Today would have been my daughter’s 16th birthday. If things would have been different, we would be driving to the Department of Public Safety and taking an awkward picture for her first driver’s license. We would have been going out to Chuy’s for dinner because surely Mexican food would be her favorite. And I probably would have been clinging to my husband’s hand and trying to breathe deeply as I watched her back out of the driveway for her first solo drive with friends.
If things would have been different.
In many years past this day has brought only this sadness and longing, but today I’m also feeling thankful for having a daughter at all. Celebratory even. I’m thankful for the time I had with her and for the way in which God met me in the pain that felt like it would kill me. I’m awed at how He brought back my joy. I’m amazed at His faithfulness to walk this long road of healing with me – even as I continue to discover places that still need His touch. Though I wish I could have had more time with her, I’m grateful today for the gifts God gave me through my sweet daughter Gabriela Faith.
The Gift of Priority– Every day with loved ones is a gift, and we don’t know how many days we have left with them. So prioritizing my family and friends by making my schedule bow to them instead of the other way around (as much as possible) is important. I never want them to think my job or anything else is more important to me than they are.
The Gift of Intentionality– I now try to make sure everyone in my family knows that I love them. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I try. My goal is to speak words of life, apologize when needed, and invest my time, attention and efforts into them in a way that if today were my last day with them I would have no regrets. They would absolutely know that I thought them important and worth my energy. Like I said, I’m not batting a thousand here, but having this as a compass to guide me is a gift.
The Gift of a Deeper Faith– Before Gabi died much of my faith was built on what God did for me. If something good happened, it was because God loved me. If something bad, then He was mad at me for some reason. You can imagine what I thought He felt about me when He let my daughter die. Through lots of really honest – and sometimes heated – prayer with God, I’ve come to see that everyone goes through pain. Pain is no respecter of persons. When I let God walk with methroughthat pain, my burden is lighter and my healing is assured. Now I trust Him not only when things are going great but when things are harder than I could imagine. I see now that He is faithful in every season, and my faith is built on who He is, not on what He does.
Losing a child is a pain I wish no one ever had to bear. Honestly, I wish I could have learned these lessons in a completely different way, but I’m thankful the pain wasn’t for nothing. I’m grateful I didn’t stay in the heartache and live the last 16 years in an emotional wasteland. Today, on my daughter’s birthday, I wake up grateful for the time I have with my family and more in love with God and trusting of His ways than ever before. Do I understand it all? No. But I don’t want a God I can understand completely. That god is not big enough for me. It’s enough for me to know God loves me, He is faithful to me, He is for me and He will actively heal me, even if my complete healing doesn’t come until heaven. He is good and He is mine. He’s yours too.