Monday, May 9, 2011
Learning at Women's Conference
This year I was blessed to go to the Women's Conference at BYU.
We lost our youngest 16 year old son Jesse this last July 7th. It was a healing and needed break to go to the conference this year. There were many wonderful classes but I will mention only two that impacted me the most.
The first class I will share was entitled "Choosing Joy : Lift Up Thy Heart and Rejoice" was a young woman Meg Johnson who at the age of 22, in 2004, had an accident that left her paralyzed. Her fall broke both legs, both arms, her collar bone and her neck at c 7 leaving her a paraplegic - paralyzed from the chest down. She is a beautiful young woman, exuberant in her love for life. I cried and I laughed as she shared her story and her spirit. We all laughed, she has the funniest sense of humor and an amazing faith.
She shared how her 17 yr old brother went and prayed earnestly that he might take her trail, he didn't want to she his sister suffer so. He was chastised and told by the spirit "What gives you the right to take her challenge?"
Meg told of a dream/ vision where she saw herself in the preexistence sitting at a table with a man who was telling her what it was like to be paralyzed and she was so excited she could hardly wait to get to experience being paralyzed, and to learn all the lessons involved with that experience.
Meg sees the humor in her life and the challenges she faces as she lives with her rag doll body, as she describes it. She had us all laughing as she described trying to get into her car during a rain storm and how she fell, her wheel chair rolled away and she feel into a puddle on the ground. It was hilarious to her tell of a tiny little old lady coming to her rescue. What a beautiful and delightful young woman.
She talked about having tubes coming out of every part of her body .. two coming out of her lungs draining the liquid that had accumulated in her lungs due to her injuries. They thought she had brain injury and so they had tied down her hands -- the only thing she could move. As she lie there suffering and crying she started to pray -- she prayed to love the ceiling, and then the window, and the car outside the window ... etc etc. everything she could see, and her tears turned to tears of love and gratitude. She said that gratitude from your heart is "I love you".
It was very humbling to hear her. She has such a funny sense of humor she could be a comedian -- she had the whole room laughing.
She talked about how serving is what keeps her going and happy. Meg has married and serves once a week at least. She drives a car and lives an amazing life despite her challenges. Meg says "Service has healed me in a way the hospital can't."
The other class I want to share was by Dennis and Joyce Ashton -- Facing Grief and Disappointment "In the Quiet Heart is Hidden" (hymn # 220)
I was going to share the website they gave us .. but it doesn't seem to work. I'll share it anyway -- maybe it's temporarily down -- email@example.com . Shar tole me about the Ashtons, their work and their books. I got their book "Jesus Wept". I was so happy when I saw their class at the Women's Conference -- it took me a bit to make the connection. I wish I'd realized before I would have taken their book the first day for them to sign. I had hoped that there would be a class at Education week on grief but there wasn't and so I was happy to find the Ashton's class.
A lot of what they shared was not new rather a reaffirmation -- but so good to hear. There were things that touched my heart deeply. I sat there and cried and cried. You know how it is when there's understanding. I'll put my thoughts in quotation marks.)
I heard some things that really stood out to me. It was Dennis Ashton that talked about the things that made me cry
We don't grieve less with time -- We grieve less often with time. ( Now my words and interpretation -- we will never miss them less -- and the pain of missing them will never go away, but times lessens the amount of time we spend grieving)
Grieving is not a lack of faith.
The pain is directly related to the amount of love ... (just like Kahlil Gibran says ... and the scriptures.)
Shakespeare said -- "Everyone can master a grief ... but he who has it."
Spiritual Injuries happen when life's realities contradict and /or conflict with previously held spiritual assumptions. Dennis talked about a woman who refused to get help .. for fear that if others who thought she was so faithful and strong found out that she struggled and needed help it would shatter their faith.
He quotes some scriptures from Job that are excellent -- Job 21:34 Job 16:2 Job 16: 4-5
Here's Job 16: 2-5 (1-5) Then Job answered and said, 2)I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all. (this one made me laugh :)) 3)Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answereth? 4) I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake my head at you. 5) But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.
Dennis talked about the many things that people say because they don't know better. Well meaning but how they can hurt.
He talked about how our trials refine us. The refiner's fire.
Listen to understand .... not to be understood. :)
He talked about our baptismal covenants and how we are to bear one another's burdens. .... mourn with those that mourn. I'm sure we could each talk about the perfect cards we received ... or those times that someone said the perfect thing to us -- that touched our heart and brought tears to our eyes because of the compassion and love we felt.
He talked about Victor Frankel .. I love his writings -- What is the name of his book? He talks about finding meaning in life and suffering.
The last experience that Dennis related brought me to tears. He was walking his dog and his friend came over and the reminisced about experiences they'd had with his 14 year old son who'd died. As they were finishing up he said "Dennis I want you to know I'll never get tired of hearing you talk about Cameron."
I sat there with tears running down my face remembering that first email I got from Sharlen -- her telling me that she'd never get tired of hearing me talk about my boy -- my Jesse .... and even now as I write this it brings me to tears ... it did the first time I read/ heard those words and it will every time I suppose. I think about what Sharlen shared with me just recently -- A dear friend who had someone ask her if she was over the death of her dear son. The pain of the comment hurt so deeply she went to our Heavenly Father with her pain and asked if she was wrong for wanting to remember and talk about her dear son. The answer that came to her was "Now you know how I feel -- I want my son to be remembered and talked about." May we all remember not only our earthly sons and daughters but our Savior who gave his life for us. Who gives us hope of eternal life, and reunion with our sons who have gone on before us through the Atonement and Resurrection.