I’ll never forget that conversation six months ago. We were on spring break in Florida. My 13-year-old daughter wasn’t feeling well…again. Weary from struggling with health issues, she leaned against me, wiped away tears and sniffled into my shoulder asking, “Why me, Mama?”
What she meant was, why does she have to be the one to suffer? Why can’t she just be healthy and carefree like so many of her friends?
My heart felt like it had squeezed in on itself. This time I held back from shooting out the typical, placating answers of “I don’t know” or “Everything will be okay.” At that moment those words seemed shallow and – as far as the latter statement – possibly untruthful. Instead, after pausing to consider her question, I responded with a question of my own: “Why NOT you?”
My question was not meant to be cruel or dismissive but, rather, fair and thoughtful. You see, over the many, many months of her endless doctor appointments and medical tests, I often have found myself asking the same question as my daughter asked me: Why her? She says her prayers every night, gets excellent grades and is one of the kindest young ladies you will ever meet. Just two years ago she was a vibrant, confident, fearless tween on a competitive dance team that has won numerous national championships. She was innocent and sparkly and shiny and…
And then the neck injury…
That was when our world turned upside down. It is unfair and heartbreaking. In recent months my daughter has made significant progress in her recovery, but we still have a ways to go. Nevertheless, we continue to have hope, because some days hope is the only thing to which we can cling when we are barraged by so many baffling symptoms doctors are placing under the neurological umbrella of “dysautonomia.” They said it was “the perfect storm” – a cervical injury, a growth spurt, hormones all over the place. It was like lightning striking at just the right time, interrupting the natural rhythms of her body and making everything go haywire. They say she’ll grow out of it. They say. We hope. But in the thick of it, we have sometimes felt lost and trapped and panicky…and a bit angry at the hand this innocent child was dealt.
Why her, a girl full of goodness and sunshine? Because…why NOT her? Why do any of us believe we should be granted immunity from the harshness of life? Why do we think we can stand by safe and untouched while people all around us are beaten, scarred and maimed by bad luck and tragedy? Are we really so self-important or sheltered from reality that we think that bad things only happen to other people but never to us? Or, is this mindset just our futile attempt at maintaining some sense of control over the uncontrollable?
I want to blame certain people for what happened to my daughter. Sometimes, on a particularly hard day, I even want to blame God. But deep down inside, I know the facts: Life is a bit of a lottery. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Bad things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Bad things happen. My God – the spirit I worship and have spoken passionately about for years to my Sunday school and vacation bible school classes – doesn’t cause suffering but instead works through it, in spite of it.
So instead of pointing fingers, I press my palms together and get on my knees. I pray for strength and direction. I pray for peace and answers. I pray for the continued healing – mind and body – of a beautiful, still-sparkly-albiet-tired young girl whom I
have the immense privilege of calling daughter. She by no means deserves what has happened to her but will – through God’s eternal grace – rise from the ashes like a phoenix and go on to do great things.
Why? Perhaps the better question is, why not?
September 15, 2017