"How to" books- we've all got them. Some of us depend on them more than others. When pregnant with Sage, I was afraid that without the help of many parenting books, I wouldn't be an adequate mother. Even after reading many of them, I still didn't feel prepared to care for our perfect baby girl. Quickly I learned that being a good mother isn't just learned from a mothering manual. Sage would cry and fuss often and, try as I might, I couldn't calm her at times. I jealously looked at other mothers as they effortlessly and confidently took care of their babies. Seeing their ease with their offspring made me feel like I was a dropout from mothering school. Even though I was a first-time mother and still learning the tricks-of-the-trade, I hoped my deep love and devotion to her would make up the difference in what I lacked.
Today marks thirteen years. Thirteen years since my husband and only child were ripped from my arms. Thirteen years since I heard Shawn say, "I love you." Thirteen years since I saw my daughter kick in excitement when she heard my voice. Thirteen years of learning to live without two parts of my soul. Thirteen years are gone now and not a day has passed that I haven't thought about and missed Shawn and Sage. The feelings that consumed me and caused me to cry countless tears and my entire body to hurt are not as frequent now. Learning to live without Shawn and Sage has been a painful process but a learning experience that I didn't have an instruction manual for.
I have learned some very important things in this time that I wouldn't have been able to learn in any other way. For seven years, I felt intense anger and hatred for a man I only knew as the killer of my family. This animosity I carried and held on to, caused all the happiness to leave my life and I was engulfed in misery and the desire to destroy this man. These controlling and enslaving thoughts made me feel bound to a prison cell just as he was. My happiness was in his misery. My life revolved around him and what he had done. I was a prisoner, but this was a natural reaction I had. I thought by offering any good feelings toward him, it would take away from the punishment I knew he deserved or would diminish the severity of what he did to Shawn and Sage. It took me seven years to realize these destructive feelings I held on to were doing much more harm to me than to him. Lewis B. Smedes is the author of one of my favorite quotes and he said, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize the prisoner was you." I freed MYSELF when I could honestly forgive this man and see him not for what he had done, but for who he is. He is my brother and a child of God. This new view wasn't something I arrived at instantly, and it took prayer and effort everyday to remind myself to forgive him.
Everyone of us carries power within is. This power each of us has is unique. Sometimes we don't discover that power God gave us until we are forced to go through an experience that we struggle to survive. Because my family was instantly killed and I miraculously survived, I have been forced to go on. Alone. I have had to discover who I am now and find that power within myself. It was up to me if I was going to let this tragedy keep me in depression and stop me from living. The person I was when Shawn and Sage were alive-- died with them. I have become someone new and it is up to me who I am going to become.
I try not to think of the "what ifs" and "what could have beens". They only serve to bring me down and remind me of the feelings of anger and hatred toward the man who took their lives. I like to look at what has become possible because of what happened. This experience has not only taught me about myself, it has brought me closer to my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. They have been my constant when everything else changed in my life, and they have supported me with unending love and much needed comfort.
Shawn and Sage's exit from this life was a tragedy and many still feel the pain of this separation. But they continue to live on and touch lives as I share our story and persuade my audiences not to drive under the influence. They stay near me reminding me of their love and support as I strive to make their deaths something positive in this world they were forced to leave behind. My hope is that when I see them again, I can say that the world I left behind is better because of them. I love you Shawn and Sage.