I don't know how it is for you in your life right now, but I have to say that I am seeing a lot of people having a very hard time right now. Lots of death, tragedy, and general unsettling news seems to be floating in the air all around us. And I'm not watching the news or reading the paper. A neighbor just informed me of her pending divorce. An elderly friend suddenly died last week. Someone else I know suffered a massive stroke and didn't make it. And now, of all things, my kitten has fleas!
Today is the anniversary of my son, Jacob's, death. He died of anencephaly a few hours after he was born 8 years ago today. When I was going through the uncertainty of that pregnancy, a book ended up in my hands entitled "In the Flow of Life" by Eric Butterworth (copyright 1982). The book is yellowed on the spine and stained on the cover- definitely well-loved before it ever came into my hands. As I was flipping through the book this morning, I opened to a passage I read frequently during the time I knew something might be wrong with my baby:
"If you are faced with a challenge, refuse to be panic-stricken. Life has not ended for you. Life flows on. Declare for yourself: I accept the reality of this situation, but not its permanence. Certainly there is no point in hiding your head in the sand. The experience is there to be met. Determine that you will meet it, but on your terms. Do not let the outer happening squeeze you into its box, but open your mind to the flow of wisdom, love, and good judgment by which you can deal masterfully with it. Stand tall as you affirm: I meet this circumstance in complete confidence that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. I do not deny its reality, but I deny its permanence. I know that this, too, shall pass away."
And it was true. Here I am 8 years later. I do not deny its reality, but I can see clearly that it wasn't a permanent situation. And somehow, I did manage to open myself to the flow of wisdom and love to have as many choices as I could regarding his birth. He was born at home surrounded by loved ones. And he was held for his entire life. How many of us are half that lucky?
But even more than navigating through his birth and death, I now understand that this situation was to become the catalyst for me to have a deeper understanding of myself and of my oldest son. And then my son, Josh, who came 15 months later. And to understand what happens in a family when something overwhelming happens and how we can all navigate it together to become better and stronger than we were before. Jacob brought with him many, many lessons. And those lessons were the hardest ones of my life. But I am grateful that he was here. At the time, I marveled how much such a short life could have such a great impact on so many people. And that was just the beginning.
I founded The Consciously Parenting Project and launched our website 3 years ago today in memory of Jacob. It seemed like a much better place to put the energy that still remained from that experience to help others and make a difference in the world. Somehow, I know that Jacob would have wanted it that way.
So if you are facing a challenge today, maybe you'll find some peace in Eric Butterworth's words. Or maybe you have some ideas of your own that you'd like to share with us. We all have our losses. We all have our challenges in parenting and in our lives. We may not have a choice in what happens, but we always have choices regarding how we handle it. Is it a tragedy or is it an opportunity? What story will we tell years from now about this time or this event? And can we find the strength to find our way from the place of pain (which we have a right to be in for a while) to that place of recognizing the gifts?
Today, I nurtured myself as I remembered Jacob's life and his gifts. And I am grateful.