I sat here tonight watching a Fox New Channel special called “My Hope America w/Billy Graham.” I sat here crying as I watched because it’s just so simple and so many miss it. That Jesus died, yes He died for every last human being on this planet from the past, present and future. He took all the sin of everyone and put it on Himself so that we may have everlasting life. Think about that. He died having never committed a sin taking on every last one of our sins so that we may live eternally in Heaven with God. It’s such a beautiful thing when you sit and think about it.
And the thing is is that it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, or any other ethnic group, whether you’re a Republican, a Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, or whatever political affiliation you may have. The bottomline is it just doesn’t matter. God loves every last one of us no matter who we are or what we’ve done in our lives. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
And then I think of the question that has been label one of the top five questions asked in the world today and that is if God is such a loving and caring God, why does He allow all the terrible things to happen to good people?
This is a very personal question in that I’ve been through a lot in my life. I plan to open up a little right now about myself that I’ve never done on this site before. It’s very personal and private, yet for some reason, I’m feeling lead to do so. As a child, abuse happened. There was physical, sexual, emotional, verbal abuse. There was neglect and the inability to pay bills like rent and electricity. Abandonment by my father from the time I was 8 until I was 24, a total of 16 years. I watched my mom try to commit suicide several times to the point one time my brother and I almost couldn’t wake her up. I’m not going to go into who did what and things like that because I don’t feel that aspect of what I’m sharing is important as it would only hurt those closest to me and there is no need for that.
So my childhood was anything but easy. Yet, I made it through, but the damage had been made and thus started my life as I came into adulthood. I didn’t know why God kept allowing all those terrible things from childhood to happen but He did. I knew He had a plan for my life but I didn’t know what it was.
Then I went active duty in the U.S. Army on March 30, 1993. Only two months later I’d meet my husband Keith. On July 8, 1993, we started to date and only 7 months after that we got married on February 18, 1994. The road that God would take me and my husband on over the next almost 20 years most marriage would barely make it through one of them, yet, time and time again something else would happen to test us.
Due to my childhood, in 1996, I had a breakdown to where I no longer wanted to live. While my mom was never successful in taking pills to take her life, that is the route, that if I had tried I planned to do it with. However, I never acted on it. I got out of the Army, but then I became very confused about my marriage and whether I really loved my husband or not. Over the next nine months we ended up separating. God was working on me during this time and in the end, in April 1997, I realized that I 100% love my husband. I humbled myself and went to Keith to ask for forgiveness and if he would be willing to take me back. Most men, or even women for that matter, would have said no. But he didn’t. The bottomline is he loved me and I loved him.
We moved to the Chicago area where his immediate family was. In 1998, we started to seriously try to have a baby, and yet we were told that due to both of us having infertility issues, that the chances of us conceiving were slim to none. Another devastating blow. Would I ever have the chance to be a mom? We started to look into adoption as we couldn’t afford IVF. Then I had a weird period, a one day one, in June 1999 where I felt for sure something was wrong. My mother-in-law talked me into take a pregnancy test to rule it out so that when I went to the OB/GYN I could tell him as much and figure out what is wrong. So on June 12, 1999, I woke up that morning, and didn’t even tell my husband I was taking it because I knew it’d be negative. After two minutes, I went in there to just check the test and a big + sign read in the window. I screamed. My husband freaked out, ran down the hall to the bathroom, and asked what was wrong. I screamed I’m pregnant. I couldn’t believe it. God had performed a miracle.
Then the pregnancy started. First having a morning sickness that lasted all day and could only be controlled with medication as it was so bad and I had lost over 15 pounds in a month. Once we got that under control, then the toxemia kicked in and it got so bad that the doctor had to take my baby at 34 weeks, which is six weeks early. The cord was wrapped around her neck and she didn’t breath when she came out. It took about 3 to 5 minutes before we heard the softest little cry. She was born at 4 pounds 3 ounces and 17 ½ inches long. We named her Mariana Elaine. The Elaine was become both my husband’s mom and my mom are named Elaine. Her first name isn’t pronounced like Mary-Anna. Instead it’s Mar-E-awe-na. We called her Mari for short. I’d always hear how beautiful her name was and was more unique as not very many girls were name that.
Around April 2001, Keith and I made a decision for him to go Active Duty for the Reserves to do recruiting. He would have a steady income and have benefits as he was in the construction business at this time. We felt it would be a good move even though we were warned that the hours would be very long every night Monday through Saturday, and they would be lucky to get one Saturday off a month. He went off to recruiting school in July. And then 9/11 happened and our country was struck at the heart of it. He had only a week or two left at that time.
