Two days ago I watched an interview with Marcy Borders on The View. Marcy is a survivor of 9/11 and the woman whom was captured in the now-iconic photo, “Dust Lady,” on the day of the heinous attacks on our country. As a means of coping with the shock of the event, Marcy succumbed to alcohol and drugs, which led to her losing custody of her two children.
Nine years into her ordeal, however, Marcy entered rehab and began the climb to reclaiming her life. Today, a few days shy of ten years since her ordeal, Marcy is clean, sober, and has regained custody of her two children.
Marcy, who was in rehab when Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. military, gave repeated thanks to God for saving her, for giving her another chance, and made mention that she felt God was working in two different ways to help her, on the day that Osama bin Laden was killed in an attempt to apprehend him. Her belief in God and the Bible have been instrumental in her recent healing.
The same day I watched the discussion with Marcy, I read a story about Tina Anderson, a woman who was raped at the age of fifteen by an elder member of her church. Tina’s attacker impregnated her, and when the pregnancy was discovered, this young girl was forced to apologize to her congregation for her sin in becoming pregnant.
Her mother and the church pastor arranged to have her sent away to a home where she was homeschooled and forced to give her baby up for adoption. Now married and the mother of three more children, Tina had–until officials approached her a few years ago–kept her ordeal a secret, believing (as too many rape victims do) that she—an innocent—was to blame. I would surmise that she has experienced conflict with the role of God and the Church in her life.
Within the same week, I read about a young man who had publicly announced his homosexuality. He also indicated he wasn’t sure about his faith, that he had doubts with regard to God. I can understand this conflict, especially given the view and teachings of so many churches that homosexuality—much like Tina’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy—is a sin.
Like so many others before me, and so many to follow, these are the questions that ravaged my mind and body after I experienced the death of my son, two miscarriages, and an affair between my husband and one of my best friends:
• People say God isn’t a cruel God, but the definition of cruel is to knowingly inflict pain on another.
• God knew I would suffer greatly if my son died, so why would he take him.
• Why aren’t my (not to mention my family’s) prayers being answered?
One religious organization sent me a pamphlet in the mail, shortly after my son died. This organization’s belief is that my newborn was sacrificed for my sins.
• What horrific sin did I commit, to cause God to kill my child? Am I really a bad person?
So much of the scripture and inspiration I received after my child’s death indicated that God had chosen my boy because he was special, that God had a purpose and a reason and a plan, that, somehow, it was okay for God to act in a way which caused me so much suffering.
And then there was the fact that my son suffocated. I cannot fathom the horror of such a slow death, for breath is the source of our existence, it is instinctive. Panic rises when we cannot breathe.
These thoughts made me think about people who burn to death in fires, about elderly persons who die by falling down a flight of stairs, about selfless, compassionate individuals like Princess Diana and our service men and women who work to make life better for those both near and far. Generous souls who are severely wounded and suffer greatly before taking their last breaths.
Not that any person deserves to endure a painful or prolonged death. But the thought that such benevolent people have to suffer so intensely seems nothing shy of unjust. And therein lies the paradox of spirituality.
As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, my thoughts, like those of most of our nation, are with the families and friends of those lost on that day. As I watched Marcy’s interview, however, I couldn’t help but think about all of the families who are still trying to reconcile the spiritual element of their loss, to heal that spiritual facet.
For me, the spiritual element was the last, and most difficult to resolve, following my string of losses. I was fortunate enough however, to find a woman who offered just what I needed to create peace within me.
This is what I gleaned from one short hour with this wise woman.
• Divine intervention is rare.
• God doesn’t choose how or when we will die.
• God is in the room crying with us when we are suffering. From that, I later had this epiphany: God is also in the room celebrating with us when we are happy.
Those three things were all I needed to finally realize that my prayers weren’t being overlooked because I wasn’t praying in the right way or hard enough. That I wasn’t being punished for some indiscretion. That, indeed, the God I believe in is not a cruel god.
Today, after twenty-one years of studying loss and healing, these are a few things I know for sure.
• Our experiences, environments, learned behaviors, and beliefs create the individuality within each of us. What might bring about healing for one person could create additional conflict for another.
• Sometimes, what we need to create our “Ah-Ha!” moment could be as simple as hearing the same inspiration, but with a different set of words or analogy.
• The strategies we use will change as we learn and grow as individuals; in other words, “What worked last time might not work this time.” Don’t give up. Keep learning, for in knowledge we will answer our questions and resolve our conflict.
• In loss, we have every right to grieve. We also have every right to heal.
• Though reaching out for inspiration and encouragement and knowledge is ever so beneficial, we must weave what is relevant to us, individually, and discard the rest; what I call Heal it Your Way.