A Reflection in Time : A Father Living with Grief

The journey started June 3rd the year 2000. What seemed to be a normal day in the life of a 9 yr old girl turned into an event that would alter the course of time for both Jessica and her family. This is a story that will be a reflection in time. The purpose of this reflection will be to help me to piece together some of the events as well as to help me to be responsible in passing along whatever it is that I am to be passing along as I walk down this path. I am not sure why our family history has been changed. I am not sure that I am certain of when the journey will end. I am not sure of whether or not Jessica will be totally healed or whether she will go on to be with the Lord God in Heaven. There are a lot of uncertainties. One thing that I am certain of is that God is in control. I am certain that God is the author and finisher of both our lives and our faith. I am certain that God already knows what the outcome of our journey will be. I am certain that we are a family unit and that we have determined to stick together no matter what the outcome.

On June 3rd our lives slammed head first into the concrete wall of change. This change was inevitable in the face of Jessica being diagnosed with cancer. The first thing that this diagnosis did is it caused a crack at the very foundation of our family security. Families are held together by a lot of different things. One of the things that cement our families together is the knowledge that we are all part of a unique family unit and that we have a specific purpose. We know that we are loved and that we are needed. We grow to respect one another and to expect each other to be there through both good times and bad. One of the catalysts that cause families to be fragmented and ultimately destroyed is uncertainty and radical changes. In May of 2000 our family consisted of three normally active youth who were participating in normal family activities both in and outside of the home. We were caught totally off guard. We had no clue as to what was just around the corner.

Before I go forward with these reflections you must know that this is being written
from the perception of a father. I am a father of 4 children and at the age of 39 I
am taking a crash course every day with my children in knowing how to be the
best father that I can possibly be. I am a father that is no stranger to pain or to
radical life changes. I must also state for the record that the radical life changes
which has happened to my Jessica and my family has put a new meaning on the
terminology “conflict management”. It is not important at this writing that I
define each conflict in detail. Bad things happen to both good and bad people.
In and of itself is not the most important thing to remember. What are important
are the following two things. How do we react and what do we learn.

If you would have told me in January of 2000 that our lives would have been
radically changed in this way I would have looked to you and laughed. After all,
cancer happens to other families. I think that in the light of tragedy that others
are facing we find solace and comfort in knowing that it has not happened to us
individually or our families. How many times do we watch television or read the
daily newspaper and see tragedy all around us. How we relate to these activities
in the lives of other people is usually a normal human reaction. I also think that if
we were to look past the surface of these other tragedies going on around us that
we not only would be better prepared to face it in our lives but we would also be
better prepared to help bring a solution to some of those issues in other peoples lives.

It was once said ” A man is not an island”. I think that as a father that I can also
say that a “family unit is not an island” either. We have been placed individually
in a community of people. That first community is our families. The other secondary
communities are the social structures outside of our immediate family. These could
include our work place, colleges, sports clubs, health clubs, professional associations
and church. As I said earlier there are two important things to be said about how
we affect others. How we react to what happens and what we learn from life experiences.

Most of us have what it takes to react and learn when the rubber meets the road.
I can look back at my life and see the lessons I had to learn from the “other” radical
life changes. I can look back at what I know from Katy’s life and her “other” radical
life changes and see where she has been prepared to know how to react. I have
learned over the last 20 + years that how we react is largely influenced by our world
view. I am very thankful that our family world view enables us to react to our
circumstances in a way that is faithful and believing that we are not in control.
God is in control. We may not have the “why” answers for you but we know HOW
we are to react.

One of the best mechanisms for learning how to react correctly to a radical life
change is to be sure to NOT react emotionally. You should not base your reactions
to change based on feelings. Trust me when I say that basing your reactions on
feelings will lead you straight down the road to mental insanity. I am learning that
the best reaction is no reaction at all. Before we react we must put ourselves in a
place where we can learn. A very popular slogan says “Know before you go”.
If we teach ourselves to be quiet within ourselves then we will be able to hear
what we need to learn BEFORE we react to change. How many times have we
reacted to change because of a gut instinct and wound up making mistakes that
had life long consequences? As a family unit we choose to trust in God to
be in control. As a family unit we choose to pray individually and corporately
for God to give us the ability to be quiet within when outward circumstances
dictate otherwise.

As we take this journey we have good days and we have bad days. We know
that they will be here and we know that we have to choose to react correctly to
each day accordingly and to learn those things that need to be learned. There
are days that we react emotionally and we probably miss out on some lessons
that need to be learned. Sometimes the emotions are so raw and prevalent that
there is nothing to do other than yell at God or at each other. I am thankful that
because our faith is firmly planted on the solid rock of our faith in Christ that
those days are few and far between.

I firmly believe that our life journey individually and corporately as family units
contains days full of repetitive daily activities that we consider normal. I also
believe that through the course of normal repetitive activity that there are portions
of time in which we have opportunities to learn or to experience an epiphany.
If you are not careful enough to be quiet within yourself and attentive to those
things going on around you it is easy to miss these special events. One such learning
experience for me is to watch our Jessica going through this radical change with
courage that is astounding. Jessica was born almost 3 months premature back in
1990 and had several life threatening problems. I am firmly convinced that Jessica
not only had a lot of people praying for her but I also believe that this young lady
has a quiet courage that we can learn from. A lady at church recently told me that
Jessica had helped to motivate her to go through some lengthy medical exams
without putting up too much of a fuss. This lady told me that she felt that Jessica’s
courage and faith at her age helped her to have faith and courage as she was going
through her experience.

In the last ten years of Jessica’s life we have experienced a LOT of people who have
faithfully prayed for Jessica and her healing. We have seen people that have never
met Jessica in person who have supported her and us as a family unit through prayer,
financial support and encouragement. We have experienced the love of God through
his faithful people both on and off the Internet as they have reached out to us as a
family. Just recently we were able to spend some quality time together in
Orlando, Florida through the generous financial support of Make a Wish Foundation
and Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee Florida. It was very humbling to
experience this first hand. It was very much an epiphany as we watched other
families just like ours with a special needs child going through much of the same
things that we are.

One of the things that I have learned is that the why of what we are going through
is much bigger than who we are. I have also learned that the reason is so big that
the outcome takes a back seat to the over all importance of what is happening.
I want to remain faithful both to God and my family with regards to how I react
to the daily activities surrounding Jessica as well as be attentive enough to learn
the lessons that need to be learned.

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