Thursday, April 16, 2009

Family Crucibles: A Paper

With finishing classes, taking tests, family events, preparing for finals..and eventually taking finals :D I haven't had much time to keep up with my blog (hence the several postings tonight), this is my final paper for my SFL 100 class (based on The Family: A Proclamation to the World), I was supposed to interview a family member about the crucibles they had, had in their life and and then talk about what they have learned from that and how I would like to react when I have crucibles in my life also. Out of the 3 papers I had to do this semester for this class this one was the one that I had the hardest time with, I really struggled with what to write and how to express my emotions through this paper, it was also the one that when I turned it in I felt not the most confident about, but strangely I received the best score on this one out of the three.

A crucible perspective is when we are able to use a severe test or trial to refine and purify our lives. For the purpose of my paper I will be looking at adversities such as illness, disability, infertility, and death. Adversity is something that we all experience; sometimes the challenges may seem bigger or smaller and oftentimes to those on the outside it may not seem like a hardship at all. But for those of us living in the moment, in the experience, in the middle of the crucible it is very real, often very painful, and we are hurting. How we are able to react to these experiences and how we are able to grow is where we can learn the most.

Crucible experiences seem to happen to all we know, but when I began to think of hard challenges and who I could talk to, the person that stood out the most in my mind was the accident of my father and talking to my mom. This particular crucible experience is very personal, close to my heart, as I also lived through it with my mom, my dad, and the rest of my family.

When I talked with my mom this is how she described the experience:

“We had lived a rather charmed life, with relatively few challenges, other than the normal childhood diseases, occasional broken bones, and friendships temporarily gone sour. So a few days after Christmas 2005, I was totally unprepared for a life-changing experience. My husband and youngest daughter had gone to a home twenty-five miles away to help move a family whose husband/father had died just two days before Christmas. A few hours after they left, our daughter called on her new cell phone (the one that I had all but boycotted her buying) to tell me that my husband had fallen down a flight of stairs, was still unconscious and was being transported to a hospital several miles further north. I had no car home so had to enlist my Visiting Teacher to drive me to the hospital and pick up another son on the way north. At the hospital we learned that my husband was severely brain damaged – beyond the capabilities of the small rural hospital to deal with; they were preparing him to be life-flighted to Portland, 150 miles away. The storms that night precluded life-flight, so he was loaded into an ambulance and began his life-and-death trip to Portland. I feared that he might die; I worried about what the future would hold if he didn't.”

After we discovered that he had brain damage many other things were also discovered: he had sleep apnea, cancer, and diabetes. My mom suffered the most. Gone was her husband that she loved and had married 36 years ago. Now she had a new husband, someone whom she learned to love also, but now he was not her partner. He didn’t help her decide on their problems; he wasn’t a shoulder for her to cry on; he was someone that she now had to care for.

When hard times happen in our lives there are many different perspectives or “way[s] of thinking about and making meaning of,” the events that we can take on in our lives: we can react with anger, shaking our hands at the heavens and demanding “Why? Why is this happening to me and my family?” or we can take on a more gospel-based, crucible perspective.

“It is natural to view adversity as a crisis, but by embracing a crucible perspective, we can recognize the sorrow and feelings of loss that accompany adversity while also acknowledging the potential for personal growth and enhanced family relationships.” Many times after my dad’s accident people would ask how we were doing, particularly my mom. One thing that always stuck out in my mind was her perspective on what was going on, not once did I ever see her raise her hands to the heavens and shake her fists at Heavenly Father and ask “Why? Why is this happening to me?” Instead she said, “It was something that did happen and I just had to make sense out of what my life had become -- immediately.”

I believe that my mom was able to have an eternal perspective. Though it was very hard for her much of the time, she was able to look at the positive that had come from this experience and how we have grown as a family. My mom has always been one to say, look at what has come from this: we discovered many other health problems that we may not have found otherwise (my dad was never big on going to the doctors). Since we have found these things, we have been offered more time with Daddy; sure it may not be the daddy that we were used to, but it is still him and we can love him and learn from him, also. There is some reason Heavenly Father let him stay on Earth and we must help him and us complete our missions here. Our relationships with each other have changed and have become stronger. Before my dad’s accident, my mom and I oftentimes could barely talk with each other; after it we talked several times a day. It also became important for us to talk with my other siblings -- often.

Growing up I always knew that my mom had a strong testimony in Heavenly Father and in the gospel but it was not something that was shared often in my home, at least not through words; it was many times shown through her love and actions. I have seen her testimony grow and have seen it become more apparent and important in her life. I have watched as she has read through many, many books the last several years, most by general authorities or other church authors. My mom and I talk nearly every day on the phone; as I think about our past conversations, so many of them include some kind of gospel topic.

The authors of the textbook, Strengthening Our Family, offer the following as an insight into how the gospel can affect our eternal perspectives: “The gospel of Jesus Christ offers an eternal perspective that helps families understand that there are profound purposes to the adversities of this life.” “Gospel principles offer spiritual comfort and a widening of perspective from one that is solely crisis- or coping-oriented, to one that includes the potential for growth and development.”

“While confronting life’s crucibles, exercising faith in Jesus Christ involves trusting that the Lord knows what is best for us and can direct our lives in those ways that will allow us to reach our fullest potential.”[5] That is something I have often heard my mom comment on, that though she may not understand why this has happened she doesn’t need to; she just needs to continue staying close to Heavenly Father and allowing him to help her with her life. One thing that always amazed me while growing up was that my parents taught me to serve and help others as much as I could. That was not something that changed with my dad’s accident; though my mom did realize that as much as she needed to help others, she too needed the help. “I learned, without fail, that I am a child of God and that he knows me, separately from everyone else. I learned that there are many people who need and are willing to reach out to help. We need each other. In the past, I haven’t needed people as much as I need them now. Up to a point, it is good to need people. I am more aware of that because of the other people that need me.” Many times I saw my mom crying, but immediately afterwards she would get up and begin searching for something that she could do, either to help our family or someone else.

My mom is a strong and amazing person. I did not always see that when I was younger and oftentimes did not appreciate her as much as I should have. But as I have grown older and have been able to watch her as she has dealt with each new problem that was discovered about my dad, with each succeeding time that he came close to dying, I saw her have an amazing outlook. I would have completely understood if my mom had reacted in anger, but not once have I seen it; I have learned from her that it is ok to have the hard times and to mourn them, but we cannot let the mourning take over who we are and what we do; we must be stronger than the adversity and lean towards the gospel and Heavenly Father. Elder Bruce C. Hafen wrote “Our understanding of the Atonement is hardly a shield against sorrow; rather, it is a rich source of strength to deal productively with the disappointments and heartbreaks that form the deliberate fabric of mortal life. The gospel was given to us to heal our pain, not to prevent it.”

I hope that as I grow older and I too encounter my own adversities that I will be able to not have a crisis perspective but that I will be able to take the perspective of my mom and find the positive in the adversity. I know from her that I can mourn but that it must not be my ending decision. I have seen that through her choices and perspective she is much happier than she could have been. It doesn’t erase what happened but it allows her to keep on living and to grow closer to Heavenly Father. Heavenly Father gives us these trials to help us grow; it is up to us to grow up instead of down from them. I am glad that I have my mom as a positive influence to help me grow up from my future adversities.

1 comment:

  1. Beth, this is excellent. I have no problem seeing why you got a good grade. I may be colored a bit by personal involvement in the story, but the paper has good organization, the transitions are smooth. For the most part, all the filler words have been edited out. Good job.