“If you had to choose which child to give back to me, which one would you choose?” were the thoughts that came to my mind when I was putting laundry away. I went through each of my children and decided that I wasn’t going to choose. “I am sorry, I just can’t choose. You will have to decide.”
It wasn’t until a few months later, that I was to find out which child would be chosen. My husband and I took our very first trip away from the kids in 8 years of marriage. We were traveling to Havasupai to spend the weekend at the grand canyon enjoying hiking, swimming, and the company of each other and friends. I prayed each night I was gone that my children would be safe until I returned, but I knew that something terrible would happen. And as much as that fear tugged at my heart, I also knew that I needed to go on this trip.
On June 9, 2008, I received the call that no mother should ever have to receive and no father should ever have to make. My worst fear had taken hold. “Brittany, its Daxton.” My dad told me that Daxton had been tangled in the blinds. He didn’t have to finish. And I knew. I knew that my little boy who had only been with me for 1 year and 9 days was no longer here with me on this earth. The drive home was long and painful with cries to a God whom I had relied on my entire life. My soul was wracked with more torment than I had ever before or since felt.
I started asking why? Why me Lord? Why was this happening to me, to my son? My only son. As I held his precious body in my arms, I could feel His arms around me. In the most trying time of my life, when my world was crashing down around me, when it seemed as if my life were over, I felt the arms of a loving Heavenly Father. I was not alone in this. He knew what it was like to lose a child and He was there to comfort me.
The next few weeks were a blur. My heart was numb. My brain kept screaming that I had lost my son, yet my heart just didn’t want to believe it. I would get in the car and be frantic because I thought that I had left Daxton somewhere. I would go to his room to get him out of his crib in the morning. I would set him a plate at the dinner table. I knew he was gone, but he was in my arms or at my feet his entire life. I had literally lost a physical part of me. A piece of me was buried in the ground that hot summer day in June. If it weren’t for my 2 other children, it is very likely I would have joined him.
My faith was shaken to the very core. I had always had a testimony. I knew the church was true. I knew that families were forever. I knew that bad things happened to good people. But, how could a loving Father in Heaven take away my son? How could I feel so much pain and that be OK with Him? I found no comfort in reading church books or talks, mainly because my brain literally could not focus for more than 5 minutes on any task for about 6 months, but also because there wasn’t anything that I didn’t already know that I could read about and feel better. I needed this time to truly grieve and that is exactly what I was doing. And I was alone.
I reflected back on an area conference that Elder Holland had spoken at. I was holding my little Daxton, who was 6 months, when I heard him say, (and I paraphrase) Where are you going to go? When life gets hard, where are you going to go? Are you going to go find solace in drinking, gambling, partying? Go ahead! But you won’t find happiness there. You will only wallow and make it worse. This is where you belong. Surrounded by people who love you and support you. Strengthened by the God who gave you life.
As those words came back to me, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by good people who loved me. The enabling power of the atonement was at work in my life. When I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, friends would offer to take the kids, meals were brought in, laundry was done, all from the service of others. Tender mercies were granted when I found the perfect dress for the funeral, when I had a friend at my beck and call to do anything I needed her to, and when the week of the funeral went just as it was planned.
Just when I thought another day “alone” in my grief would do me in, I met Stephanie Waite (www.adailyscoop.blogspot.com
). She was my PERSON! The one person who knew what I was going through as she had lost her 14 month old daughter just days after Daxton. I also realized that my Father in Heaven knew exactly how I felt. After all, He did send His Son, and He watched Him suffer. And my Savior knew what I was feeling because He suffered for all MY griefs and sorrows.
I could never say that losing Daxton was worth it. However, the lessons I have learned are invaluable and thankfully I have learned them and continue to learn them, because I would not be able to live with myself if Daxton’s death was for nothing. I am forever changed. I will never be the same person I was before Daxton died. There was my life before Daxton died and there is my life after Daxton died.
Friendships are different. There are some I no longer talk to and there are friends who have stood by my side cheering me on in their own way. It is hard to meet new people because invariable the question of how many kids comes up, followed by how old they are and then I have to decide, Are they worth me opening my heart up to them? There is the emptiness in my heart that not all my children are together. That Isabella will never know her older brother in this life and that Savannah and Mikenna will forget him as they get older.
It is hard to believe that Daxton would have been 4 this year. It is hard to believe that I am still here, that I have made it this far. Those early days of grief I thought I would never be able to make it another day. And here I am three years later. I am better. I am stronger. I have more compassion and sympathy, I know that families are forever and I will live with and raise my son again. I have been blessed by the healing power of the atonement. I am far from perfect. I still have the bad days, but thankfully the crippling grief comes less often.