In losing her brother at the mere age of one, Jessie’s journey of grief has been especially unique; she has slowly come into realizations about Judson’s death as her understanding of the world has expanded. And with each new revelation a new layer of grief arises. Weeks after Jud died, she kept pointing at his picture as if to ask, Where is he? Now at the age of eight she is filled with questions.
Recently, Jessie has been more inquisitive than ever. Why didn’t Jud have a wheelchair? Did you use a suction machine on him? Why didn’t you choose to do a feeding tube? Is his body just in the ground or is it in something? Can I be buried next to Jud? What did you do at the memorial service? Why did you have a graveside service too? Who was at the graveside service? Did he die right at 11:30? Why are people so insensitive [to loss]? Why do people ignore me when I talk about my brother?
But the hardest question came the other morning as we were getting ready for the day, “Why did God choose this for our family and Jud? Why us?” she asked.
I took a deep breath, feeling all my frailties and limitations, struggling to know how to best answer such a deep question for an eight-year-old, “That’s such a good question, Jessie. And in many ways I don’t know the answer,” I began. “But what I do know is that everyone has hurts and pains. Everyone…”
“Really?!” she interrupted, clearly having felt alone in her pain.
“Yes, Jessie. Everyone faces difficulties and challenges in their lives. Everybody’s pain is different and occurs at different times in their lives, but everybody has pain. It’s because we live in a broken world—a world that is not perfect. Only heaven is perfect.”
“Like what kind of pain?” she asked, needing examples.
“Uhhhhh…” I hesitated, searching for examples to which she could relate but that would not elicit fear in her tender heart (she is a very fearful child). “Some people feel the pain of divorce. Some people have severe financial challenges. Some people don’t have a home or know where they will get their next meal. Some people deal with their own health problems.”
“Like Mrs. Aldrian who died of cancer?” she inserted.
“Yes, like Mrs. Aldrian.”
“But she had Trevor too. And Trevor has Krabbe disease,” Jessie responded.
I took a deep breath feeling all the pain wrapped up in the Aldrian family’s experience. “Yes, Jessie some people do seem to face a lot more pain than others, and I don’t understand why,” I acknowledged, knowing it seemed inequitable to her. “But everyone does experience various pains in their life.”
Shifting the conversation a bit, I continued, “Yet, one of the things I’ve found is that even in the midst of my pain, there are many things I can be thankful for.”
“Well, for instance, you. I find myself continually grateful for you and that you don’t have Krabbe disease.”
“And there are lots of gifts you have in your life that have actually come as a result of losing your brother.”
“Really?! What?” she asked, surprised by the idea.
“Many of the people in your life, the people you love so much, we wouldn’t have necessarily known or had relationship with if not for Jud. Like… Auntie Rachel, Mrs. Turney, Mrs. Toberty, Bella…”
“And Auntie Sarah!” she enthusiastically inserted.
“Yes. We knew Auntie Sarah before, but we became much closer through your brother’s sickness.”
“I also get to go to symposium each year. I love symposium!”
“Exactly, Jessie! Sometimes when my heart hurts so much, it helps me a little bit to also consider some of the gifts that I have received that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have my pain too. And then I thank God for those things. It doesn’t change my pain—that is always there—but it does remind me that there are special gifts that can only come through my hurts.”
Trying to bring the conversation full circle, I went back to her original question, “So, to tell ya the truth, Jessie Girl, I don’t know why God chose this for our family. And it hurts. It hurts so much. But God made us and I believe he knows what is best for us. I want to trust him. Even when it’s hard, I want to trust him,” I shared, feeling all the weight of my own struggles wrapped up in those words.
“And sometimes when it’s especially hard to understand,” I continued, “And I have so many unanswered questions, I just express those to God. I let him know how I feel – even if my feelings are anger or frustration. I think God wants us to come to Him with our questions and our hurts. He wants us to share our hearts with Him, whatever it is our hearts feel.”
Whether satisfied or just finished with the conversation, Jessie asserted, “I’m gonna go check the weather for today,” and proceeded to leave the room. But I sat down on her bed feeling the weight of our conversation and especially valuing the fact that she comes to me with her thoughts, hurts, and questions.
How much more must God delight in having us come to Him…just as we are…sharing our hearts and engaging him with the tough questions on our minds?