Talk by Win Marsh
Delivered at the 1997 BYU Women's Conference
Collected in Every Good Thing (page 147)
Deseret Book ISBN 1-57345-367-6

As I have prepared to give this talk, I have hesitated over so many things. I know that there has to be someone sitting in this audience who is peering down at me and thinking, " she doesn't know what I feel!!" I want to start out by saying that I do not know what any one of you are feeling. I do not know what any one of you have experienced in your lives. I do not know what pains and griefs you are dealing with. What I have experienced does not make me an expert on anyone's pain or anyone's grief but my own. I can tell you what I found helpful -- but it may or not be what you need. My hope is that there is some aspects of my experiences that may help you deal with your own experiences of lose and grief in life.

As a little girl and as a young woman, I would listen to teachers at church talk about the glories of motherhood. I would shake my head, and tell myself that I wasn't going to ever have that role. I was known as a tree climber, fort builder, and a girl who would do absolutely anything to spend time with horses. As a young woman, I became a fairly good mechanic, and a fiercely independent person who truly never expected to marry until late in life. Oh, how life can change. I met a wonderful young attorney during my last year of college. Steve quickly became my best friend, my confidante, my everything. He was in the process of moving to Texas. He was someone that I wanted to spend my whole life and eternity with. We felt prompted to marry immediately .. and so we did. I truly felt that we were doing what the Lord wanted. I know that the Lord guided that choice.

We planned to wait before having children -- I hoped to pursue a career and a graduate degree -- but we had such an overwhelming feeling that there was a little girl just waiting to be born. Again, I felt that we followed the Lord's promptings. We prayed, and decided to start a family immediately. 13 months after our wedding, our first child, Jessica, was born. We had two more daughters over the next 6 years and I felt that our lives were going in the direction the Lord wanted them to go in. We hoped for another child, and talked of my returning to school when the youngest started kindergarten. We had a young law practice, a young healthy family, and dreams for the future.

When my oldest daughter -- Jessica -- developed the flu, we never imagined that it would lead to her death. During the long days of waiting -- and praying -- I had lots of time to reflect. I couldn't understand why the Lord had allowed this to happen. It was so odd. First graders just don't come down with the flu and die. She had always been healthy, we used seatbelts, her vaccinations were current, we followed the Lord's teachings in every way. What had we done wrong? Why was this happening?

I think the first inkling I had that something horrible was going on was when Jessica had a blessing. I have always associated Priesthood blessings with a wonderful, warm, peaceful feeling of comfort and reassurance. When Jessica was given a blessing, I felt the most awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was an indescribably horrible feeling -- but what does such a feeling mean. Does it mean that her illness was going to be lengthy? That she would have long lasting problems? Does such a feeling mean death? We did not know. I prayed for her to be healed -- if it was the Lord's will.

Jessica died on our wedding anniversary. I do not know how my little family survived that time in our lives. Jessica's medical bills were over $614,000.00. We found that our medical insurance was not as good as we thought. I miscarried that next November. It was a very difficult time. The English language lacks words to properly describe such times. The one thing that kept me going was my toddler Courtney. She needed my constant attention. She was the reason I got up in the morning and tried to function. After bundling my kindergartner off to school, Courtney made me keep functioning as a mom and as a person for the rest of the day.

As Christmas approached, we wanted to be anywhere but home. We wanted to go someplace without past memories of Jessica to tear at our souls. Finances were still horrible so we drove out to California to stay with my husband's family. Courtney started displaying flu-like symptoms -- so we left presents unopened and spent Christmas morning in the Emergency Room. We did not want to take any chances with her health. Courtney -- at 22 months of age -- was diagnosed as a new diabetic. We were beside ourselves. Jessica had seen her first doctor on Christmas Eve the year before, and now -- a year and a day later-- our youngest was being admitted to an Intensive Care Unit as the doctors tried to stabilize her. Late that night she had a seizure. Her brain stem was herniated by the seizure. She was pronounced brain dead.

We were far from home, we had no money, all our savings were gone -- we had been through too much too soon. I shook my fist at God and felt that I really did not want him in my life any more. If this was going to be the way he ran my life, by golly, I would just run it myself.

I went to church, I continued to attend all my meetings, but I was angry at God. I looked at my life and couldn't find anything I had done to deserve this burden on my soul. I felt that I gave up worldly ambitions to concentrate on being a mom. I was a very good mom. And now I felt like the Lord had taken my identity away. My middle child Heather, came to me repeatedly and asked when she was going to die. She just assumed that she would be next. All I could do was hold onto her and pray that the three of us would survive.

A few months went by, and Steve and I desperately wanted another child. We knew that we could not replace what we lost, but our arms just ached -- they felt so empty. That pregnancy ended in another miscarriage. Again, I shook my fist at God. I tried to pray but I felt so betrayed by God, it was painful to try to pray while having such feelings.

I found that I needed to find something in my life that I could excel at. I needed to fill the void in my life. I felt that God had declared me a failure as a mother when he took two of my children. On a rational level, I knew that was not true, but on an emotional level, it was what I felt. I put all my time into volunteer work until there was no time left to think or feel. That did not fill the void. So I went back to school to take up even more of my time. Time helped give me the ability to start the handle issues. Healing started to occur. As the months went by, I saw more healing. I started to limit my commitments and take time to feel emotions and reflect. I was ready to take an active role in the healing process. My anger subsided. I began to expand my angry question from "Why Me and Why My children?" to an inquisitive searching question of "Why anyone?"

