We have a saying in our family “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. I am sure I must have heard it somewhere else, but for our family it started at Eliza’s kindergarten holiday party. She was SO excited to choose a Barbie for her gift exchange, and was brimming with anticipation of the gift she would receive in exchange. But, once she opened a perfectly lovely assortment of bubble bath, she looked up, tears just at the edge of her eyes, and with a a mingling of confusion and anger she said loudly “but…but…I didn’t want THIS.”
I saw an Eliza sized meltdown coming and in order to avoid being mortified, I hastily whispered a placating bribe of post school ice cream or a Target toy aisle run . As soon as she was buckled in the car a short time later, I began an explanation why that wasn’t an acceptable reaction to the situation, and I ended with “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” It didn’t take her long to use that phrase to her sister, when Abigael threw a fit about not getting the last of the “good” cookies. Dessert is something that gets taken pretty seriously in our house, especially by Abigael. In her little kindergarten singsong voice, with chocolate still in the corners of her mouth Eliza parroted that phrase back to Abigael and it has remained in use since then. Even to me, when they had the opportunity, and I think they reveled in saying it to me, just a little.
If I had the choice, my daughter would still be alive, and I would not know this loss, this brokenness. I would still be looking at life through a lens of comfortable familiarity. With trauma and the devastating powerlessness that accompanies it, comes an entirely different perspective of the world. But, the reality is I get what I get. I can’t change this outcome.
You know how you go to the eye doctor and they put that Viewmaster machine in front of you and they make some adjustments, put a lens in front of you and say “This one? Or this one?” It always feel like a trick question to me. They are often so similar to each other, one just a tiny bit clearer than the one before! And the pressure of choosing the wrong one! Then what? I just keep seeing life out of focus? I always wonder if they secretly know the right lens and are just trying to guide me to the new, better way I will view things.
I am pretty new to grief, only 96 days into navigating this journey, but I recognize that this is something that I will be doing, in some capacity, for the rest of my life. I have no control over the heartbreak and the pain that landed me here. I get what I get. I only have control of choosing the lens I need to help me negotiate this walk. I can view the set of circumstances life has handed me and see only the nightmarish facts of this loss. Or I can switch the lens and see the way that an entire community has banded together; I see the courage and determination of her 22 year old friends, showing wisdom and compassion beyond their years; I can see the gift of unending grace and patience from my other children as they learn to accept a new Mom; I see kindnesses continuing to be heaped upon our little family; I can see that I have reserves of strength that I did not know existed. I can choose to let the lens of goodness blur out some of the sharp edges of hurt and longing. With an ending, there is a beginning. I don’t know what this is the beginning of, but it feels like my daughter is the one behind the machine switching the lens and saying “This one? Or this one?”.
When I saw this photo amongst the photographer’s shots, I passed right over it, thinking it was an accidental shot of grass. Only when switching my lens, and zooming in did I see the beauty in this shot.