Friday, December 19, 2008

I've been counting down some of my favorite things about Christmas, but to be honest, I'm pretty sick of it! My personal "Holiday Season" has taken a rough turn since last night, and I'm straining to get myself to actually care about great trees, or Christmas books or parties at this point. I logged into my email account late last night and found a message from an old friend (who, by the way, is completely amazing in every way and someone that I have a great deal of respect for) announcing that her beautiful, perfectly healthy 4 month old daughter passed away during her nap on Tuesday. The note was short and simple and clearly expressed that they understood that their sweet baby's time on earth was sufficient for what her little spirit needed to accomplish, but I was overcome with shock and sorrow for their loss. I'm so grateful that they are incredibly strong, wise people and I know for a fact that their personal testimonies will get them through this incredibly hard time, but I can't help but cry (and cry and cry and cry and cry) because, regardless of how much you "know" and "believe" and "selflessly surrender to whatever life may have in store for you" this temporary separation h.u.r.t.s. It hurts every day and it hurts all the time (for the first while) and even when you think you've got a handle on it (years and years down the road) it creeps back up on you when you least expect it, and that pain can sometimes feel as fresh and new as the day it first entered your life. Life is a confusing, terrible, beautiful, wonderful thing, and the truth is, we would never understand just how sweet the good is, if we hadn't each had a few nice big helpings of the bitter, ugly bad. Is it just me, or do you sort of just expect/assume/hope that the problems of the world will go away and leave us alone during the Christmas season? The bright, happy glow of the holidays seems to add extra bite to any trial or loss experienced in the months of November and does for me at least, but only at first glance. When I think about the ugly trials that threaten to destroy our peace, and sanity, and happiness, and joy, I am always (without fail) led back to Him. Our Savior is the reason we celebrate Christmas. He is the reason we rejoice. During this, the CHRISTmas Season, we don't rejoice because we have perfect lives,wonderful presents, immaculate homes, amazing decorations, and harmonious families...we rejoice because He lives!

And BECAUSE he lives, my friend's child still lives.

Because He lives, our broken hearts will be whole again.
Because He lives, I have long and glorious moments of peace amidst a churning sea of disappointment and sorrow (infertility -ugh...)
Because He lives, Our lives, and holidays, and homes, and children don't have to be perfect.
Because He lives, we can learn and grow and become better people every day.
I have no doubt that our Father in Heaven loves us deeply. He sent His Son to bring peace and joy and relief to every single one of us. We need only make room to receive it. I got more terrible news this morning about someone we love very deeply, and when combined with last night's email, I didn't feel like I could handle any more. (This is because I'm human, and I often forget all of the things I just wrote above. I forget almost daily. When I forget, I'm unsettled and heartbroken and when I remember to remember, I am once again at peace.)I picked up the new January 2009 Ensign that just came in our mail, and its pages fell open to this:

Gardenias in January

A few years ago I purchased a lovely gardenia plant. I kept it in a large pot and tended it with care, enjoying the fragrant blossoms that came once a year. One year the plant did not produce many blossoms. I wondered what was wrong. I took it inside for the winter and placed it in a sunlit spot, as I normally did. To my surprise, the plant began budding right after Christmas. In January it produced fragrant blossoms. While admiring the beautiful plant, I thought of my friend Anita, who was home enduring the end of a long battle with cancer. Despite treatments, the cancer had returned three times. Though Anita was only in her 30s, the doctors predicted she did not have much time left. It struck me that she might like a hint of spring in her home. I took the gardenia to Anita. When I arrived, she said,

"How did you know Gardenias were my favorite flowers?"
"I didn't," I replied, "but Heavenly Father knew.
These gardenias bloomed in January just for you."

We were silent for a while marveling at the little miracle. Then she said, "I needed this reminder of spring. Thank you."Anita passed away in February, but during the last weeks of her life, she enjoyed the sweet fragrance of her favorite flower. Her husband even pinned one of the gardenias on the inside of her casket. I'm thankful that I was able to witness how the Lord can bless those he loves during their most difficult hours. He gave Anita joy during her pain. He gave her gardenias in January.

