Not being able to prevent Fiona’s death has shaken me to the core. I like to be in control and am an organized person who likes to plan and carefully arrange things to run smoothly. I am a perfectionist by nature. I have tried to make careful, informed choices in my life based on my Christian values, and have tried to provide the best for my family as much as possible. I have spent many hours praying for my children, providing, guiding, helping; all the things we do as parents who dearly love and cherish the gift of children. With Fiona’s death, the careful plans I had for my family have been torn from my hands into a direction that feels like an out of control, nightmarish ride of terror.
I have spent months trying to figure out why she died of the flu and as much about it as possible. I still have many questions about what went wrong; with her, with what we did or did not do, and what the hospital did or did not do. It just doesn’t make sense to me and it is near impossible to “accept” that this happened and “move on”. Fiona had received the flu mist vaccine along with her sisters. Neither of them even got the flu. Maisie, my oldest daughter, had H1N1 in 2009 and recovered. She missed two weeks of 1st grade sick in bed and we took her to the doctor several times to be told she needed rest, fluids and Ibuprofen. She returned to class to hide and jump out, surprising her classmates coming in from recess. Fiona’s classmates saw her go home after school on Friday, happy and healthy; and Monday they were told she had died.
Beyond the medical reasons why Fiona died, are the even more difficult questions of why us, why her, why now before she had a chance to live her life. Her loss has made it so clear to me that I am ultimately not in charge of my life or my children’s lives, and I never was. The illusion of control we all have as we strive to succeed, accumulate, grow, plan and guide our families can be swept away in one weekend.
We are now far from a whole, happy family as we struggle to adjust to our lives without a person in it whom we dearly love. Fiona’s absence is felt every moment and in all we do. Watching her sisters mourn and not being able to fix it for them is a helpless feeling. All I can do is to love them and pray that God will heal the brokenness in us as only He can do. It is beyond my capabilities.
There is a strange comfort in this belief that God is in control, despite my hurt and offense at what has happened. Fiona’s death will never have any meaning or purpose in any way that would be acceptable to me. I wish with all my heart this was a bad dream I could wake up from. But I have to believe that God will be with me and help me to live with this reality.
The Lord gives life, gifts and blessings; and He also knows how many days each one of us have on earth. His ways are not our ways, and we are unable to see the entire picture from our limited perspective. I’ve been learning that God did not intend death, pain, and suffering for this world. But He is with us while we suffer, and He promises eternal life in which death will be defeated and we will know only joy, love and peace. His ways are intricate and interwoven, deeply mysterious and beyond our ability to discern.
I can either choose fear, bitterness, depression and anger as a way of living the rest of my life. Or I can choose to grab hold of the truths I have learned over my years of walking with Christ. That God is good, He loves Fiona more even than I, He gave her eternal life free of pain and suffering, and He will be there for me throughout this journey of grief, no matter how dark and deep the valley of shadows takes me. He will be there with me as one who knows suffering. Our lives have a future that will not be one of ruin and complete despair. We will one day experience joy again, despite how unlikely this feels while in the midst of the emotional turmoil of grief. While each day is painful beyond my ability to describe in words, I have felt God’s hand upholding us, giving me strength each day to face the impossible. When the waves of grief and despair hit, and they surely do, He is my anchor and will hold me fast to the end.