“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole doesn’t he?” Clarence the Angel
The above quote from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” has been heard by millions of people around the world. This movie is watched every year and loved by many people young and not so young around Christmas time. It’s a story about how George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) was thrown in a hopeless situation by Mr. Potter and wondered if he should end it all. He’s about to jump off a bridge and Clarence, an angel, shows up. Clarence rewinds time – without George in it. Clarence shows George how the absence of his life had a huge ripple effect on his family members, friends, business and community. This perspective gives George the hope and strength to carry on.
Normally, the movie was near the top of my list. Today, it doesn’t have quite the same positive impact. It is a hard story to think about. Losing Leah at such a young age, I can’t help think about “could have beens” or the impact she would have made in this world as she got older.
One life does make a major impact. Huge. Friends feel sad and grieve for us in losing the person of Leah. Similar to the movie theme of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we experience a chain reaction of losses without Leah in our lives.
When a parent loses a child, he or she loses a network of relationships.
-We lose connections to family and friends. There are people who we were in relationship with who now sadly avoid us because they don’t know how to engage with us.
This truth is hard to say and hear. I am not unique in this reality. I have heard about relational loss from other parents of children who have passed away.
-There are other relational changes. We’ve lost connections to church, school, Leah’s peers and activity communities. There are no more opportunities to interact with Leah’s teachers, coaches and church, small group leaders.
-Our family dynamic has shifted from four to three. The unique role Leah and her interests and contributions played in daily life are missing. Leah’s humor, excellent game playing skills, love for baking, interest in good books and history, heart for others, movie choices, etc. are now missing…How will I stay “in the know” about teenage culture?
I could go on and on – there is a ripple effect that most people don’t think about. I know that I didn’t when I encountered parents whose children have died.
Now, I’ll shift my view of the situation. I am learning that a key to moving forward and fully experiencing life without Leah has to do with perspective.
As the book title says, “Happiness is a Choice.” Having a grateful heart is a choice I have to make. As we now are at the sixth month mark TODAY, I am becoming more and more grateful that I had Leah as my daughter.
I love to think about her penetrating, beautiful, blue eyes. Her joyful, sweet, positive and timid nature made a mark on me. I think about how blessed I was to be her mom for a brief 15 years.
And where some people have stepped to back seats on the boat as we go through the waves, others have stepped forward into the front row of our ongoing journey. Both former and many new friends have shown up with amazing compassionate hearts. People with whom I never had relationships, I am now enjoying.
And Mark, Grant and I are creating a new family dynamic and new memories.
The experience is a complex one – most definitely. All the changes in dynamics take energy and can be tiring.
But, we are moving on. Leah’s Sweet Sixteen birthday would have been in early September and we will celebrate her memory, honor her and reflect on the positive impact she made on so many lives. Leah loved celebrations and we will celebrate her life.
Leah loved holidays. This photo is one of our Christmas cards about ten years ago. Every year, we’d do a new, fun photo for our card. Leah specifically loved this photo session. It was a free for all with the flour! Look at her face. LOL!
And now a word to you my friend. If you ever wonder how treasured and valuable you are, wonder no more! People in your life need you – I need you. You are irreplaceable and uniquely created by God. Your life makes ripples – your life is a wonderful life.
“Your hands made me and formed me.” Psalm 119:73