Wednesday, February 17, 2010


you'll have to bear with me on this post. i've never been eloquent or good with expressing my thoughts in words, so this might be a bit lengthy and jumbled.

most of my friends and family who read our blog already know this, but some don't... just over two weeks ago i received an email from a good friend in my ward. she and her husband had to say goodbye to their 19 month old son, their only child, early that morning. their sweet, little cooper. i had just seen him the week before at mcdonalds, tugging on his mommy's arm while she was chating with me and a couple other friends. so precious, so young, so hilarious, so cute, so vital and alive. then he got sick and in less than 24 hours he was gone. just like that. so shocking. i spent much of the day in tears grieving the loss of this precious little soul. i especially felt and still feel overwhelming sadness for my dear friends and the rough road ahead of them... they have to spend the rest of their lives on this earth without their son.

then later that same day another friend from my ward, one of my best friends, gave birth to her third child, her first girl. such happiness! such joy! one precious mortal life ends and another begins. how can a person have all these intense feelings in one day? i almost felt like i was going to explode. i bet many of you who know these same people had similar feelings.

and another experience of contrasts... a different friend in my ward just gave birth a few days ago to a baby girl with anencephaly... the back of her skull and part of her brain are missing. my friend found out early in her pregnancy that this was the case and she and her husband were told that their baby girl would likely die in-utero or during birth. there was a possibility she would survive birth and live for minutes, hours, maybe days, but not much longer. she and her husband and their 2 year old son have waited for many months, with heavy hearts i'm sure, for their baby girl to come into the world, knowing they might not even get to see her as a living, breathing being. and now she is here. baby corinne. and by some miracle and grace of god she has survived. my friends have been able to hold their sweet baby girl. kiss her, smile at her, enjoy her, LOVE her. what a wonderful thing a new baby is! a new member of your own, little family. someone given to you by heavenly father to look after and serve and love. but only too soon, they will have to say goodbye to her. i can only imagine the myriad of feelings that they are experiencing right now, but i would imagine that they are experiencing utter happiness mixed with intense sorrow and grief. but doesn't the bitterness make the joy that much sweeter? i'd be willing to bet my friend jen wouldn't trade this time with her corinne, hard as it may be, for anything in the world.

but that doesn't make it any easier, does it?

amidst all these thoughts i've had running through my head, i went back and read some of the archives from my friend molly's blog. molly and her husband vic lost their only child lucy to a tragic accident about a year and a half ago. a blog post she wrote about three months after lucy's death just absolutely sang out to me. she was talking with a friend, who had also lost a child, about the depth and understanding they had gained of life because of the tragedies they had both experienced. she then quoted a blog post from another friend which reads:

"A recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education made the following point (ht: Andrew Sullivan):

I for one am afraid that American culture's overemphasis on happiness at the expense of sadness might be dangerous, a wanton forgetting of an essential part of a full life. I further am concerned that to desire only happiness in a world undoubtedly tragic is to become inauthentic, to settle for unrealistic abstractions that ignore concrete situations. I am finally fearful of our society's efforts to expunge melancholia. Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?

This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. Obviously, feeling happy is a good thing, but what about feeling sad? One of the most interesting parts of Mormonism, for me, is its fundamentally tragic view, not only of life, but also of the afterlife. Good and evil, happiness and sorrow, must always exist together, because there is a necessary "opposition in all things." Even God cannot reconcile the competing contradictions and thus, in Mormon scripture, we find a "weeping" God. God is love, but loving means caring, and caring means as much sorrow as happiness. It seems to me that Mormonism does not promise so much a life that is happy, but a life that is full; not a pleasant life, but a rich life; not an existence of unending bliss, but of eternal creation. And creation is often born out of sorrow, like a heart-torn symphony.

So, next time you are sad, be happy that you are sad. A life without sadness is not a divine life. It is not even a human life. It is a life without love."

isn't that the coolest perspective?!

but that STILL doesn't make it any easier, does it?

why heavenly father? why my dear god must i, and those i know and love, and those i don't know, and the whole world experience such pain and grief? such overwhelming sadness? i have experienced some of my own sorrow in this life with the passing of my brother joel 13 years ago. i have also keenly felt the sadness of others. when i met my friend kristen and we cried about the loss of both of our brothers. when molly lost her sweet lucy. when my friend emily lost her husband, john, the love of her life a few months ago. when jen and eric learned that their baby girl couldn't stay with them for long on this earth. when lindsay and patrick lost their silly and cute little cooper. and death is not the only time grief is felt. loved ones who have lost jobs or are unable to find employment. grievous sin that has changed the lives of loved ones forever. the inability of friends to conceive a child... they want it so badly i'm sure they can barely breathe. friends who become ill or have cancer. beloved family members who fall away from the gospel. friends who have a precious child with special needs. the list goes on doesn't it?

but i know the answer to that question... the answer to why we must experience overwhelming sadness. the answer is BECAUSE WE MUST. we knew in the premortal existence that we would experience great sorrow and trial on this earth. not only that, but we were ready to welcome it! can't you just imagine us all up there with heavenly father and jesus christ, just chomping at the bit to come down to this earth to experience it all? ...pain, joy, sorrow, pleasure, grief, laughter, guilt, health, sickness. "bring it on!" we cried. without all these experiences on this earth, we can't become like god. in this world we are put through the refiners fire so that we may, line upon line and precept upon precept, become what only god knows we can be.

