The room felt chilly, and looked different with the early morning sunlight streaming through the window. It now seemed bright, small, and bare. The cold dark floors were anything but inviting, and the constant beeping gave me anxiety. But I was only focused on one thing in that room, and it was my daughter, laying in a hospital bed.
The sweet nurse quietly but quickly pulled up a chair which allowed me to sit next to Preslee. As I held her hand, I replayed yesterdays events in my mind, still trying to make sense of how we ended up here. Twenty-two hours ago, Preslee and I were picking Patrick up because his car broke down on the highway. Nineteen hours before, the three of us were driving to Sam’s Club. Seventeen hours before, Preslee climbed out of her crib for the very first time. Fifteen hours before, Pat and I were walking out of the movie theatre when we received the devastating phone call which told us to rush to the hospital, where we would learn our daughter had drowned in a canal. From that point on, everything was a complete blur, filled with images of doctors, tears, family, prayers, sending Preslee off on the life flight plane, flying in a stranger’s private plane to SLC, UT, spending hours in the waiting room, and now finally being allowed to be with my daughter. As I sat and stared at my little girl, I knew whatever the outcome might be, life was going to be different.
Suddenly my thoughts were interrupted as my mom walked in, and took a seat on the other side of the hospital bed. I filled her in on Preslee’s status, and then broke down. With tears running down my face, I asked her,“Why us? Why Preslee? What did we do to deserve this? We’ve done everything that has been asked of us. What were we being punished for?”
Three and a half years later, I’ve heard others ask the same question, “Why us?” as they too, experienced difficult trials. The more I study, and the more I watch good people struggle, the more I understand this phrase to be true-
It seems when people learn we lost our daughter, many of them tend to share the trials they’ve been forced to endure. Its been humbling and eye opening. I’ve listened and been amazed as they share how they drove their roots deep down into the earth, and they stood tall, and in the end, became stronger trees. I’ve learned that trials often make the most beautiful kind of people, they develop talents and qualities this world often tends to lack.
James E. Faust taught:
“The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength.”
That cruel, hard, pain which Elder Faust speaks about has been present in my life, especially thinking back to that cold hospital room, to the moment we realized we were going to have to say goodbye, when we watched our only child take her last breath, battling depression, and even now, during those moments my heart literally aches to have a five year old little girl helping me with her brothers, I too know this pain. But with time, I’ve learned how to answer the question I asked my mom three years ago,
Because the Lord had plans, and saw something I didn’t. (And still does when I doubt) Like President Faust taught, my prideful self needed to be softened, reshaped, and be given the opportunity to become something stronger. I may only be a small tree, who withstood the first storm, but I’ve learned from others to thrust my own roots down deep, anchor them in soil.
And when my roots were anchored, I found:
Hope – which helped me put one foot in front of the other, and eventually brought happiness back into my life.
Love - grief taught me to love much more deeply, with that comes compassion.
Faith – in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that this life isn’t the end.
But the number one thing losing Preslee taught me, is I don’t have to withstand the storm alone. When grief becomes consuming and detrimental, and it feels like I can’t withstand the wind anymore, I’ve learned I don’t have to fight the high speed winds by myself, I can trust in my savior, Jesus Christ to be the one next to me, shielding the wind at my most desperate times.
I just have to be the one who seeks Him out.
Whether you are battling the biggest trial of your life, or it is yet to come, remember good timber does not grow with ease. When you want to scream, “Why me?” Remember, God knows your potential, and he’s pushing you to become something beautiful, and usually something to bless someone else’s life. I know I couldn’t have gotten through the past three and a half years without those who already survived their storms.
If I could give one piece of advice to someone who is struggling, or those who have yet to face significant trials in their own lives, it would be to dig deep, and anchor your roots in the gospel of Jesus Christ and His teachings. If I've learned one thing during this storm, it’s that you never know when the wind is going to blow, or how hard it will hit.
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