I thought back to the month I spent with Jessica in Intensive Care. Children arrived in that hospital from all over the world to be treated for various ailments. A large board was kept in the waiting room with the room number and name of each ICU patient. It was a place to leave notes and messages about phone calls to return. When a child became well enough to be moved to a regular floor, the bed was wheeled by the waiting room and the room cheered. All too often the names on the board were just quietly erased. I started to ask "why would the Lord allow so many young lives die before they really had a chance to live?"

I started working part time on a medical - surgical floor this past year. As I have seen families grieve as diseases take their course, I asked myself again, Why? Why is a young family left without a father? Why is a man taken just before his 50th wedding anniversary celebration. Why does a vibrant lady die just weeks before her daughter's wedding? Why does pain exist in our lives?

My questions became more complex. Questions like:

The first two questions are really one. They really ask the question why? Why me? Why this? Why?

The easy answer is the one the world gives us. You are either loved by God and saved or you are hated by God and suffer adversity. That is the message John Calvin gave his followers. Calvin was not alone. Job's friends told him that all adversity comes from sin and any adversity is merely the just and immediate punishment for our sins.

God answered that belief with His own words and reproved Job's friends.

It is such an easy thing to hope that all adversity comes from sin. If all adversity comes from sin, then we have a simple answer to all adversity and an easy answer to our fears that we might suffer the same afflictions that others have suffered.

The real answers come in two understandings: first to understand why there is adversity and second is how we can trust God even though there is adversity. We come to these two understandings by hearing the message God has given us over and over again.

The scriptures tell us repeatedly that we are here to gain experience. How much experience each of us needs is going to vary -- as is the type of experience. We are given opportunities to help ourselves and opportunities to help others. We need experience to gain perspective and to gain balance. In adversity there are no simple "either/or" answers. It is not either "this" or "that." Instead, there is a balance. We do not either suffer or move on, feel grief or heal, experience pain or grow. Balance allows us to both suffer and move on, feel grief and heal, experience pain and grow, to pick up our burdens and keep moving forward -- learning the good from the evil and the bitter from the sweet.

The next two questions I began with , how can I live through this? and can I live through this really ask the question "what can I do?"

The message of the world is that you either understand or you suffer pain. Television teaches us that in half an hour or less, we can escape any pain through understanding. The reality is that it takes longer than thirty or forty or sixty minutes to overcome the pain of adversity. I was surprised at the number of people who came up to me and said, " Why are you grieving, don't you realize that your children are with God?" They assumed that understanding of the gospel and a strong testimony would protect me from feeling the pain of loss.

The truth is that understanding actually makes pain more intense. The truth is that what makes adversity adverse is that the pain and problems are as real as we are and the pain is as painful as it feels.

I feel pain because I miss my children, I miss their laughter, I miss feeling them snuggle into my arms, I even miss cleaning up after them. Knowing how long it will be before I see them again just intensifies the pain. Although I know that this life is short, right now I am living it minute by minute and the time seems to pass slowly.

The real answer to the question "what can I do " is to keep living. Keep moving through this life and keep your faith. As Paul wrote in Hebrews Chapter 12, verse 1: "..let us run with patience the race that is set before us".

The final questions I began with, can I be healed? and how can I be made stronger? really ask "how can God keep His promises to heal us and turn all things to our good? The conventional wisdom of the world is that we can either be " a man of sorrows" or happy. The world tells us that joy is always lessened and ruined by any sorrow.

The truth is that we, like Christ, can gain strength through what we suffer and we can know deep and abiding true joy. We find peace -- in time -- and a renewal of joy -- in time -- by coming to understand that this world is truly not "all there is" and that the celestial world of God is a deeper, more real and more present reality than this world.

As I have grappled with pain and adversity in my life, I have learned so much about living and dying, about priorities and what really matters.

I find myself thanking God for the knowledge and insight I have gained. I admit that the price paid for the knowledge has been very high. I would prefer to remain terribly ignorant of grief and have my children back. I find myself asking God, "is there no other way?" and the answer is "there is no other way". It is only through earthly experience that includes suffering and adversity that we are able to learn the things that the Lord wants us to learn.

The author of this poem states it well:

Pain stayed so long I said to him today,
"I will not have you with me anymore."
I stamped my foot and said, " Be on your way,"
And paused there startled at the look he wore.
"I, who have been your friend," he said to me,
"I, who have been your teacher -- all you know
Of understanding love, of sympathy,
And patience, I have taught you. Shall I go?"

He spoke the truth, this strange unwelcome guest;
I watched him leave, and knew that he was wise.
He left a heart grown tender in my breast.
He left a far, clear vision in my eyes.
I dries my tears, and lifted up a song --
Even for one who'd tortured me so long.

Quoted by Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1972), 99.

I have realized that in this life, we all will either live long enough to experience the grief and despair that accompanies the loss of those we love most dearly, or we will die young enough that we will be the object of their grieving. But God has promised that he will heal us.

God can keep his promises because he offers us infinitely more than we have lost -- in tenderness, kindness, and patience. God waits to bring us home, to heal our losses, and to fill us with his grace. He can keep his promises because he waits for us.

Each of us will face real pain, disappointment, and loss. Each of us will have real trials and real tests, and "the fiery trial of our faith". (1 Peter 4:12) But from those pains, we can grow in love and hope and care for each other until that perfect day when God takes us home and gives us peace.

Win Marsh was seven months pregnant when she delivered this talk to three thousand women at the conference. On July 6, 1997, Robin Elizabeth marsh was born with a heart defect. Open-heart surgery was performed five days later. Two more surgeries were planned. Robin died in her sleep August 31, 1997.

Guestbook -- Leave a Comment