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My friend’s 5-year-old daughter suddenly died: her response left me speechless

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Beautiful people are not the ones you see on the cover of magazines. In the words of author Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Whether you have suffered the unjust loss of a child, a husband, a wife, a sister, a mother, a father, or a friend, the defeat and suffering can be unbearable.

"The beauty in suffering is like no other. Try not to ever be afraid of it. The grace is consuming and is the direct effect of His infinite mercy. And His infinite mercy is the direct effect of His profound and transcendent Love. And it is this Love that my daughter ran towards."

Four years ago, a friend’s daughter died at age five from an unexpected and sudden illness. When I read that quotation I think of her. She has the piercing reminder in her heart every minute about the preciousness of life and how little control we have over it.

Four years ago, a few months before this incident, I woke from death after suffering an amniotic fluid embolism. Although I had a tremendous and oftentimes unbearable amount of physical suffering, I awoke to good news. I lived. It didn’t matter how much pain I was in; I could find joy in the news that I survived death. It was easy to have appreciation, sensitivity, gentleness, and a newfound deep loving concern for life. It was easy to praise God.

But how does one become beautiful when they receive the worst news of their lives? How does one find their way out of the depths when they feel defeat or when the pain of loss feels so crippling? How does one find ease in praising God in the midst of their suffering?

I wish I had the answer for you. Those that have found their ways out of the depths are our living examples.

My friend is beautiful: Not because she is perfect and not because she has it all figured out. The loss of her child breaks her heart daily, but somehow there is an undeniable beauty about her.

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How can such an ugly situation as the death of a child make one beautiful?

Maybe the answer lies in Luke 1:30. “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’”

We can look to God’s relationship with Mary, the most beautiful woman of all time. Mary was the woman chosen to bear Christ himself. But, that was not all she was chosen for. She was also chosen to watch her own son die a horrific, unfair death in front of her own eyes and hold his beaten and dead body in her arms afterwards. She knew loss and suffering. How could God choose her for this? When people suffer, sometimes they wonder, “What did I do to deserve this kind of pain and suffering?” We could ask the same of Mary. What did she do? But, we know God wasn’t punishing her. Quite the contrary, as we learn from the scripture above, he chose her and even found “favor” with her. God loved Mary, yet allowed her to suffer a tremendous loss. Her sacrificial suffering became a witness to all of pure beauty.

Soon after my friend’s daughter died, she wrote these words,

Despite how it may appear from the outside, I cannot say I wish I was not experiencing this suffering because in it, I come face to face with my Jesus and that, my friends, is the will of God - his perfect and loving will. I would tremble in the past imagining suffering like this, and never understood when others would talk about the beauty in it. But it is true. I sit here and I can't believe what I am typing. The beauty in suffering is like no other. Try not to ever be afraid of it. The grace is consuming and is the direct effect of His infinite mercy. And His infinite mercy is the direct effect of His profound and transcendent Love. And it is this Love that my daughter ran towards.

Do you have any idea how unfathomable that reality is for a mother to say? My daughter, when she saw Jesus RAN towards the greater Love. I think, "Whose love could be greater for a child than her own mother's?" A child does not easily trust someone. A child runs to her mother when she is unsure, afraid, happy, excited, hurt, and etc. There she knows she is safely and unconditionally loved. And yet, my daughter, when she saw our Lord went RUNNING, not to me, her mother, but to her God.

What kind of Love must this be? I desire to know it more and to give it more. If a child is clearly drawn and can recognize the magnitude of this perfect Love, then I too must become like a child. And this is how my daughter carries me now. She showed me with her time on earth and she shows me now as she sits next to her Daddy God's throne; she is setting the path before me to recognize the greater Love; for as Scripture says, we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For a soul that goes home as a child is given the privilege very few are given. They are given the glory of being united to Jesus' innocent death. Only a child can be given such an honoring gift. Jesus died innocently and only a child can receive that crown in union with our Lord. My child! Help mommy to become little like you.

As we enter more fully into the season of Lent may we reflect deeply on Christ’s suffering. May we see ourselves through the eyes of a loving God who suffers with us in our struggles and when we cling to him and join our suffering to the cross, may beauty emerge and crush all that may cripple us. Let us become like children who run towards the greater love.

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Melanie Pritchard

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Melanie has spoken nationwide to thousands of people at many churches, schools and organizations about modesty, chastity, dignity of life issues, and marriage.  She has a Master’s Degree in Education: Curriculum and Instruction and is the Founder of Vera Bella Catholic Girls’ Formation Program and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Life and Love. She is the author of, The Day I Died, a book about her survival after suffering an amniotic fluid embolism. To help people send positive messages with their clothing, in 2002 she created a clothing line called “Refuge Clothing Co.” which has now dissolved into Shop Vera Bell.