March 10, 1998

I'm starting a new page here.  Think of this as a postscript to my journal.  It shares room in the navigation index with my article on trauma which was written for EMTs and similar response personnel -- including a dear friend who needed the essay very much.  As a postscript, the two -- this page and the trauma article -- make a good pair.

March 18, 1998

Heather presented with nausea, fever and chest congestion -- the same as Jessica did on her still undiagnosed final illness. It was pretty stressful.  However, with Heather it resolved into her first chest cold, stomach flu, and a sinus and ear infection.  All responded to treatment.

Win's talk at the BYU Women's Conference (she had an audience of three thousand) is now in Every Good Thing by Deseret Book, at page 147. Win just got her two copies and I'm so glad they decided to include her talk.

March 20, 1998

Got permission to post Win's talk.  It is at Win Marsh's 1997 Women's Conference Address. My wife's story, in her words.

March 24, 1998

I got a call from a headhunter.  I love Wichita Falls.  The people here have been kind and wonderful.  But the call made me think that I might very well be ready for a place where "no one knows my name" (the opposite of the Cheers song). On the one hand, I am sure that people will eventually forget all the tragedies that happened to us.  On the other hand, there is substantial attraction in the thought of starting over where there is not such a weight of sorrow over everything and everyone.  Of course it made a real difference that the call was about an area where we have dear friends and where my parents would like to live.  That is an important consideration for me.

Obviously I'm just one of many calls he made and who knows if we'll talk again, but the thinking and considerations it made me go through were valuable.  I wish him well, regardless of what happens.

April 2, 1998

Sure miss my girls.  Heather is such a wonderful child I long for a house full of children.  She talked to me last night about what her life would have been like if her sisters had lived.  About the people who are sure there is something weird about her because she had so many sisters die.  The "popular" clique at school doesn't approve of her.  On the other hand, the "gifted and talented" program kids all follow her lead.  // She talked about how her good friend J wouldn't have given her a chance to be friends if her sister had not died (J's grandmother died and J was a bit withdrawn for a while).  They are a good family and the daughter is a good friend to Heather. I wish Heather had more friends.  We picked our neighborhood because it was, among other things, filled with little girls. Most have moved and have not been replaced. Just not enough children some times.  Now she is kind of like the little boy who was the only boy in the neighborhood when we moved in ... (my wife used to say it would be great for him when he grew up, but all the girls have moved now ...)

So much going on.  More political meetings, people to help and calm to keep.

April 27, 1998

Things continue to move forward.  Spring gives us such hope.

A start at Joe Miller's editorial is at [Joe].  I'll update as it becomes available.

April 28, 1998

Heather still has trouble getting to sleep.  She says she is plagued by the "what ifs" and starts worrying about her mom & dad dieing, etc.  I don't have a good answer for her.  I worry about whether she will be breathing when I wake up.  It takes her so long to go to sleep as she tries to avoid thinking about her fears.  I'll read to her and sit with her and sometimes rock her.

She is such a good child.

May 4, 1998

My on-line comments a while back:

Stephen Email: |

Well, I read the conference talks every year in the Ensign.

Part of the problem is that I feel abnormal. When Jessica died, over six hundred people attended the funeral. When Courtney died, over three hundred came. For Robin, about seventy. People can't take thinking about it. I still remember a Relief Society President to my wife "you are ok, aren't you!" which obviously allowed no answer but "yes, I don't need any help or attention from you." And other terrible things have happened in our lives. I admit I took my Dad & Mom having to come home early from their mission (due to my Dad's cancer) pretty hard. So, I pay my tithing. I participate in good causes. I'm involved in the community. (heck, look at my resume at

But, people would like to wait to do business with me until they are sure I'm feeling better and can deal with their problems. Etc. It can be hard. Unlike the TV show Cheers, I'd like to be where everyone didn't know my name. So what if almost everyone likes me and thinks I'm a good guy.

Most of the time I read talks on suffering, two things come to mind.

First, it could be *a lot* worse. Sure, I've lost three children, gone through bankruptcy, and have a child who cries herself to sleep many a night from fear of the future. But my parents met people on their mission who had lost everything in Africa in the genocides. My realization is that things may be bad for me, but they could be a lot worse, and, as far as I can tell, there is no assurance that the worse won't happen. My daughter (she is nine) asks me to promise that no one else will die soon in our family or that my Dad will recover from cancer or ... I can't promise that. And she has already seen what happens when you go with the odds ... someone dies every time.

Second, many of the people really didn't seem to go through that much of strain. President Holland for example. Nice enough guy. His wife hasn't left him yet (and, as far as I know, has no plans to do so). But when he talks of sufferring, he talks mostly of uncertainty for the future where everything fell into place for him. An "I worried, but the best of all possible worlds came to me. That isn't terrible satisfying either. Christ, who was a man of sorrows, I feel that he can feel for me. But lots of other people, most of what they talk about is the normal brushes with angst that everyone feels.

Finally (kind of a third), I get a lot of "that was then, now we have the blessings of our times" -- while I appreciate indoor plumbing (I've been places without it), etc., I feel that I am three or four standard deviations below where I should be in an "average" outcomes world. Hope that helps provide perspective.

