Pain and Joy are Opposites

I have not wanted to write, because if I write, I have to feel. I am only now beginning to wake in the morning without feeling like I will die when I remember that Jack isn’t here in our home anymore. I can go periods of time without crying wherever I happen to be—in the car, in public, while looking at baby pictures of Jack. There are times when I feel pretty calm, grateful even, that we aren’t clenched in the vice of trying (unsuccessfully) to meet Jack’s needs while still meeting those of our other three sons.

I haven’t wanted to sit and relive the trauma of the last week by writing about it.

Yet here I am.

Life as Jack’s mom is painful. It is also revelatory, spiritually expansive, emotion-deepening, and moving. But growing, especially in these inward ways, hurts.

As I look back over the last thirteen years, I see difficulty as the undercurrent of my family’s life. I don’t mean that in a martyr’s sense. I mean it because it is true. Jack’s life is not easy. Life for those caring for him necessitates that all energies are focused on him and his needs. I suspect this is intentional, so the people around Jack can learn love and compassion, and can practice doing unto others as they would have others do unto them.

During the sacrament on Sunday, I thought about Jack’s baby blessing. It was a simple blessing that included just three main points: that Jack would be a peacemaker, that his physical body would sustain him until he completes his work on the earth, and that he would love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have always thought that because this blessing was so brief and direct, God told Jeff to say only those things that Jack really needed, and that we as his family really needed to know.

How was Jack a peacemaker when he was throwing the Kitchenaid mixer across the kitchen? Well that’s the thing. I’m seeing now that the peacemaker part wasn’t able to happen any longer in our home. I felt, during the quiet of the sacrament service last Sunday, that Jack needed a change in venue, in surroundings, in lifestyle, so that he could grow in this capacity, and then share this gift with other people.

Jeff gave Jack a blessing the evening of his thirteenth birthday—the night before he was placed in his new home. This experience was spiritually overpowering, and not just for me. My stoic teen, my nine-year-old with autism, Jeff as he spoke—all of us wept as we were flooded with the peace that only Jesus can bestow, and love for our son and brother—the gift that Jack is in our family.

Jeff declared that Jack’s ears would be healed. I was dumbfounded. After 10,000 ear infections and surgeries and courses of antibiotics and all our efforts for so many years, this priesthood blessing promised an end to Jack’s ear troubles. He blessed Jack with protection from the adversary, a huge comfort for me as I handed his care over to people I don’t know. The love and peace I felt during this experience was a foreshadowing of heaven (I do not say this as a cliche). This is how it will feel, I knew, when we reunite with God and with each other outside of mortality. The worldly weights, the wide & deep river of hardship, they will all fall away. This is what will remain, the beauty of comprehensive love and joy.

Does Jack love the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I’ve had glimpses over the years that have taught me that while I don’t understand it, Jack does have a special relationship to his Savior. I have to believe that Jack has a conduit with heaven—that angels are helping him and that he has some deep, fundamental understanding of God’s plan for him. Perhaps his new home and new life will foster his growth in this area.

It’s a humbling thing for a mother to realize that her child can no longer learn what he needs to learn within her home. Why couldn’t I teach Jack everything he needs? Am I not enough? My friend Marla called me the day after Jack was placed and shared with me a little about her own trauma when her first child left home at an early age. She knew, even as her grief threatened to overwhelm her, that her son had to live somewhere new so he could rely on his Heavenly Father. This was the real reason he needed the separation. It wasn’t because she was not a good enough mother. It was because God had more to give her son, if he could first learn to need God.

During the long drive to Jack’s group home, I worried that I would be too distraught to leave him, that I would be sobbing and make it all worse for Jack than it needed to be. What I have in my mind though, is this memory:

Jack stood in the living room of his home, two vacuums nearby, all his groceries and meds carefully put away, his bed newly made and his clothes folded in his drawers. I grabbed him in a big, surprise bear hug. His face tilted upward and his face broke into a big smile as I kissed his soft cheek and said quietly in his ear, “I love you, Jack.” Jeff hugged him from behind, and we were a Jack sandwich.

I didn’t feel desolate at that moment. I felt peaceful and happy. Jack felt our love and it made him happy. We were united. The assistant house manager, a mom herself, wept watching us. But that memory for me is perfectly joyful. There is so much love running through the unbreakable cables that connect Jeff and me to Jack, and Jack to his brothers.

My eyes were a fount of tears the entire drive home, naturally. Jeff encouraged me to look back at Jack’s life to this point and be proud of what I have done as his mother. “It wasn’t me. I helped when I could. It was you. You did it. You raised Jack and helped him grow within our home for thirteen years. You did so much for him. If God were here, I think He would say, ‘Well done.'”

Grief is painful because when we love people, separation from them hurts.

But everything has it’s opposite and I don’t think that the opposite of pain in this case is relief. I think it is joy.

We drove through the canyon. It snowed off and on. The phrase, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” ran through my mind on repeat.

Weeping is part of the pain of now. It’s not forever though. Jack is God’s. I am too. He lets us cry sad tears so He can later fill us with joy and it will mean something to us.



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