He came back home and thus started he recruiting journey. And I have to say that God so plans for everything because only five months later in January 2002 I was laid off in a second set of layoffs due to September 11. I was finally going to be the stay at home mom I’d been dreaming of. It was so exciting.
But then we started to really notice how delayed she was in critical milestones such as sitting up, crawling, walking, and even talking. By the time she had turned two, she had only finally started to walk three months prior. She still hadn’t spoken a single word, and quite frankly really didn’t babble like a typical 6 month old would. Thus started the long journey over the next nine months to get her tested. She had every kind of test imaginable from an MRI, hearing test, vision test, genetic test, and so forth. During this time we started to hear autistic tendencies but she didn’t have autism. She was put into the Early Intervention in the school district. We ended up being put on a six-month waiting list for her to see a Neuro-Psychologist to be test for development delay. It took eight months for the insurance to finally approve it and in January 2003 we finally got the word we were approved and got an appointment right away to take her in. Our first visit we told the psychologist our concerns of autism. The first day she gave Mari a developmental delay test and the next week we came back for an autism test. On February 5, 2003, we were finally given the official diagnosis that Mari had severe classic autism. If you were to put it on a scale of 1 to 10, she was an 8 or 9. So much for autistic tendencies. When we told the school this they still couldn’t believe it because she wasn’t fitting the “stereotype.” So now, at 3 years old, I still had a daughter who couldn’t communicate or talk and we weren’t sure how her little life would turn out.
Over the course of the next five and a half years, Keith became a station commander which was even more demanding of his time and we watched our daughter’s disability become worse and worse due to her inability to communicate and understand safety issues. It wasn’t easy be a parent of a child with autism. However, Mari was one of the sweetest children. She had a smile that could light up a room. Her laugh, infectious. She would be laughing at nothing and she could make you laugh with her. She had the most beautiful Caribbean blue eyes. God blessed us by allowing us to be her parents, even though I had my days where I cried.
Then, as many of you have read the story, on July 1, 2008, Mari came home from the hospital with diarrhea and 15 days later on July 16, our daughter went home to be with the Lord due to somehow contracting E. coli 0157:H7, the worst form of E. coli anyone can contract. To this day we aren’t 100% certain how she got it. All we know is that her time on this earth had come to an end. She fulfilled her purpose while here. She is so missed.
So, the greatest tragedy of my life was in losing our only daughter, our miracle. Have I questioned God as to why He’d allow this to happen or why me? Of course. I’m human. My mind has a hard time wrapping itself around this.
Yet, I look back on my life and God has allowed so many things in my life that most people can’t fathom and most marriages would have crumbled several times over. Yet, my husband and I are not only still married, but we really love each other. He is the love of my life and I can say that without any doubts. We’ve been together for over twenty years and will be married for twenty years in February.
God has blessed me with so many things, but one of the many blessings that have come out of this tragedy, has been the ability for me to write and have others connect with it. That is so humbling to me because it’s never been something I would have seen happening. Yet, God had different plans for me. My writing has been healing and cathartic. It has helped me more than I could have ever imagined. And now I write this what you are reading now. I’m in the process of writing my daughter’s memoir. And I’m writing my fiction book. God knew this. He’d been planning it all along. And the culmination of all the things that have happened in my life has lead me to where I am now. Think about that. He had a plan and I’m a small part of it.
I also see a vision that kind of scares me. I see myself getting up in front of other women. Whether a women’s retreat or maybe something else, but getting up and sharing my testimony. Sharing everything. Having people see that yes, bad things, tragic things, happen to good people. The thing to remember is at the end of the day, God doesn’t give you things He thinks you can handle. No, that’s not it. A friend said this to me the other day, and I’ve heard this before. God gives you what you can handle when you lean on Him to GIVE you the strength to get through it.
I think back to when Mari died and everyone kept telling me how brave or how strong I was. And they were all wrong. I wasn’t strong. I was anything but. In fact, I prayed every night for God to please take me as the pain was too great. I ached inside. I never new that my physical heart could hurt from the raw pain of it all but it did. I felt empty, hollow inside. Yet, God was lifting me up. It’s like the Footprints in the Sand poem states. When there is only one set of prints, it’s in those times He is carrying us through it. He gives us the strength we need to get through.
I’m still amazed that I sit here sharing all of this with all of you but I felt lead, like it was placed on my heart. I always ask for comments but I usually don’t receive that many, and many times, none at all. This time when you read this, please take the time to just leave a quick comment. I want to hear from you and how what I’ve said has touched you if it has. This would mean so much to me. And thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read this. I can’t say this enough.