-By Wendy Foutz McKinney

There are 80 pages of text that make up the January edition of the Ensign, and THAT was the first page it fell open to. TRANSLATION: My Heavenly Father loves me. He knows I'm struggling, (even though it is at a far lesser level than MOST of His children living on this earth at this current time) and He cares enough to lead me to the answers that will bring the peace I am searching for. My first thought after I read my sweet friend's sad news was "How awful for this to have happened just before Christmas!" But now, in the light of a new day, my reaction is quite different. I think that the better response would NOT be "how awful" so much as it would be "how fitting." What better time to go through a life-altering nightmare than in the season that celebrates the birth of the man who was sent to deliver us from all of it? This is a time for peace and joy and love, and even though tragedy may rock us for a season, (or even a lifetime) He is our constant, always waiting with healing in His wings.
My Savior lives, and because of that, there is no real tragedy.
That is not to say that cancer, car accidents, SIDS, child abuse, suicide, etc.etc.etc. are not tragedies...of course they are. They hurt and they're awful, but they WILL NOT LAST. His joy and peace will surpass them all. In Him, death has truly lost its sting, and our mortal wounds will be made whole again someday. We are all just going to have to sit tight until then, and MOST OF ALL, at this very hard, very beautiful, very special time of year, we need to REMEMBER what it's all really about.


Kristina P. said...

It's so hard to keep these kinds of things in perspective.

I've been lucky in that the only person close to me who I have lost was my grandmother. My other grandparents are still alive.

I acutally went to therapy a few years ago because my husband started working in a dangerous job and I started to get anxiety about him getting killed. I'm much, much better now, but I know it would be so hard for me to lose him, even with the gospel in my life. I don't know how people who don't have any type of belief in God make it.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

That was a truly beautiful, bittersweet, inspiring post. I admire your perspective and that of anyone who has lost a child and can still maintain a sense of hope. There is no greater tradgedy in the world. Though childless, I cringe at even the possiblity of such horror striking me. It's such a selfless, risky thing to become a mother. It seems to me to be the highest of high and the lowest of lows. No wonder women were placed in charge of it :)

Anonymous said...

*Disclaimer: I didn't add "Go" to my comment. Don't ask me why it's even there.

Scott and Jillian said...

Thank you for a beautiful post. I always love reading your blog, and your heart felt posts are one of the reasons. Perspective, even when you have the gospel, is a hard thing. Love ya, sweetie!

Kristen said...


Katie--the amazing one, not your other friend named Katie. She's amazing, too, but not the same Katie as me-- said...

As I read Because He Lives, the words and music of a beautiful song by the same title played through my mind. It is by Sally Deford. She writes gorgeous LDS music and shares it openly. The referenced song is found at

Because he lives; because he rose in mighty triumph from the grave
I put my trust in him, and seek to follow him in faith
Because he lives

Because he lives, I shall find strength to stand against the tempter's power
He is my refuge and defense in every troubled hour
Because he lives

Because he lives I can bear whatever burden may be mine
I am encircled in the arms of love divine because he lives
Because he lives he will banish every shadow of my pain
Every sorrow will be swallowed up in him
For in his hand is healing for the weary soul
This I know because he lives

Because he lives my heart is filled with peace amid a world of fear
And through the blindness of the night, in him I rest secure
Because he lives

Because he lives there is no task so great that I cannot endure
I bear no heartache that his tender mercy cannot cure
Because he lives

(Repeat chorus)

Because he lives I will fear no darkness
Because he lives I will walk in light
Because he lives I will praise his kindness
Because he lives hope shines ever bright
Because he lives I will seek his righteousness
Because he lives I'll follow where he leads
Because he lives I shall conquer even death
And I shall live because he lives!

Because he lives I will rejoice in Christ and glorify his name
And with the willing voice of gratitude proclaim: My Savior lives!
Because he lives he will banish every shadow of my pain
Every sorrow will be swallowed up in him
For in his hand is healing for the weary soul
This I know because he lives

(You can stream or download recordings and accompaniments and print the sheet music for free.)

Howse Family said...

Thank you for your words Laura. As I've been running around trying to get everything ready for the Holidays, I need reminders of why were celebrate this Holiday. Because of Jesus Christ, the one who makes it possible for me to see my daughter again. And for that I am grateful beyond words. Thank you for helping remember. :)

Heather said...

Wow, Laura- my heart goes out to your friend. Thank you for expressing your sweet testimony. These precious babies have already proven themselves and passed their test. How grateful I am for the gift of the resurrection- what a joyful day that will be! He will compensate for every loss.

Ashley Koz said...

WOW! That was exactly what I needed today, thank you Laura

Jen Nelson said...

Well, I'm crying... been doing a lot of that lately. Can I say I SOOO needed to hear this. It hurts now, so bad, but it will not last.
Love you so much!