Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bethany, Part III

In order to understand this post, it might be helpful to read the last 3 posts.

I'm having a really hard time with this post. It was my intention to sum up all our emotions and the things we have learned through this experience. Well, that was a little unrealistic. However, since I can't keep this going indefinitely, I will try to cover some of the really important things that I would like to leave with my daughter. So, here goes...

Faith and trust are a choice. Neither one are a feeling. When I got the news that Bethany was dead, I remember making a deliberate choice that I was going to lean with all my might on my heavenly father. I was going to trust his decision and believe that there was a better reason for her to die than for her to live. I was not going to turn my back on God in anger for what he had done. It was not a feeling. It was not an experience. It was not an emotion. It was a choice.

This does not mean I did not get angry. This does not mean I did not get depressed. This does not mean that I never wished she hadn't died. It simply means that I chose to walk through those emotions with Jesus Christ at my side. Although I couldn't always make sense of what God was doing and took a good blow to what my theology had been up until this point, I was not ready to throw everything away that had transpired between me and God.

I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning most nights wrestling with whether God really loved me, and if he did, what did that love mean. Did he really keep me and my family safe or was that an illusion I had created? If it was an illusion, where was there any security? How could I reconcile what had happened with the verses I knew promising safety from God? If I was going through a time of testing, what other things would I have to experience? If I passed the test, would God use me to bring more glory to himself? Did I really want to be someone used by God to bring glory to himself? What was he going to do next? There is a verse that says the eyes of the Lord are roaming to and fro about the earth, looking for a man through whom he can glorify himself. That verse scared me so badly because if I was faithful and glorified him in this, would he use me for all sorts of other crazy and difficult things? People think being used by God is an honor and a privilege. What they may not know is, it can also be extremely painful.

People would try to tell me that God wouldn't give me anything I couldn't bear. That is exactly what scared me. I knew I could bear anything God gave me. I was not about to ever turn my back on him. I had made a choice long before anything happened that I would serve God no matter what. Like Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I still hope in Him."

There were so many conflicting emotions going on inside me. I totally loved and adored God and wanted him to be glorified in my life. On the other hand, I was scared half to death of what he was going to accomplish in and through me. My wonderful Christian counselor told me I had a "Job complex."

I'm almost afraid to share some of my thoughts during this time because you would think I was crazy. The truth is I was!! I was literally going crazy. Furthermore, I think it was completely normal and healthy to be going crazy at this point.

One way my craziness displayed itself was I couldn't be by myself for many months after her death. Either I went with Van everywhere he went, or he didn't go. He was so patient and loving toward me during this process of grief and Post Traumatic Stress. He would also stay up all night long with me until I went to sleep because I was afraid to be alone with the whole house sleeping. Sometimes, that meant 4:00, 5:00, or even 6:00 in the morning if I had a really rough night wrestling with God and my grief.

Another thing I did was check on Allika every 5 minutes. Sometimes, I was convinced that for one reason or other I was going to find her dead. In those instances, I would beg Van to go check on her for me. Once again, his patience in this area amazes me.

One day, I was sharing all my fears about my future in God's hands with a friend. "Tanager," she said, "God doesn't give us grace for our hypothetical fears. He only gives us grace for the task he has called us to." Wow. Yep. You're right. I am letting fear steal my joy in the moment because I am trying so hard to anticipate the carpet being pulled out from under me around the next corner.

I knew what God's grace for the moment felt like. I had experienced it first hand. He had been so good to us in so many ways following the death of our daughter. For instance, the song "Held," which I shared in my previous post, was a gift from him. I had heard that song even before Bethany was born, and I fell in love with it. I mean, I absolutely loved it! My husband got me the CD for Christmas and I played track #9 over and over and over and over. There was something about that song that grabbed me and held me (so to speak). It was no coincidence that it was the song playing at the moment we left the hospital. It was also no coincidence that a man we never met, who had heard about what happened, walked up to us the day after she died, gave us the CD, and said, "I don't know if you have ever heard this song, but I thought it would bless you." It was like God was saying, "I am right here with you. I am holding you. I will not leave you."

His grace was also displayed through our family and friends who came around us in such an amazing way. Since we couldn't bring ourselves to sleep in the house the night after she died, some friends put us up in a motel room. As they were dropping us off, we formed a circle, held hands, and prayed together. That night was so hard. I sobbed through the night. My chest hurt so badly, I thought I was having a heart attack. Van called the Emergency Room, and the nurse talked him through everything and determined it was just grief. It seriously hurt so bad.

The next morning, I knew there was no way I could go on living with the pain like it was. I wanted to just get a drink and drown it all out. I went to church instead. Good choice. It was there I was ministered to in such an enormous way that no amount of alcohol could ever touch. As we sang songs of worship to our awesome God, I lifted my hands to heaven and felt the comfort of my father envelope me.

My family started arriving as soon as church was over, and for the next two weeks they surrounded me and loved me through the deepest pain. God is so good. His grace is truly amazing.

I am not finished, but I have to break this up again. Sorry. I really wanted to finish this whole story by now, but there is too much to share. Thank you for your patience. When this is all over, I will write a bunch of froo-froo, frilly, fun, happy, silly, nonsensical stuff for a while.


  1. I know you're writing this for Allika but you're writing to me. I thank God for Van as well and his love and patience. With all my heart I wish this hadn't happened to you, I wish Bethany were still alive, but I'm so amazed by God's goodness shining through you. Danielle

  2. Thank you, Danielle. Your words bless me. I pray that my words may somehow help others see what a good, faithful, just, and sovereign father we have.

  3. You know after Bethany died I must have checked on Morgan several times through the night as well for about a week ot so. In fact I still do that every once in a while.


  4. You are part of the inspiration for a lesson that I am planning for sunday. It has to do with God telling us "no". It goes right along with your newest post. BTW, Allika sounded just like you when she was talking yesterday.

  5. Sounds like a great lesson. Wish I could be there. What did Allika say?

  6. Thank you for sharing your story of your daughter. I can only imagine how hard it is to revisit those painful days.
    My sister had a baby boy named Cody last year on June 8 and he died on July 11 from a severe viral infection that shut down both his lungs. He stopped breathing and they performed CPR for over an hour before his heart began beating on its own. He died about 12 hours later after being life-flighted to a more equipped hospital. His body slowly shut down and there was nothing else that could be done. I made it to the hospital 15 minutes after he died and had to say goodbye to my nephew who I had never met. I know I can never understand fully the loss of my own child unless I experience it, but I was right there with my sister through the initial grieving and it taught me a lot about life and about leaning on my Father. I look back now and see how God was working through the pain and heartache. (There is so much more to the story but I am trying to keep it short. :)
    Also, it is amazing to me that God used that song to reach out to you in your grief. Its things like that that show us how much He is watching over us and cares so much.

    Krista Howard

  7. Wow, Krista. That sounds so painful. I am so sorry you had to go through that. You are probably still going though it, too. Grief is such a long process. Know that you are being held by your Father.