Have you ever wondered about the answer to this question: “What is the one thing that, if given the chance to change, you would change in your life?”
I think about this all of the time as I play different scenarios in my head. If this would happen, then that would be the result. “If I had not been born into a poor family, then this is how my life would be now.” “If I hadn’t been born terribly shy, then I could have gone on to be a super motivating public speaker.” “If I didn’t have such a large nose (that always bothered me — I have a larger than life Italian nose!) then I wouldn’t have been so shy, and I would have mingled more with people, and would have gone further in my career.” “If I hadn’t had an alcoholic mother, she might still be alive and maybe our relationship would have been better.”
And, on and on it goes……..
However, after thinking about all of the “what ifs”, the same answer always comes up at the top of the list. If I could change one thing in my life………
I would change the fact that my sister died when she was thirteen.
When my sister Carmella died, that was a turning point in life for my family, and her death is the one single factor that impacted my life more than anything else.
I don’t think people even begin to understand the changes that take place within a family when a child dies unless they’ve lived through that pain.
When my sister died, I no longer had two sisters. I had one sister. That had a huge impact on me and on our family! With just the blink of an eye, we went from a family of five to a family of four! The pain was crushing. There’s no other way to explain it, and “family” as we knew it hasn’t been right since.
When Carmella died, God didn’t seem the same to me any more. My prayer life changed and if I’m truthful I haven’t returned to my very naïve prayers since. If God can say “no” when you’re begging for healing for a loved one, then why pray? The basic struggle I still wrestle with every day of my life is not knowing how to pray. When do I just say, “Thy will be done” and when do I plead for help and intervention? Does God’s will always prevail? If God has the final say, then why pray?
Please don’t take these questions as a slam on prayer in any way. I have a strong faith in God, and I pray daily. But, my prayers changed following my sister’s death. I realize that not all of my prayers will be answered in a way that I ask –even if it’s for spiritual, emotional, or physical healing. That’s a bummer for me! I used to literally believe that if you asked for anything in God’s name, He would answer that prayer affirmatively providing it was for good. I no longer believe that — another topic for another time.
When my sister died, my parents divorced, they suffered emotional pain to the point of becoming physically ill, and they often neglected my living sister and me because of their intense suffering. I “get it” now, but I didn’t when I was a child. My sister Ruth and I needed our parents so much after our sister died, but they weren’t able to provide us the love and support we needed. They were suffering far too much and there was no real support for them at that time.
A scene that goes through my head is one that is hard to explain unless you actually saw it, but it will help you to understand just how much my mother suffered following the death of my sister. The cemetery where my sister is buried was only a half-mile up the road from our home. My mom would follow the same routine night after night after night. She would load up our push mower in the back of the car, and go to the cemetery. She’d unload the mower and push it back and forth over my sister’s gravesite while sobbing, then screaming. She would also bring a jug of wine with her and drink to numb her pain. Keep in mind, her daughter had died and so had her marriage.
Nightly, it was my job to walk to the cemetery and pack up the mower, gather up my mother in my arms and get her home where I would try to put her to bed. Her wails to God would often echo all through the night until she’d finally drift off into a fitful sleep. When Ruthie and I lost Carmella, we also lost our mom and dad. And, life was never again the same. Not even close.
Because of my mom’s inability to regain a bit of life again, she lost her job. When she lost her job, we lost our home. From that point on, we never had a “home” to go to again. She drifted from one-room apartments for the remainder of her days on face of this earth. And, my dad moved away and distanced himself from everyone.
I’ve asked God a million times why — why did my sister have to die and begin such a domino effect of sadness in our family? I haven’t gotten a reasonable answer yet, and doubt that I ever will — not in this life.
I just know that if I could change just one thing — I would change the fact that my sister died when she was thirteen!
Obviously, there were layers of pain added to this throughout the years in my life that all can be linked back to my sister’s death. I ended up losing a son — which was my biggest fear following the death of my sister. Many, many friends did not understand at all and went by the wayside of our family. I’m sure we weren’t fun to be around, and most people went on with their own lives when we needed them most.
My sister’s death also effected the faith of others. Many people began to question the meaning and purpose of prayer.
My family was instrumental in beginning a church in our hometown. That church remains intact to this day, but my own parents did not remain faithful to God for years and years following Carmella’s death. What an irony! We began the church and we were the ones who fell away from the church while the church that we started remained strong.
Yes, I wish my sister had never died!
I wish my sister never had a reason to die. Why should any child suffer and be sick most of his/her life? Why do children have to experience so much pain? Why do parents have to suffer as they watch helplessly as their children suffer?
And, on and on the questions go.
And, so I’m left saying very confidently, “The one thing I would change in my life if I could is the fact that my sister died when she was thirteen.”
But, the one thing that I cannot ever change is the fact that my sister Carmella died. And, so life remains a mystery. Grief continues. And, as each day unfolds I try to find the blessings in life rather than the pain because after living this many years I know that some questions will never be answered in this life. Some things can never be changed. We have to take the horrible with the good, and sometimes the horrible really does outweigh the good for a very, very long time.
Thank you dear friends of mine for reading this. As I’ve said before, on this blog we will talk about the “un-talkables” — the questions that parents and families of child loss have, but are often too afraid to address for fear of being wrongfully judged or misunderstood.
The question posed today is a legitimate one. It’s one that I feel is safe to say most of us have thought about time and time again. Yet, we are so afraid to talk about it. It’s time to break the chains of fear, break down the thick walls of grief, and become more transparent. It’s time for us to support one another in our pain and as we do we will learn and grow together!
I welcome your comments and your thoughts on this topic of what one thing you would change in your life — if you could. We all know that in reality we can never go back and change the death of a child. But, what we can do is learn to face our fears and grief head on and by doing so release some of the hold that grief has over us!
My love to each one!
PS Be sure to check out the “Healing Foods” section of this site. A new recipe will be added this week!