and at the heart of it, at the center of it all is our brother jesus christ. our savior and redeemer. who suffered in the garden of gethsemane, hung and died on the cross and then was resurrected and lives today. he suffered every pain, sadness, loss, and even every happiness and joy of every human being that has ever walked and will ever walk this earth, so that he might ease our burden and make it possible for us to become perfected and return to our heavenly father with our families someday. even then we will not be free from sorrow... god surely is not, is he? but when we return to heaven and are exalted, we will know joy in way we cannot possibly imagine at this point in our lives.

oh how grateful i am for my amazing, strong parents and my beautiful, hilarious sisters and my smart, funny brother-in-law and my darling, crazy nephews.

and for ben's side of the family. those insanely wonderful and fun people who i am now connected with forever.

and for this funny kiddo:

and this sweet dude:

and this blue-eyed angel:

and especially for this handsome man:

this is life. and oh how truly awesome it is. in every sense of the word.


janaya said...

eloquent, you are. silly girl. in fact, i'd say you just wrote yourself your next talk. ;)

love you. miss you. wish you were half a block away and i could come over in my pjs and hang out.

Morgan said...

that was a beautiful post whit. i've been thinking about this a lot lately too, mostly because of all the same people you have mentioned, even though i don't really know them. we've been talking a lot about this kind of stuff in sunday school lately too... how you have to have the sorrow with the joy. in order to even recognize joy, you have to have experienced sorrow. it is so hard to hear about such tragedies, and it makes me more grateful than ever for the gospel and the plan of salvation and that it is all for something.

i love you whit! thanks for a wonderful post. and it wasn't jumbled at all.

Emily said...

Wow! I am teary eyed, and that is not an easy task! You said it so perfectly. Thank you so much for your words and the wonderful reminder of why we are all here.

Thayerclan said...

beautifully put. loved it :)

Tiff said...

Ah, the beauty of pain. One of those juxtapositions of life.


Breanne said...

Wow & Amen.

I've been having a lot of these thoughts lately too, but I don't think I had pin pointed them in this much depth yet, so I appreciate it all the more. I had been thinking about how we signed up to come to Earth knowing there would be trials and it made me wonder - why do we act like trials are such a bad thing sometimes? They are HARD for sure, but bad? No. And somehow that really does make it easier to go through and understand. Maybe the words 'Eternal Perspective' were coined more than ever in the pre-existence.

You have been close to many trials lately. It's no wonder it's been on your mind. What a good friend you are.
And as much as I was younger and didn't know what to think or say when I heard the news of Joel years ago, I still remember that very heavy and surreal feeling for your family and have thought on it many times since. I still can't even imagine.

Thanks again for sharing, and I agree - it was beautiful and made perfect sense.

Ben said...

Great work, my love. Great work.

Alys said...

Wow! That got me a little teary eyed tonight. I am glad you posted that. I have been feeling sorry for myself because I have still not healed from all the events after Harrison. I am ain pain still most of the time and I am tired of it. The other day I was feeling this (as I often do) and the scripture came in my mind, "All these things shall give thee experience and be for thy good." And, I keep having to tell myself that. For some reason I am supposed to be in pain still and have a long healing process physically. And, others have a long healing process emotionally as they deal with death and other losses. It is part of life and we have to make the most of it, no matter how hard it is. Heavenly Father believes in us.

Heidi said...

Whitney thanks for writing this post. I think this is my favorite part:

"So, next time you are sad, be happy that you are sad. A life without sadness is not a divine life. It is not even a human life. It is a life without love."

I hope to remember this quote the next time I'm feeling depressed.

Lisette said...

Whit, you are amazing! I needed this reminder tonight...and always.

Jen said...

Thank you Whitney.
. . . for putting your thoughts into words.
. . . for understanding loss.
. . . for being a friend.

I wish you were next door so that I could hug and thank you in person right now.

Molly said...

Well said, and thank you for saying it.

Jackie said...

Thanks, Whit. A lot of this has been on my mind lately, and it was good to be reminded that we must know the bitter if we want to appreciate the sweet.

Love you tons.

Michal Thompson said...

I too have had to watch more people that I would like loose someone. Working in the Children's ED has it definite downs. But am always reminded that this is not it. And then ask myself, if this was me what would I do. I would hope I would be just as faithful if not more. But IT WOULD BE HARD! You are a wonderful support to your friends and you have sympathy to add!

Lindsay said...

Whitney, what you said was beautiful! Thank you for those thoughts. You have such an acute understanding of grief and its implications. It's good to be reminded that it's not all bad in the end.

Cormorant said...

Very well said. I've actually been thinking about this a lot this week and came across a quote by Elder Maxwell that really emphasizes what you've been saying:

“One’s life ... cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free. ...

“Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!’ ...

“Real faith ... is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds,” Ensign, May 1991, 88, 90.

mj said...

love this post.

Melanie Sharp said...

And how truly awesome this post is. Amen. Beautifully said, Whitney!

Carlie said...

Amen sista! Miss you!