This morning I finished reading "When Bad Things Happen to Good People". There was no "aha" moment for me today but had I read that book two or more years ago there would have been. Pretty much everything that I read was consistent with my own redefinition of my Catholic upbringing and beliefs. Something which I have struggled to redefine since Wyatt's Potter's diagnosis in January of 2003.
I have righted the wrongs that were installed by my church and family over the course of my childhood and young adulthood. The wrongs: be good and bad things will not happen to you, if they do then you must have done something to deserve them, God has a plan and everything has a purpose, if you pray God will answer your prayers. The righting: good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people because God does not control every aspect of the universe, sometimes because we as humans were given free will by God and because as humans we often pray for impossible things. I am not a great person, but I lead a mostly good life. There is not one thing which I have done which merits the suffering I have endured over the last nine years of my life. I accept that Potter's Syndrome is just one thing completely out of God's control but not out of his concerns. I felt Him with me every step of the way through Eli's pregnancy and after. I know it pained God to watch our suffering and probably even more so to welcome our sweet little boy to join his brother. I also know that he manifests his love for us by empowering geneticists, scientists and doctors to study Potter's Syndrome and I have confidence that one day there will be answers.
I wish that I had understood these things when I was pregnant with Wyatt. That my religious background could have comforted and supported me rather than giving me more unrealistic expectations than I could count. I believed prayer, and lots of it, would heal my son. That my unwavering faith would deliver me from having to watch my baby die. His death not only shattered my heart, it shattered my religious foundation. Faith is so easy to have when it needn't be explained. I needed a reason for Wyatt's death, I needed a way to justify the pain that was tearing me apart, to make it all seem worthwhile. So I turned to God and then I turned away. What else could I do after believing all those wrongs for so many years? How could I believe that it was somehow my fault, that I deserved to carry a child with a fatal birth defect and that I deserved to watch him die and that I would be left to live without him for the rest of my life? How could I believe that my prayers were not good enough when I had prayed so hard and they were completely heartfelt? How could I justify this outcome when all around me I saw others who had done worse yet were given completely healthy children, even ones that were unwanted? How could I still believe in a loving and compassionate God when I was told that my son's death was part of this God's plan? How could my completely innocent child be chosen by this God to suffer so much? I sought answers for a long long time to these questions but none fit. I was only left angry, bitter and feeling abandoned by the one who was supposed to love me the mostl.
Finally I stopped asking those questions, I stopped seeking (and listening to) explanations. I went back to the simplest of explanations, one worthy of my kindergarten faith class: bad things will happen and when they do God is with you, when you hurt he hurts and he will love you through it all. Expectations only bring disappointment, love breeds love and there is one love greater than all.