had her seizure and where I saw her slowly slip away before paramedics arrived.
During those early few months after her death, I gave away many of her things. Not because they reminded me of her but because that was the gentle and giving spirt she was. I chose not to memorialize her room but to give to others what they did not have because she told me many times that is what she wanted. Brittany was not always this way. She was very materialistic as a young teenager, but once she went to Costa Rica on a mission trip – all that changed. She wrote often in her journal and poetry about why life was the way it was and how she wanted life for others to be better, for them to see love not hate for themselves or others (especially others that were different from them). Those two years we spent together in that house where the best years of my life. And for that reason, I had to leave that house and Michigan. I just couldn’t walk past her school, the place she loved to go with her friends, and live in that house another minute. I knew my life depended on it.
Now, eight years later, I still struggle with settling down and I want some days to just give everything I have away and start over. But I know that is not the answer. Facing life and honoring my daughter is my purpose. While that is hard to swallow some days, I find if I sit and think about it, I am energized by what I could do for others. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my moments when I just want to Fade Away like Mary J. Blige sang about, but that is not the answer. It is not what God or my beautiful child would want for me. Instead I am to live a life with purpose and to help those who cannot help themselves. To clear the fog from their thoughts and to make the path of healing possible. It’s not all rosy nor is it easy, nothing is; however I do have a choice, we all do.
Choose to live a life with purpose and make our children smile down on us knowing that we learned from them and we carry that torch now for others.
Until next time,