During my growing up years I heard about the sad events that occur in the lives of people. But those hard things happened to other people. We all have a built in optimism safety mechanism. We need to think tragedy won’t strike us. That is how we get through each day without being an anxious wreck. That optimism is good. It helps us live our lives sanely. Still, none of us are immune from heartbreak.
On September 30, 2005, my heart did break. But with the tragedy, I learned that the Lord is there for me, providing tender mercies to help me find my way through it, if I will let Him.
I will never forget the early September 2005 phone calls from my daughter. My daughter told me that Stacy, my oldest grandchild, was having headaches and vomiting. She had missed several days of school. My daughter was worried. Stacy seemed tired and discouraged from the week or so of headaches and nausea.
For some strange reason the thought, “She has a brain tumor,” came to my mind. I didn’t speak the thought aloud. What kind of a statement would that be to make to a worried parent? I am not a doctor or even a nurse. I have never researched out medicine on the internet, books, or anywhere else. I don’t like to be involved in medicine in any respect. Hospitals give me the creeps.
A day or so later, my daughter called again to tell me that a doctor visit revealed Stacy was nearsighted. The conclusion was reached that this nearsightedness was the root of all the problems. My son-in-law, daughter, and Stacy and younger sister left for New York to start my son-in-law’s first job out of law school.
The trip east was miserable. Stacy vomited in the car. At night she would cry out in pain, but the pain could be controlled with Moltrin, until the last day. In Indiana, a few days into the trip, my son-in-law was sitting in the backseat with the children. He noticed something terribly wrong with Stacy. They rushed to the nearest Emergency Room in Angola, Illinois, where the staff insisted Stacy lie down. A CAT scan revealed a brain tumor. We speculate that lying down increased the pressure on her brain because she quit speaking after lying down and was comatose.
A helicopter life-flighted my daughter and Stacy to Reilly Children’s hospital in Indianapolis. I will never forget the phone call from my daughter telling me of these events and that doctors doubted Stacy would live. I remember trying to call my other children and sisters to inform them of the situation. Dialing the telephone was a major challenge. I kept dialing wrong numbers. Putting together the words to explain the situation was almost impossible.
There were two problems that seemed insurmountable. First, the last time our family had any relatives east of the Mississippi was in the 1840’s. So there was no family within a thousand miles to offer much needed help. Secondly, we had two children serving missions for our church. Our son had entered the mission home at the beginning of September, while our daughter was in New Jersey. If we needed to contact them, we were to call the Stake President. It was General Conference weekend and the Stake Presidency was nowhere to be found. The stake clerk and executive secretary were new and did not know how to contact missionaries. I think a person would have a better chance of placing a personal call to the President than contacting a missionary without the assistance of the Stake President.
In this time of anguish, the Lord did not forget us. My sister, who lives two states away, just happened to have home teachers visit that evening. Her home teacher had a friend, a Pediatric Endocrinologist who lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. This friend also happened to be a member of the 6th Quorum of the Seventy.
I called the friend, John, and reached his wife, Karen, on the telephone. Usually, John was in Salt Lake for General Conference, but he had decided to stay home this time. John and Karen went to Reilly Children’s hospital and stayed with my daughter and family. Karen took my younger granddaughter, Rebecca, home. My daughter was nervous about what four-year-old Rebecca’s reaction would be going with a stranger, but Rebecca seemed to know Karen was a safe person. “I’ll be alright,” she said. John helped my daughter and her husband deal with doctors, and picked us up at the airport when we flew in.
|The three oldest granddaughters. Stacy on left.|
During our flight to Indianapolis, Stacy died. John and Karen opened their home to all of us and my son-in-law’s parents as well. John knew how to get the contact information we needed to talk to our missionary children personally and explain what had happened. John and Karen helped our children find a funeral home and make burial arrangements for Stacy. They took us back to airport to fly home.
This help was a miraculous tender mercy. This help from strangers made a tremendous difference to us as we tried to cope with the loss of our granddaughter. I never want to forget these tender mercies and the people that made them happen.
Another tender mercy I experienced is harder to explain. In the months previous to Stacy’s death, I kept having a recurring thought. It seemed to come out of nowhere. The thought was that when tragedy happens, we have to accept it. If we rise up and fight against the tragedy and become hateful towards God and others, we only hurt ourselves. At the time, I wondered what this recurring thought was all about, but I knew it was truth. When Stacy died, I knew why I had the thought. It was as if the Lord realized I needed this preparation not to harm myself with bitterness and anger toward anyone. I guess God knows I’m a bit of a fighter.
At church I had learned, over and over, that the gospel helps us cope with adversity. I had picked up the idea that when tragedy strikes, it wouldn’t bother me that much because I knew the grand scheme: that I could be with loved ones again. Suffice it to say that I did not sail through Stacy’s death. I remember feeling like I was going crazy and had no control over my mind for a while. I remember realizing I was in the mall parking lot and having no idea how I got there. I remember hurting. Bad. Knowing the God’s plan did help and does help, but it did not mean that I escaped the grieving process.
One of my missionary children told me of a tender mercy she experienced. On her mission she had to keep going, heartbreak or no heartbreak. One day not long after Stacy’s death when she was feeling especially full of sorrow, she visited a member’s house. Because of the way our world is, missionaries are directed not to coax children to sit on their laps, etc. As my daughter missionary sat in this home, one of the little children, of her own initiative, climbed into her lap and hugged her.
|Stacy is the toddler.|
That experience made a difference to this young missionary. She felt God was aware of her suffering and provided comfort.
Stacy’s death brought me the realization that no one gets off this planet without experiencing sadness, tragedy, frustrations, unfairness, humiliation, bitterness, and disappointment. No one gets out of here without faith being tried. Every rotten experience represents a crossroads in our lives. At this crossroads we make a choice. Do we keep our faith or become bitter? Do we struggle, accept, and move on in faith? Do we rail against God and those who have hurt us? Do we keep trying, or do we give up? Do we step forward with courage or take a shot at getting even with God? Do we let God help, or do we try to make it on our own? The choice is ours, and it makes all the difference - now and forever.