December 2012 started out beautiful. Abigail was 3 1/2 years old and thriving. Every day of the month we re-enacted the Nativity Story, sometimes multiple times a day. She loved it. It was such a beautiful time, yet it was a high that came crashing down. Deep anguish eroded the earlier enjoyment of the season.
Our family had done almost everything humanely possible to heal Abigail. For 18 months she had No Evidence of Disease, although she still continued to go through extensive, expensive, and excruciatingly painful treatments.
When your child has cancer, a low fever of 100.4 is an automatic ticket for admittance to the hospital. If they bruise, you know they are dangerously low on platelets. If they have a headache, cough, or any pain, you suspect, wonder, & worry that cancer is the cause. For the sake of their life, you are a hyper-sensitive-on-steroids mom.
So when she began fiercely crying in pain on December 23, and it rarely let up, we were concerned. Her "tummy" hurt. We tried gas drops and several other remedies. We wondered if she ate something bad.
And then she kept crying another day. Eventually she pinpointed her pain as being at her side. The oncology clinic couldn't get us in, it was Christmas Eve. Abigail was scheduled for her routine 3-month-scans on December 27. We just had to wait.
She continued to cry in pain. If I had known then to look at her back, to the left of her spine, I probably could have felt it--as I felt it months later: the paraspinal soft tissue tumor that was causing this atrocious agony, most especially for her.
December 27 scans. The oncologist walked back WITH Abigail's nurse. I knew then. Usually the nurse just tells you the doc will be in touch after the scan is officially read. When I saw the doctor walk through the curtain, my world stopped. I wanted time to freeze so I could get up and run away before she uttered the words. "Unfortunately, there is cancer..."
This was the beginning of the end. I knew beyond intellectually, statistically, or academically--I knew it in my gut and spirit that Abigail would die. I bawled as I drove home, as quietly as possible so as to not disturb Abigail still sleepy from anesthesia. I called my dad and asked him to proceed with building Abigail's casket. What a horrible phone call to make. My 3-year-old is alseep in her carseat behind me...will you please make her coffin...
We brought home from the clinic pain drugs for her: oxycodone and ibuprofen to attempt to manage her pain while we collectively came up with a game plan. For relapsed neuroblastoma, there is no known curative option, and so as parents we were allowed (this time) a choice in her treatment.
But we didn't last long at home. That night she spiked a fever, which of course landed us in the hospital.
Biopsy the next day. Another scan. Unknown black spot in her lungs, which came to be diagnosed as pneumonia. Surgery for a new central line inserted into her upper chest. New drugs. In the hospital as New Year approached. Happy New Year indeed.
So that was December. The news tarnished all prior happiness and imprinted an emotional wound so deep that it resurfaces and reopens when Christmas decorations go up. It isn't a conscious choice to dredge them up, believe me. It's like smelling a scent from your childhood and memories come to mind...yeah, it's like that, but not the happy kind of memories.
I type that and reread it and think "I sound like a basket case."
But I'm not.
I'm in pain, yes. But I'll be okay because...well, in order to explain why, I have to admit something. I hesitate to admit it because I don't want to be misunderstood or have it be misinterpreted. But it needs to be said, publicly. I feel that others need to read it, so they can believe it, too.
I am happy that Abigail died.
I am happy that Abigail died, because I know she wasn't supposed to stay. Because ultimately it was Heavenly Father's will for her mortal mission to be finished. And if HE wanted that, then I wanted it, too. I didn't want it before Dec 2012. I prayed and worked my guts out trying to keep her here. And at times--often--I still don't want it. But I do want it, because it is right. My acceptance and consequent peace didn't happen overnight, though.
Now, some of you might be qualifying my statement already by saying "she must not have loved Abigail as much as I loved my child" or "it must be harder to lose <insert other relationship here>." Don't. Don't compare, please.
My peace is not pain-free. In fact, I don't think those are opposites because I have them both in my heart right now. So because I accept His will doesn't mean I won't hurt. But in accepting it, I ALSO feel joy and peace.
So yes, I want her where she is. I also want her here, too. But like a mother sending off a child to college, or on a mission, or in a marriage, or a move away from home, you don't want the physical separation because it will be emotionally hard. Yet you know it's best for them--you know it's right.
So when you think about me and how painful my Decembers are, know that I accept it and want it. It is hard. I am happy. It is hard to be happy. And I am happy it is hard. Yep, this is me: sorrow, grief, sadness, faith, trust, joy, hope, and pain all vita-mix blended and ultra-homogenized into ME.
I survive by knowing that when we were married, Aaron and I knelt across an alter of God in the temple and made sacred covenants through His priesthood: we were sealed for time and all eternity. Our children are sealed to us for forever. The sealing powers of Elijah are on earth again. Because we were bound on earth, we will be bound in heaven. God is a god of truth, and He cannot lie. This is my peace!!! How grateful I am for His restored gospel on the earth today. How deeply grateful I am that my Savior knows any pain I will ever feel, and He can and does comfort me.
How grateful I am that "there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings." How grateful I am that He has given us prophets on earth again!!! This December, one of my gifts to Him is to memorize this small quote and repeat it often in my mind. How comforting it is.
We Are Not Made for Endings
In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.Grateful in Any Circumstance
I love Jesus Christ and my Father in Heaven. This is the life they felt would best prepare me to become like them.
Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life. My favorite talk ever
And after this therapeutic typing, I can now honestly say, Merry Christmas. This hard December, and every hard day. Lift up your hearts and be of good cheer. 2