I am told that the week after Arlynne died that there was a woman who was trying to contact us. Lots of people did reach out, both that week and during the ones that followed. They wanted to offer their support, love and condolences. This woman had a slightly different agenda. She had lost her daughter also. Tragically. Quickly. Like us. The difference between her and I, though, is her approach to tragedy. I am told that she is bitter, angry. Nothing that she could have said at the time would have helped our situation and so we were protected. More evidence of God’s Grace.
I am not surprised by her response to her child’s death. Life can seem very unfair at times. Losing a child cries of the greatest injustice. We are conditioned to expect a certain order in life. We are born. We grow up, meet someone, get married. We have children who, in turn, grow up, get married, bear our grandchildren. Eventually, we have to bury our parents, when they are elderly, just like our kids should bury us. When life doesn’t follow the norm we kick and scream and fight. Sometimes God becomes the target. Sometimes someone else. The drunk driver. The doctor. The neglectful parent. Sometimes the child him or herself.
I am told that this a normal response. That tendency to ask “Why?”. “Why did God allow this to happen?” “Why my child, when there are a lot of parents out there who just don’t care about their kids like I cared for mine?” “Why couldn’t the doctors cure my child?” “Why did my child have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?” “Why did she have to take that kind of risk?”
Arlynne’s death could have evoked a lot of those questions. Why was she on an ATV without a helmet? Why did she have to get on that ATV in the first place? An even better question would be why God had to take her when she was on a missions trip. A MISSIONS trip. Not a vacation. She was serving Him. She was giving her all and then some.
We are told that questions are good. It is a good thing when your kids ask questions. It shows that they are thinking and learning. We aren’t supposed to discourage them. There comes a time, however, when asking questions aren’t really going to do us any good. There are no clear answers. And a lack of answers could just lead to anger and bitterness and frustration.
I believe that Arlynne’s death is one of those times when there aren’t very many answers. In fact, at first, I asked for very few. I had some questions for the police officer who brought us the news that she was gone. I wanted to know about her partner. If there was another family who was getting devastating news. If my daughter had died alone that night. I was relieved that she did, she died alone. And surprising thankful. I did not ask “why” though. Not then. Not for a long time.
One of the ways that I soothed my soul was with Psalm 139:16 “All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be”. This told me that Arlynne’s death was unexpected for us but it wasn’t unexpected by God. He hadn’t turned His head and “missed” something. He had a plan. Not our plan. But a plan. That gave me peace.
Another thing that comforted me was a strong belief that Arlynne’s death had as much purpose as her life had had. I was part of a moms group a while ago and the leader often quoted an author who wrote that her murdered daughter’s life wasn’t over when she died. Her life would continue until Jesus returned. I love that. I might not be here to see my circle of influence but the ripples from the drop of my life can continue to extend. I can see the ripples of Arlynne’s life around me. Sometimes they are less obvious. Sometimes I need to see more of them than what there seem to be. But I believe they are still there. I spent almost a year going from church to church, watching her friends get baptized. When they testified to God’s work in their lives, I often heard her name. Her ripples. It brought me peace.
I am not perfect. I have asked “why”. I asked “why my young, healthy daughter?” when a loved one had to watch a spouse slip away into dementia. I don’t think God gets mad at us when we ask. I believe He longs for us so much that we can ask. We might not get an answer we are looking for. We probably wouldn’t understand even if He explained it. I do have enough faith to believe that He is doing something. With Arlynne’s death. Even with me. One day I will know. One day I will see the full effect of her life. But it won’t be here. Not in this lifetime.
In the meantime, I am choosing to put aside bitterness and anger. I don’t want to be the woman who hunts down other broken moms. I want to be used by my Heavenly Father. I want to be able to say “I may not know ‘why’ but it’s okay”. Some days aren’t as easy. But that is another one of those lies that we believe about life. It should be easy. Very few things in my life have been without trial. I have had to battle with an addiction in my family. I have a child with special needs. Losing Arlynne was just another one. What I can state as truth is that no matter how hard it gets, God has always been faithful. He has promised He will.
And that is a promise that I can stand on.
Wow, I can’t imagine going through the loss of a child. The verse the Lord is bringing to my mind in response is:
‘The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.’