Soybean capitol of the world. Decatur, Illinois. Complete with drenching humidity and a city-wide permeating stench from the local soybean factory. The year was 1999 and I don't remember much from my groggy mornings as an LDS missionary. But there is one lesson from the missionary guide, which I lovingly referred to as "missionary work for dummies" that stuck with me over the years. It went something like this:
When teaching investigators about the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is easy for us to say, "I know this is true. It works. It makes me happy. Believe me. Do as I'm doing" It is like taking off our prescription eyeglasses, placing them on the face of our investigator and ensuring them they too will be able to see more clearly and know what we know. Obviously this is a fallacy and oh so "less effective".
Each human experience is different. Each prescription for seeing life very personalized. And thus it is with motherhood. In 2006, when my daughter Lucy was born, I saw the world through an entirely different set of lenses. I can't believe the world I had lived in for 28 years was actually not what it seemed! Why did no one tell me!? But no one could have shoved their motherhood glasses on my face and convinced me otherwise before she came along-- With her bouncing blonde curls and unquenchable zest for life. I had to experience it for myself. And what a horrifically thrilling ride. The things that came into focus astounded me. What fell into the foreground and became blurry were astonishing. I saw my own mother in a different light, my father, every mother on the face of the planet, and even myself. So very different. And no one could have prepared me or convinced me of the love between mother and child. That is something only to be experienced first hand. It wasn't easy, "post pardum depression" were very real words to me, but eventually I adjusted to my new specs and came to terms with the fact that they'd be with me the rest of my life. People who had raised their kids and lived to tell the tale were superstars....with lasik.
One year, 11 months, and 8 days later, another set of glasses were given to me. This is not a pair any mother in the world ever seeks out, hopes for, or plans on. In fact, it is a pair of glasses we fear most. They are ugly, cumbersome, and overwhelming. Grief glasses. While leaving church on a beautiful Spring day, my Lucy aspirated a small piece of apple. Though quickly surrounded by a team of medical professionals, we were unable to dislodge the apple and subsequently, Lucy was without oxygen for over 20 minutes causing severe brain damage.
My world was instantly blurry. I was unable to see the ground beneath my feet -- this new prescription and set of glasses so strong nothing could come into focus. Panic. Shock. A world of loss and suffering forced upon me in an instant. I came face to face with my biggest fear. And in the beginning, it swallowed me whole.
4 sleepless nights and grueling days later we said goodbye to our only child. Our world. Our Lucy. Our light. Holding her in my arms, the organ donation team wheeled us down the hallway to the "yellow line" where we handed over the mortal body of our little girl. Lucy's kidneys went to a 35 yr-old father of four and her liver to a 6 month old baby girl.
A funeral was planned, a dainty white dress sewn, and a small casket lowered into the ground. Not long after, Amy Hackworth said to me of the funeral, "I now understand the phrase weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I wanted to howl and fall to the ground and wear black for months. Now I get why other cultures do that." And Justin. Justin was there photographing the events. The releasing of hundreds of pink balloons, the trees draped in bright pink ribbon, the hugs and human kindness at the gravesite. He captured it through his lens.
With a baby boy named Peter and 3 years under my belt, I stand before you tonight with readjusted vision. I never thought I'd be able to see clearly through the dirty, tear-stained, upside down and shattered lenses of my grief. But it happened. I see my therapist regularly for a readjustment. My friends and family gently wipe the smudges away, and piece by piece, I am seeing again.
As astonished as I was at the way the world looked when I became a mother, I am just as astounded at how it looks as a bereaved mother. Filled with so much love and goodness. So much anger and angst. A battle to be faced at the break of each dawn. A vision so different than what I had before. There are times I wish I could rip my glasses off my face and fling them to the ground, but I have to remind myself--then I wouldn't be able to see at all.
I'm grateful for the sight my children have given me. I will embrace that I am a glasses wearing nerd and forge ahead into the madness of motherhood and life-- Its beauty and wonder and poopy exhaustingness. I will do it. For Lucy and for Peter. My heavenly vision and my earthly sight.