When a Child Dies #6 . . . Jenny
For today’s post in this series, I’ve asked my friend Rick Ross to write about the journey he and Beverly have been on since the sudden loss of their daughter, Jenny Bizaillion. Here are his powerful words:
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Two years ago today, my family was halfway through the roller coaster ride of our 31-year old daughter Jenny’s struggle for her life. The previous week she had gone to the doctor, been diagnosed with the swine flu, and sent home with a prescription of Tamiflu.
Three days later, she was much worse. At the hospital we discovered that she had been misdiagnosed. Actually, she had Group-A strep, and it had gone untreated for days – throwing her body into septic shock. It ravaged her body like a wildfire. After a cruel battle, she went to be with Jesus on February 22, 2010.
As my wife and I walked down the ICU hallway after leaving Jenny’s room, Beverly asked, “What do we do now?” Being the task-oriented person I am, I thought she was referring to making arrangements. But what she meant was, “How do we do life now?” “How do we take our next step?” “How do we breathe our next breath?” Beverly is a licensed marriage and family therapist, so she knew that grieving would be difficult physically and emotionally. But as she later said, “What I didn’t anticipate was the spiritual eruption. Death created a spiritual earthquake and left me searching through the rubble to find the remnants of my faith.”
Paula D’Archy once said, “I know this, you can’t die from crying . . . or I’d be dead.” Never having been a crier, I have now come to appreciate her words over the last couple of years. Just a couple of weeks after Jenny’s death, my oldest son, Josh, a minister in Memphis, TN, called me one Sunday morning and said that we, a family of ministers, would be “playing wounded” for a while. He reminded me of how Emmitt Smith played one of his greatest games with a separated shoulder. And I totally understand and agree with what Josh said, as two years later we continue to “play wounded.” But many are the times I have thought that I would rather play with a separated shoulder than with a broken heart.
Still, I often think of something Jenny said several years ago as she struggled with secondary infertility. She said, “I want people to remember me as someone who, even when she didn’t get her way, praised the Lord.” And that is what we as a family choose to do. As Beverly has said, “Our family has been called to do hard, so we will do hard.”
Being a minister, I have come to view grief in a totally different light. Grief that, too often, I had naively assumed passed in a couple of months. I had mourned the death of my father and my father-in-law. But I had never known grief – not like this. Now, when I hear about a teenager killed in a car wreck or a young mother who died of breast cancer, my first thoughts go to the families. Oh, what grief!
Paul asked the question in 1 Corinthians 15, “O death, where is your sting?” I can tell him. It is piercing the hearts of people who lose loved ones. Oh, I know that through Jesus, the sting has been ultimately removed. But it sure feels like a swarm of killer bees right now.
There are so many spiritual things that I used to KNOW that I don’t know anymore. Lots of things I once had tied up – that now look like a fishing reel when it has “bird-nested.” But I am taking the advice of a fellow minister, John Scott, who told Beverly and me to “learn to be content in the mystery.” I am learning to live the words of Anselm of Canterbury, who once prayed, “I do not try to understand you so that I can trust you. I trust you so I can understand you.”
Some people have insinuated that they will be glad when Beverly and I “get back to normal.” I know they mean well and only have our best interests at heart. But what they need to know is that this IS our new normal. Our lives have been forever changed by the events of two years ago. In some ways, even for the better. I am a better minister today as I walk with the bereaved. And my faith has been put to the test in such a way that I no longer wonder how I would respond in the face of real persecution. I have learned what trust REALLY means. That word is huge to me today. Trust. And hope. And peace.
So, back to Beverly and me as we walked out of ICU that day nearly two years ago. We stopped in the hallway and looked into each other’s eyes. She said, “Remind me what we believe.” And I stood in that moment speechless. It seemed like an eternity, although it was only a second or two. “Remind me what we believe.” And in that moment, with all of the theological positions and views I have often thought were so important, only four words came from my mouth: “The tomb is empty.” In THAT rests all my hope and all my peace.
I close with my daughter’s life verse. It is Romans 15: 13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”