Last week I was at a Bible study, and during worship we were singing some older worship songs. I found myself transported back to 1988, to standing at my kitchen sink, to the place I was at the moment Michaela was kidnapped. It was really common at that time for me to sing worship songs while I washed the dishes. Some people sing in the shower, I spent much of my life singing over the dishes. Back then I'd sing along with Sandi Patty, Dallas Holm, the Gaithers, 2nd Chapter of Acts. I don't know if I was singing on that morning. I don't recall it if I was. But it was me, who I was, a mom who sang worship songs while washing the dishes.
But on that morning while I stood at the sink, just a couple of blocks away, a stranger was stealing my child, my little girl. That was perhaps the most striking part of this experience, how very real Michaela's presence was to me. I could literally feel her. I was aware of her height as she stood next to me, the warmth and solidity of her body, how it felt to hold her in my arms. I could feel the wispiness of her fine blonde hair as I ran my fingers through it. I could see her eyes, how big and how blue they were, her gentle smile. It was one of those moments when I realize how much of a distance I have established in my heart from the reality of this grief. I know somewhat of this distance. I know that there is a black hole of grief in the center of my life, and I know that I rarely allow myself to get close enough to peer into it because I am afraid I will fall into its depths and never find my way out. People talk about my strength, but I am not so strong. If I was really strong I would be able to hold my daughter's presence in my heart and in my mind all the time. In fact, I don't know if I would have been able to survive the past 25 years if I had not created a distance from the grief, which sadly became a distance from Michaela. Sometimes it seemed so impossible that such a terrible thing could have happened that it seemed as though it was all a nightmare, something that existed only in the darkest hours of the night.
Those times of lucidity like I experienced at that Bible study are heart wrenchingly painful. And yet they are extraordinarily beautiful, as I am able to feel Michaela's presence, to hold her in my arms, to feel the full beauty and ... well, there are no words to describe it ... the joy of her presence ... the just plain LOVE I felt for her. And that love was extraordinary, for my first child, the answer to my prayers, the fulfillment of my longing, the beautiful, intelligent, graceful, gracious and endlessly kind little girl with whom I was blessed. Oh friends, this feeling is so intense, so beautiful, and so, so, so, so painful because it isn't real, because when I open my eyes she will not be there. I cannot entertain this kind of exquisite heartache for very long, or very often. I have to close my eyes to it, to turn back to the world in which I live, in order to function. I sigh. I spend most of my time and energy thinking about Michaela, what she had to endure, what she might be enduring now. Me? My feelings? I put them in the category of less important. But the fact is simple. I miss her.
Beyond that is something else, though. It was a Bible study after all, and we were singing worship songs. I have resolved this question a dozen times, the question of how God could have allowed this to happen, of why he didn't save Michaela. And yet I saw myself, a young mother who stood at the kitchen sink singing worship songs, a mother who had told her daughter that if ever she needed help and I wasn't there that she should ask God, and God would help her. And a wave of new grief welled up in me. God, how could you have allowed that? I put my faith in you, and yet you allowed such a terrible thing to happen to me, to my child, who also put her faith in you. Grief and anger flowed through me, and I realized how much was still unresolved, how much healing there was that I had yet to experience, all these long 25 years later. I resolve these issues in my mind time and time again. But I have turned away from God not once but twice since Michaela was kidnapped. Always it is for reasons completely unrelated to Michaela. Or so I think. This last time it was really simply over the issue of God's goodness. In my mind, it didn't have anything to do with Michaela, but in my heart how could it not? It also happened at one of the points of deepest, deepest sorrow and depression I have experienced since Michaela was kidnapped, after Jaycee was found, when I had believed that Michaela might also be found, but wasn't.... Yet I managed to tell myself that my turning from my faith was unrelated to this, because I am not a strong woman. I am a woman who just cannot face and embrace the depth and breadth of the horror and grief of it all. I am emotionally crippled, because that is the only way I can live with the life I have been given.
I was listening to Pastor Rick Warren the other day. I hang on his words, the words of his wife Kaye. They lost their son just a year ago. He suffered from mental illness and eventually committed suicide. Pastor Rick said you can't go around your grief. You have to go through it. You have to experience it. I think this is more difficult when your child is missing than when your child has died. When your child is missing there are so many other issues to keep you from your own grief. There is that dratted hope, the one that keeps insisting that maybe you don't have to grieve, because maybe she is still alive, maybe she will come home. There is the concern for your child. You can't say she is in a good place and tend to your own wounds. You have to always be concerned for her suffering. There is the work to be done, the mailing of flyers, the giving of interviews, the writing of blogs, just keeping the story out there so that perhaps someone who knows will be motivated to tell you what really happened to your child ...... so that perhaps she will see it, and it will give her the strength to break free of wherever she may be, to come home. With all that, how can you grieve?
I don't know. I don't know my heart. I don't know my soul. I am as lost as anybody else out there. I am drowning in grief and don't even know it. I have, however, come back to my faith ... tentatively, shakily. God reaches down and I hold out my hand to him to take it, pull me up above this sea of denial, to where I can feel again, to where I can breathe.
|A note found in one of Michaela's books|
after she was kidnapped.
Michaela, in my heart, I think you are probably not in this world. I think you are probably there, in God's presence. But I can't know that. So I will keep reaching out to you. And if you are alive, perhaps you can join me, and reach your hand up to God. He is pretty stubborn, I find. Once you are his, he may let you wander but he will not let you go. It's a solemn promise. You are his, I know. You gave your heart to him at a very young age. So if you are there, reach out to God because he is already reaching out to you. Take his hand, and I pray he will lead you home.
I love you forever, baby girl. Wherever you are, I will see you again.