This past Sunday our Pastor told us that we all suffer from blindness in one form or another. When our focus is on one thing we miss something else. I think he said that a lot of the time we are also blind to the ways God works in our lives. After that I kind of lost track because my mind took me elsewhere. Or maybe I should say the eyes of my soul could see things a little more clearly.
During Bernadette’s illness I refused to think about her not surviving, or I should say I refused to dwell on the idea. As long as there was life there was hope. A miracle could be just around the corner. I didn’t know how God might want to manifest His Glory so I wasn’t about to go down a path that we might not need to. Besides, Bernadette needed me to be strong for her and my strength came in the hope of a miracle. As a result the only thing I dared pray for was a miracle. I never once prayed for strength or courage or even to be present when she died. I just couldn’t bring myself to pray for anything except that it be God’s will that she live. On Sunday I realized that during all those countless hours crying and begging God for a miracle my focus was totally on Bernadette and I was blind to where God was working in other ways.
Just a few days before, as I was working my way through the book, “Surviving the Loss of a Child” by Elizabeth Brown, I came across a section where Elizabeth wrote about how when she looked back on the events before her daughter’s sudden illness, she saw God’s hand in preparing them to make the days following her death just a little easier. I can’t remember them all but I do recall one had to do with a middle of the night realization of what was wrong with their daughter and that the her husband, a doctor, was able to rush her to the hospital thus saving him from living with the guilt of his daughter dying at home because he didn’t diagnose her illness correctly. The other one was that on a couple occasions, just weeks before their daughter got sick, they found themselves with the unexpected opportunity to purchase clothing for their older children for anticipated events in the near future. They seized the opportunities even though it was months before the events were to take place. After her daughter passed away, Elizabeth found it comforting to know that when it came to the funeral she didn’t have to worry about what her children would wear, it was already taken care of.
When our Pastor talked about seeing, I remembered Elizabeth Brown’s words and it was like God was asking me to see what He was trying to show me. Like Elizabeth, God was there preparing the way for us knowing what was to come. I didn’t see it that way at the time because my focus was so bent on hoping for a physical healing. But now as I look back on those months of praying so hard for God to heal Bernadette, I can see where His answer was more, “I’m sorry, but I have another plan for Bernadette, but I am making it as easy on you as I can.” It doesn’t feel like much of a comfort, even now, but as I look back I can see where God did in fact make the road as smooth as possible.
For starters, according to Elizabeth Brown, the death of a child is the most devastating loss, but the devastation can be worse depending on how the child died. If I understood her correctly, death after an illness is the easiest of all the ways, as opposed to say murder, suicide, accident, etc. In our case, yes we had three months to cherish Bernadette. Many parents don’t get that time if their child dies suddenly. For that we should be thankful and we are. But it doesn’t make it any easier – for now.
Then there was the financial aspect. I was reading stories of families who spent their life savings, even went so far as to mortgage their home to pay for medical treatment to save their child only to have their child die anyways. Marc and I were prepared to do the same if there had been time. If the vitamin C treatments were promising we would have been prepared to spend every penny we had and more. But it wasn’t mean to be. We were also supported greatly by the financial assistance of family, friends, and community and Marc’s work/co-workers so that Marc was able to be home for the last two months. His presence here gifted us with even more time with Bernadette. Was that not God’s arms surrounding us and comforting us in such a difficult time?
God also answered Marc’s prayer in that Bernadette was able to stay home right to the end and that I be there when she gave up her spirit. During the last week we were getting to the point where we didn’t quite know if we could go on and yet it was our deepest desire that we keep Bernadette with us as long as possible – for her sake. It wasn’t a verbal prayer of mine for I didn’t dare go there, but God gave us the grace to see Bernadette right through to the end. Literally. The last two nights before Bernadette died, both night nurses cancelled for different reasons and Marc and I took the night shifts. God saw to it that we got a much time with Bernadette as possible. It feels like little comfort right now, but one day when the razor sharp edge to the pain dulls, we will be thankful for these blessings.
Another way in which God was ‘softening the blow’ as it were came to me last week at the library. I was sitting there watching a little girl play. She was maybe two years old or so. As I was struggling with my grief as you can imagine because I was thinking of Bernadette and how I’d brought her to this library ever since she was a baby and how I was enjoying raising the two girls and now that joy was gone. Then I realized that God had given me a second chance. I had not lost forever the chance to enjoy watching a little one grow up. We had been blessed with Zoe. And because she was part of our family before Bernadette got sick we will never look on her as a replacement for Bernadette. NOBODY can ever replace Bernadette. We love Zoe for Zoe. But we also realize what a tremendous blessing she is in that we’ve been given one more chance to love a little one. Not only that, having a baby in the house forces us to smile even when we don’t think we could ever smile again. We just can’t help it. And that smile or laugh, for however long it lasts is like a ray of sunshine breaking through the storm clouds. It is refreshing and it is a blessing.
The other way I realize that God was taking care of us was through all the incredible support from everyone. Not only family, friends, community, but the folks at Canuck Place (we’d never heard of them before October), the doctors, Dr. Weicker and Mary Jane working so well together and coming to the house so we didn’t have to bring Bernadette to town. All the nurses who came to the house to help us. The list goes on. It really was/is incredible. At the funeral, Marc and I stood in awe at how many people came to be with us, or came to be there for Bernadette. It was an experience of the ‘communion of saints’ here on earth. We were definitely not alone.
Yet another one was when Marc’s parents house sale fell through and they weren’t moving away. It would have been crushing to have them move during such a rough time – for them as well as for us.
If I looked hard enough I could probably find many more ways that God cushioned the blow of the trauma of losing Bernadette. I could even say, like Elizabeth Brown, that He even took care of what we would all wear to the funeral. Paul and Christina had just been married the year before and for that joyous occasion we had all bought new clothes (or had them made in the case of Catherine’s flower girl dress). Clothes shopping is my least favorite thing to do, and to have to go looking for something appropriate for Bernadette’s funeral would have been excruciating. But it was all taken care of!
I just thought of another one I need to add so I don’t ever forget. In September, I had this out of no where inspiration that we take the girls to The Enchanted Forest before it closed for the winter and then go on to Revelstoke to visit Paul and Christina’s new apartment. We went that weekend and Catherine and Bernadette had a blast. It was such a fun time. I took a million pictures. Today I look back on that trip and realize what an incredible blessing it was. Where did the inspiration come from to go? It must have been from God because I’m not one who likes to travel with a baby, to me babies need to nap in their own beds.
It is with eyes of faith that I can look back and see God’s blessings and fatherly care in the months leading up to Bernadette’s illness and eventual death. I was inclined to think it was my imagination grasping at straws until I read that Elizabeth Brown had the same experience and then Fr. George talked about one of Jesus’ common miracles was healing the blind as a way of teaching. My eyes too were opened and I could see God’s loving care for us. Yes, He may have Bernadette in His hand, but He holds us in His other hand. And if Bernadette is in one hand and we are in the other, then we’re not that too terribly far away from her after all, are we?
Last Wed. at mass I happened to turn my head to see you and Marc with big smiles on your faces looking down at Zoe playing on the floor. I could not help but smile but also shed a tear of happiness at seeing you both being happy. Truly God has a master plan for us all and little precious Zoe is a wonderful gift. I thank you so much for your sharing. I believe I can hear you slowly healing in your words. Always in my heart & prayers.