Orson Scott Card Email: redacted|

Your observation that we wouldn't trade with anyone else is true enough - but, as you pointed out, just because we wouldn't trade doesn't mean we're going to be glad our lives have gone the way they have.

When Kristine's and my baby died the day she was born a little over a year ago, I was completely unprepared for the level of grief. And yet even in the midst of it, I compared myself to my older brother, Bill, who lost his 18-year-old daughter because of a bad reaction to anaesthetic, and I thought: his suffering is so much greater. But that didn't make mine go away! I read about what you've gone through, and, just for the record, I'm definitely not trading with YOU.

When you spoke of Jeffrey Holland's talk and how everything seemed to go right for him - so no wonder he can talk about trusting in the Lord! - I think back to all those miracle stories we hear. About the missionaries whose lives are miraculously spared, for instance; the first thought in my mind is always: What about those missionaries who died on their missions, then? What about the ones left brain-damaged in auto accidents? Where was THEIR angel? It seems that blessings and miracles are as unevenly distributed as sorrows. Yet God says he's no respecter of persons - that all his children are equal in his sight. So ... what gives?

When I see my son Charlie Ben, now nearly fifteen years old, his body twisted with cerebral palsy and scoliosis, frequently struggling even for breath, I often think of Jesus taking the hand of the palsied man and telling him, Rise up and walk. But I'm not even that ambitious. A couple of nights ago on E.R. they showed a man with cerebral palsy, who could speak - but not so that the doctors could understand him. He had to resort to signals, of the kind our nonverbal son has used with us - kicking with his legs, grunting and groaning, smiling. But he could read and write - he was an expert on hieroglyphics; he had people with whom he could speak. I'd settle for that. For just hearing Charlie speak, even if only his family and friends could understand him. And I also think of that anguished question Jesus was asked: Who sinned, this man or his parents?

I know the answer: No one sinned. Stuff happens. But then the question rises again: Whose lack of faith makes it so a miracle can't happen for Charlie Ben? Just as, in your account, one has to wonder why your daughter's longing can't be answered: Just one of those lives, miraculously saved. Other people have such miracles, don't they?

And yet ... we've had our miracles, in small ways. When Charlie Ben had been conceived, after whatever damage was done to him was fully done, but long before we knew there was any problem with him, I suddenly had the impulse to look for work. I was at Notre Dame working on a doctorate. But suddenly I didn't care about it anymore. Time for a job. I was offered two; I took the one in Greensboro because Kristine and I felt great about it. The job turned out to be hellish, and I left it in nine months. But it had brought us to Greensboro, NC ... and when Charlie Ben was born, it turned out that we lived in the best city in America for a kid with cerebral palsy to grow up in, because the Gateway school is one of the finest facilities - certainly the finest that's in a town as small as this. We couldn't have been in a better place for Charlie, in part because Southerners are so much better about dealing with physical deformities and crippling conditions - people come up to Charlie here and talk to HIM, whereas in other parts of the country they pull away, look away, avoid. We haven't had the miracle of healing: But we've had the miracle of being in the right place.

And other small miracles. Twice, in dreams, I have been given very clear visions of Charlie as he really is - of Charlie running, shouting, talking joyously, incessantly. (I'm not a visionary man, but when you have such a dream, you know the difference.) That, too, was a miracle of comfort.

But ... no miracles at all when our daughter died. Just my wife and I holding her in our arms as her life slipped away, singing to her all of the songs we sing to our babies, just that once, never to be able to sing them to her again. A most dearly held memory, but one of heartbreak all the same.

What is the plan behind all of this? Elder Holland is right in one sense: Everything WILL work out. But not necessarily will it work out WELL. Your daughter is surrounded by loss at such a tender age; you have buried three others. In my definition of "working out," that doesn't fit. Yet it also DOES fit, because no matter what happens in our lives, we stand revealed as the person we are. You are clearly one who turns sorrow to goodness. Yet there are people with far less suffering - even none, by any rational definition - who nevertheless turn bitter, mean-spirited.

What God is looking at, I think, is not what we go through, but what we DO. No matter what course our lives take, the person we choose to be stands revealed. The miracles come sometimes, as a gift, where the gift is appropriate; but when they don't come, it's not because God is trying to punish us or even "teach us a lesson," it's because in his wisdom he knows that he cannot always intervene, or even often, without weakening the overall plan for the world. If miracles happen too often, they cease to be miracles - they become part of the surrounding world. Look at how the children of Israel still managed to complain even with manna on the ground every morning! And, because of your suffering, you are given great authority and power in compassion and teaching. You didn't want it; you'd trade it gladly to have those brief lives lengthened; but you have it now, wanted or not, and you are using it well. That is honorable in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of the children who wait for you, I believe.

Again, none of this is remotely "comforting." But it's true, and when we stand at the judgment bar of God, the judgment goes both ways, the scripture clearly tells us. God judges us, but we also judge God, and when our eyes are opened we will all bend our knees to him and confess that he acted wisely and well toward us in our lives. Until then we walk in faith. So when Elder Holland says all things will "work out," I prefer to take that to mean "We must make all things work out well by turning them to goodness in the world." Then when we look back on our lives, sorrows and joys all together, we can hear the Lord's voice say, "Well done, though good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord." By any standard, I think that will count as having "worked out well."

Anyway, those are my thoughts after reading your message, Stephen.

Orson Scott Card

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