One principle I have become more acutely familiar with in the last two years is that of opposition. That is the principle that part of our mortal existence is experiencing opposites so that we may understand and feel and know the difference between them. For example, we must know hunger to know a satisfied appetite, we must know pain to appreciate pleasure, we must know sickness to feel the full joy in health.
I thought I understood this principle before. When Camille died, my understanding of this principle took a flying leap off what seemed like a never ending cliff. There was so much pain in her loss and in her absence. How could I ever feel full joy again? Even when we are having the happiest moments in life there will be sadness and pain at her not being with us to experience them. No experience will ever feel complete again. So how in the world could my joy ever be greater for having experienced this pain?
And so for the last two years I have been learning day by day about some of the answers to these questions I had then. Some great answers came from a 20 page discourse that my sister-in-law's uncle wrote years ago on why bad things happen to good people. In it he stated that this life is trial and the full joy to match our pain only really fully comes in the next life. That satisfied my questions according to my former understanding of this principle.
But I have come to understand a different aspect of this principle. I am writing about it now because Mother's Day was a perfectly encapsulated example of my new understanding. I had the best mother's day I have ever had. But it was not without pain and sadness. Maybe I can best explain by telling you about my day and the progression of my feelings.
Jonathan let me sleep in and kept the whole house really super quiet so that I really could sleep in. It was wonderfully refreshing to sleep until my own natural waking time. Once I got up, Jon made me a smoothie for breakfast. My girls had a surprise for me that they had been working on for over a week. They each had made a book of pictures of my favorite things (number, color, sport, hobby, etc.) Jonathan gave me a Flip camera I had wanted. He gave it to me so I could record a play the girls had written and rehearsed and then performed for me.
Jonathan with the Flip Camera
The play was so cute. They had seats for Dad and I and had scripted out "The Perfect Mother's Day" to perform for us in the playroom. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the drawings and the handmade beaded bracelet Annie made me. Annie also wrote a poem for me, which she performed with actions after the play. It was so dear and made me feel so loved and like I was actually doing something right as a mother.
Later at church there was a talk that pointed out how Eve was named "the mother of all living" before she ever gave birth. So, all women are born with the mothering ability and call whether they have children or not. Then I watched as Sabrina guided Lauren up to the stand to sing with all the primary children. I watcher her shuffle Lauren into a position where I could see her and instruct Annie to take care of her. Sabrina then went to a place where she could be seen and not be in the way of other little kids. Annie stood right behind Lauren with her arms wrapped around Lauren so Lauren would not be scared. I felt the joy of watching my own little girls "mothering" their sister.
My Little Mothers
Later that night we met together with all of Jon's family for dinner. As we were leaving, my niece Aubrey gave me a big hug goodbye. She was born a few months after Camille and is Camille's closest cousin in age. Then I watched her lay on her father's shoulder as he carried out to the car.
I have missed the 14 month old Camille all along this journey through grief. But yesterday I missed the cards she would never send, the pictures she would have drawn, the loves she would have given, the performances she would have given, the mothering she would have done. I had SO much joy in my children yesterday. More joy than I could have known if I had never lost Camille. I appreciated each moment and every hug BECAUSE I feel the pain, simultaneously of missing the same loves from Camille. I guess before I just didn't understand that you can feel so much joy when it is seasoned with sorrow in the very same moment. But just as salt can heighten and enhance the sweetness of many desserts, pain and sorrow can enhance and magnify the feelings of joy in happy moments.
I am sure there are more facets to this principle that I have yet to fully understand. I have been enrolled in a lifetime course to examine the subject from every angle. But I wanted to record and share how Mother's Day 2010 helped me realized that not all the benefits and full joys that are supposed to come as a result of opposition are reserved for the next life. Even when the sorrow will be life long, it can help us feel greater joy in what we have today.