A few days ago I took down 2016 calendars, put up new ones, and wrote down upcoming appointments and activities. Every year I do this, as I like to plan, know what’s going on, and not forget things as I’m apt to do. Fiona liked to mark off each day on her calendar, and I noticed as I took down Poppy’s 2016 kitty calendar, Fiona had been marking days off of Poppy’s calendar as well. She was such a helpful big sister, always teaching Poppy something. I do not welcome 2017; I can’t put 2016 behind me and move on in hope of a better 2017, unless it involved Fiona walking back through my door. 2017 will be the first year without her in it. The first 3 months of 2016 were her last. I will save these calendars that have 3 months marked with normal family life; of Girl Scout meetings, soccer practices, playdates, sleepovers, and our last vacation as an intact family to Yellowstone Park. Starting in April, my calendar markedly changes from these happy, normal activities to one filled with a funeral, the names of the many people who brought meals for many months, the counseling appointments, meetings with medical staff, and our first feeble attempts at life without our daughter. It’s a calendar filled with a normal, expected life that has detoured into a direction out of my control, one of brokenness and suffering, and one not of my choosing.
This verse stood out to me when I read it last week; “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails,” Proverbs 19:21. As a mom who wanted the best for her child, I’ve tried my best to plan for a great life for Fiona, from before she was even born. When she was a toddler, I was in a Bible study with a group of friends. We went through several books together, The Power of a Praying Wife, and then The Power of a Praying Parent. The latter study directed us to pray for our children in all different areas, using the Bible as our guide. We prayed for protection, friendships, spiritual growth, school, relationships, future spouse, life choices and more. I truly believed that if I prayed for all these areas, my kids would be safe, covered, and my prayers would surely be answered. So how do I reconcile what has happened to Fiona, her sudden death from a common illness?
One thing I know is that God’s ways are not ours, and he doesn’t answer prayer the way I might expect. He is not a vending machine that if you put in a prayer you get an answer, even if the prayer is for healing, blessing and protection. Pray instead for strength, faith, endurance and courage in circumstances that you may well have to accept and learn to live with. God does not give Christians a pass on the troubles and sufferings of life; although I know many people who appear to think so, rather smugly thinking they can avoid suffering because of the good life they are living, born in a country that is blessed in many ways. But Jesus warns us to expect trouble in this life on earth, that is under control of the evil one (John 16:33, 1 John 5:19). Our earthly lives are to be considered as nothing to us, as the world and the things in it will not endure, but will pass away. Therefore we are to look for the city that is to come, our eternal life in heaven promised to those who believe (1 John 2:17. Acts 20:24, Hebrews 13:14). While I know all these things in my head, my heart aches as each day I long for Fiona. Why God chose not to answer our prayers for Fiona in the way we expected, we don’t know. The hurt we feel from losing her will be with us for a long time, and we will not be fully healed from it until we see her again. Finding a purpose for the rest of my time here is a difficult journey, as I know that a life in heaven with Fiona is so much more desireable.
I’ve spent months trying to talk myself into believing that Fiona had some hidden, unknown, underlying illness that caused her to die from the flu. Or that she would have had a life of suffering on this earth, contracting cancer or some autoimmune disorder. Or hoping that the apocalypse is at hand. That her sudden death was a blessing compared to months or years of suffering. That thinking this way would make it easier to accept her death and try to move forward. But then on her birthday, the day after Christmas, we watched old videos of Fiona with my parents as we ate chocolate cake in her honor. Then Ryan played a newer video of the girls playing together on Easter, exactly one week before Fiona died. Maisie had taken it, as she often did; she is the family photographer and movie director of sorts. Fiona is showing Maisie what she got in her Easter basket; then she goes outside and jumps on the trampoline briefly, then lays down on her back on the trampoline, arms spread out looking at the sky. You can hear Maisie say in her director voice, “and she’s done!” This is the last video Maisie took of Fiona. Fiona looked so beautiful in the video. Her long golden blond hair that she was growing out looked so thick and shiny. Her strong leg muscles in her flowered leggings, her fashionable outfit as usual, her funny comments, her intelligence and cool personality, and her overall health and beauty just about slapped me in the face. My rationalizations were shot down as I was reminded again of how much we have lost. Fiona was a healthy, vibrant life cut inexplicably short. I can’t explain it away or understand it. But somehow have to learn to accept it and live with her absence.