Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blessings In Disguise

The other night I sat looking at a picture of Ethan and thinking to myself how badly I wish this was all a bad dream. I wished I would wake up and it not be just some time briefly before Dec. 15 when I could have done some of the things I wish I'd done before he died, but long before, when I might have been able to see the damage coming and saved him from the path he took.

At the same time, I thought that I would want to take back with me this different person that I have become. Although I may often be unhappy with what I see in the mirror, feeling I look as tired and worn down as I sometimes feel, I am grateful for the changes in my heart and soul.

I can't say I'm thankful for what God has done to get me here, but I am thankful for who I've become.

Sunday morning, the topic of the bus crash in California came up at church. I could tell that, once it was mentioned, it made my Sunday school classmates uncomfortable. There they were trying to talk about good coming from tragedy and how could any good come from losing a child and they suddenly realized where the topic had gone.

Me, well I waded in as the discussion faltered. Losing my Sunday morning makeup as I talked, I told them how it could be exactly that.

No, when it happens it doesn't feel like a blessing. It feels like the world has ended, like you can't breathe, like you are the person who has died even though you're still functioning at some level. Four months later it still feels like that some days. The blessing is never the loss itself, at least to those of us left behind.

The blessing, the good that can come from it, is in allowing what has happened to change us, not with bitterness, but, through God's love, with compassion. The blessing is in realizing deep down how precious and temporary life is and how much of it is wasted on meaningless and self-centered pursuits. It's in discovering the deep well of compassion from other people. It's accepting that you aren't required to get through tragedy alone because there are people who care if you're vulnerable enough to let them. It's finding that same well of compassion inside and reaching out to a world you didn't really care that much about until your world was shattered.

The good isn't the loss or the tragedy, but what comes out of the people who survive -- what the people who are left to grieve and mourn do with themselves and their changed perspective that can be a blessing. I've noticed one of my fellow grieving mothers, a blogger I know only as Victoria is also becoming aware and appreciative of the changes in her life and sees them as ongoing blessings from the love she bears her son.

It's a strange place to be, knowing that this isn't the life I wanted, not the path I would ever have sought, one I would erase in a heartbeat, one that, because of tragedy, is both lacking an important element and still more rich than the path I would have taken.

I'm so thankful for the lives I've touched and the people that I've allowed to touch mine as well. We aren't just classmates at Sunday school, or Zumba, or even sometimes just people who like one another's comments on Facebook. We're people who care and share and hug and send cards and call and pray. If I had not lost Ethan, I would never have had this wonderful connection to the world around me -- a connection that was there all the time but one I never noticed or valued.

It wasn't my choice to make, this rich tapestry of lives intertwined or the singular thread that I lost. Had it been, I'm sure I would have clung to the thread of his life, but I wonder in doing so what other treads spreading out from mine might have been dropped instead. With a knitter's mind I see the loop of his life not dropped, but doubled with my own, while other stitches have been added which might have, instead, been dropped. It's hard to explain, other than to acknowledge how much I value these new connections, even if I would never have sought or found them had it not been for tragedy.

God made the choice of how I would move forward, tethered not by the one string, but by dozens.

It was the changed me with a thought of Ethan that stopped and blew the horn at a man with a dog on the side of the road yesterday, handing him money through the window. Had I not had two small people in the car with me, I think I would have liked to stop and talk with him a while. I wondered if he still has a mother who would like to know where he was, and I said a prayer for him and his dog, which was wearing a sweater against the chill.

Perhaps the only blessing from this loss was the money I pressed into the street person's hand and the "God bless you," I received in return. Perhaps it is the prayers and love that have knit a warm blanket of support around me. Perhaps it is the less calloused person I've found when I wake up each morning. Perhaps it is knowing that God's hand is in it all and that it was never up to me, dreams and regrets aside, at all.


  1. Your message really resonates with me Angela. I follow Victoria's blog as well, and the price that folks like us pay for that sense of purpose that she describes, and for the change that you describe, is simply staggering. I'm not the same man that I was before Dawn Marie died. Thanks for writing :-)

    1. It is hard to allow ourselves to think that we're better and realize that losing them is what changed us. Yet, I think we know it's true. Realizing that life was so easy and insulated before and that I really didn't care about all that was going on around me is hard. Now I cry for strangers on the street, but I think that we're supposed to do that. We're never supposed to be so wrapped up in ourselves that we don't feel anything for other people -- even people we don't know. Jesus told us we were supposed to love them, and I know now that I didn't even care about them. I wish there had been some easier way to learn this without losing someone I loved. Be strong and know that I care about you as well.