Saturday, February 25, 2012

Life is a delicate thing

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor the man be perfected without trials." - Chinese Proverb

I know that lately my posts have been heavy, lengthy, and lacking of pictures.  I'm working on that.  But for now, here's one more.  Sorry, can't help it.  Lots on my mind right now.

These last several weeks I've heavily pondered the delicacy of life.  It's difficult not to when it seems like families all around me are facing life-threatening realities.  Some friends of ours have close friends out of state, two of whose daughters have a rare condition called Leaky SCID, which basically shuts down the immune system.  Currently the girls, ages 8 and 2, are preparing for chemotherapy, which will be followed by bone marrow transplants.  A couple months ago, Ryan's Sunbeam teacher's son, late thirties, a healthy firefighter and father of four young children, died instantly and unexpectedly of a heart attack.  My neighbor across the street was diagnosed with breast cancer in September, and has undergone four surgeries since.  Her prognosis is good, but it continues to be an excruciating battle.  And just this week I learned that one of the ladies I visit teach's husband, who was recently diagnosed with kidney cancer, which has already metastasized to several other organs, has been given 6-12 weeks to live.  He can't be far past forty.  They have four children also.

I hate stories like these.  Simply hate them.  And of course the natural questions follow, like, why them and not meWill something like this happen to meWhat would I do if I was told I had only 6 weeks to live?  How would I react to and cope with one of my children having a life-threatening illness?  What kind of single mother would I make?  Oh, I hate to even imagine any of this, but I can't help it sometimes!
I had an ectopic pregnancy in early 2008.  Boy, do I remember that day well!  I arrived at my doctor's office for my first prenatal visit, knowing full well that things weren't good.  Upon various undetermined tests, excruciating pain, tears, and witnessing Dr. Baer in a scared and frazzled state in which I'd never seen him before, I remember him (after gathering his composure), walking into the exam room where Neil and I were waiting, and very calmly saying to us these words: "You are going to get into your car RIGHT NOW, and you are going to drive straight to the hospital.  I am going to follow you there, and we're going to figure this out."  Not 30 minutes later, my pregnancy was officially over, and my ruptured fallopian tube, gone.  It was an extremely sad and frightening loss.  But it also brought to light the grand scheme of things.  Yes, that human being once growing inside of me was no longer.  But that human being also had a spirit, and someday, I would get to meet and raise that spirit.  As humans, we simply cannot recognize or see the before and after, but only the now.  We are told what happened before this life, and we are told what will happen in the next.  We are also told that our time on earth is but a tiny minute compared to what will follow.  And yet we still can only see the here and now.  I wonder sometimes how my perspective would change if I could see the after.  Even though I physically cannot, my faith that it exists and is real brings me such a quiet peace, that life's trials, losses and sorrows suddenly feel lighter.

My miscarriage, while awful at the time, cannot, in my mind, be compared to the loss of a spouse or child.  The experience did broaden my perspective and make me a more empathetic person.  But even coming out of it, I still had my loving husband and daughter by my side, not to mention the strong potential for another healthy child down the road (who was miraculously conceived only 26 days following my emergency surgery).

It is insane when you look at some people and the trials with which God has entrusted them.  Sometimes your heart aches so badly for these people, who, from your limited perspective don't deserve the one-thing-after-another fiasco they've come to call life.  And yet, God sees the big picture.  He is in charge.  And He knows exactly what He is doing.  We just have to trust that, as impossible as it may be at times.

I have had some pretty amazing opportunities to serve many people in need these recent weeks, and I have been so humbled and inspired by their goodness and strength. It's so true that doing service blesses lives. When I am serving others and my heart is in the right place, I am convinced that my blessings far exceed that of the recipients'.  As Elder Derek Cuthbert of the Seventy said, "Service changes people. It refines, purifies, gives a finer perspective, and brings out the best in each one of us. It gets us looking outward instead of inward. It prompts us to consider others’ needs ahead of our own. Righteous service is the expression of true charity, such as the Savior showed."

Life is delicate; life is imperfect; and life is short.  We should, of course, make the best of it, and enjoy it to the fullest.  But we should also remember, amidst our very darkest days, whether they consist of temporary difficulties which will eventually pass, or some of the most devastating, like witnessing a loved one knocking on death's door, that these days have been placed in our lives to teach us and help us grow.  This is our probationary time, after all; our time to prepare to meet God.  And just as the Chinese proverb says, without trials, we cannot be perfected.

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