Life in the wake of loss, any loss, is not easy. There are great days, cant-get-out-of-bed days, okay days, and days you can't believe any of it really happened.
There are plenty of mornings I wake up wishing it all was just a dream, and that I can go to the hospital and Max will be there waiting for me. The reality that he is really gone is sometimes an overwhelming pain. I miss him every moment.
January was crazy busy with phone calls and paperwork. I spent every day trying to get insurance, social security and other things figured out. It weighed on me, but it kept me busy. I had purpose each and every day. I still had things to do for Max. But when February came it was like a hit of reality. As things began to work themselves out, and I had less of that stress to do, it became more and more real that Max was gone. This is my life now: a life without Max.
Two days before Valentine's my old 1996 Jeep Cherokee died. She was only a few thousand shy of 200,000 miles. As we looked for a new car I remembered how we had begun this journey last summer with excitement and anticipation of a new baby. But here we were, 7 or 8 months later, finally, driving home in a new car with no baby in that back seat. Part of us rejoiced to have a car that wouldn't break down all the time, that had A/C, working windows and doors; but the majority parts of us just wanted to park our beat-up Jeep in Primary's parking garage and be back in the hospital with Max.
The day before Valentine's I went to the store to get flowers and a balloon for Max's grave. I stood in the checkout line, tears rolling down my cheeks, while the mother in front of me scrambled with her kids and their Valentine goodies. We went to dinner and a movie that night with our friends, and my heart broke inside knowing they would hurry home to snuggle their baby boy. I sobbed in the car as we drove home, thinking of my brother-in-law's family having their Valentine's date at home with their son. I felt so much distaste for my life that night. I wanted my baby back. I wanted him in my arms. I wanted what everyone else was having. I did not want this life!
The sorrow consumed me, and I felt as though I had forgotten all the important truths I knew to get me through this.
Well, as He does, the Lord found a way to remind me those truths in church the next day.
My mother-in-law, actually, gave a lesson that day that brought me back and filled me with hope again. She shared Dieter F. Uchtdorf's story A Summer with Great-Aunt Rose, which is about a young girl named Eva who is sent to live with her single great-aunt one summer. Rose has never married and has never had children, but lives an incredibly happy life. Despite the things she doesn't have, she is fully aware of everything else she has been blessed with. She explains to Eva that she hadn't always been so happy with her life, though. Just as I had been swallowed up in sorrow for things I did not have, so had this great-aunt Rose. In the story she tells Eva how she was able to find joy:
“Faith,” Aunt Rose smiled. “I discovered faith. And faith led to hope. And faith and hope gave me confidence that one day everything would make sense, that because of the Savior, all the wrongs would be made right. —I could hang my head and drag my feet on the dusty road of self-pity, or I could have a little faith, put on a bright dress, slip on my dancing shoes, and skip down the path of life, singing as I went... Yes, I had some dark days, but all my brooding and worrying wasn’t going to change that—it was only making things worse. Faith in the Savior taught me that no matter what happened in the past, my story could have a happy ending.”
In this story, and the spirit of that church meeting, I was reminded of my faith. My life without Max did not have to be filled with sorrow. Yes, I will feel the pain of his absence, but I will also be filled with love from faith in my Savior, because "God didn't design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!" (Uchtdorf)
Just because we suffer hardships and trials during life does not mean that it has to define us. It does not mean that we have to be broken forever. Our God is merciful. He loves us endlessly and, even though we have to endure hard things, there is always so much in our lives to be grateful for. There is still so much that can bring us joy.
Despite the things I cannot have right now, I was made to have joy. Ya know what brings me joy?
Long drives through the mountains with Tyler.
Videos and pictures of Max.
Talking on the phone with my mom.
Playing with my nephews.
When Tyler makes funny faces.
Cuddling with Tyler and binge watching TV shows on Netflix.
The view of Ben Lomond Peak from Max's grave.
Living in Ogden, which I think is absolutely one of the most beautiful places!
The deer in our yard.
Laughing with my girlfriends.
Diet Mt. Dew.
Going to the temple every week.
Speaking with God through prayer.
Reading the scriptures.
...And so many other things!
See, my life is filled with JOY! So, from now on, when I get sad and forget that I will look at this list and add to it. I encourage you all to make a list of the things that bring you joy and remind yourself of your blessings.
Remember who you are and who made you, and that He CREATED YOU TO HAVE JOY!