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Can We Recover… from Loss?

Can We Recover… from Loss?

Can We Recover… from Loss?

Can we recover from loss? I honestly struggle with this topic. Life takes from us just as savagely as we take from it. When we lose loved ones, the experience leaves holes in our hearts and blank spaces in our lives. When a loved one dies, random things give us pain. The jacket they wore. The shoes they worked out in.  Meaningless before, these items carry instant heartache. As a person of faith, I know recovering from loss requires acceptance and forgiveness; however, there was one death that still troubles me. A death that burdens me because it was a choice I made.

When I was young, in my late 20’s, my wife at the time was pregnant with our first child.  We planned to name him Brennan Bernard Fahey after my grandfather, a Baptist pastor, Bernard Lee Myers. (I fully accept he would have hated his middle name.) As first-time parents, we did our best to learn and understand the risks. We were careful. Late into her pregnancy, my wife was diagnosed with a rare and severe form of HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia. There was no cure or remedy to take. We had to deliver prematurely. The doctor was clear on his instructions to me. “One of them is going to die,” he said. A truth I was wildly unprepared for. There weren’t enough nutrients for both Brennan and my wife to survive. The longer he stayed inside her, the more depleted she would become, taking her closer to death, while also giving him the greatest chance to live. Brennan was so small they could not medically assist if he stopped breathing, so his chance of survival went up the longer he stayed in her belly. I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. How do I decide who dies? To my wife it was easy. Him. She was as stubborn as the syndrome that threatened their lives and was adamant about the choice, to her credit as a mother. I respect her greatly for how naturally this choice came to her. I worked with the medical team to give Brennan as much time in the womb as possible. We monitored my wife’s vitals. Finally, the choice was upon me. I had reached the line where my wife’s mortality was dangerously high. So, I chose. The doctors brought Brennan into this world, and he was so tiny – but alive. The medical team tempered our expectations, giving him no more than a couple hours before his little body gave out. Brennan surprised us all by living six hours longer than they expected. I felt proud. Proud to be the father of such a brave, strong boy. When he passed, that pride turned to shame. It was my choice that brought him into this world without enough time or strength to endure it. It was my choice to take my wife’s health to the brink, something she would still suffer from years later. This loss was hardwired to my psyche. I’ve spent years battling. I was given just a handful of hours with him. I have three kids today, all of whom are miracles in their own rite, and although my marriage to Brennan’s mom didn’t survive, we remain consistent co-parents to our boy/girl twins. This event happened 16 years ago, and I thought I would be wrestling with it my whole life … until I went to the Big As Texas Festival at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and met a woman named Lace Trout.

Lace Trout and her mother-in-law drove down from Dallas to the Big As Texas Festival for one reason – they wanted to see country music artist Anne Wilson perform. They met Lace’s best friend who flew in from Hawaii, donned their brown “Rebel” t-shirt’s from Wilson’s latest album, and on the final day of the festival – between tornado warnings and severe thunderstorms – they rushed to the front of the stage, lifted their hands as high as they could and sang every song Wilson played. I thought these women were just die-hard fans, until I saw Lace tear up. There was more there.

Lace Trout’s mother waited decades to find the love of her life. Season after season, she never gave up and along came a man who loved her the way she always imagined. She married him, planned their life together and fell into a state of earned bliss. This past October, not long after their marriage, he died during a tragic fishing accident. The family was devastated.

“We found out on a Saturday and prayed ‘Lord, I need you to show me what I need to do for her,’ said Trout after hearing of her stepfather’s death. In that moment, Wilson’s song “Strong” came on and Lace said that was her sign.

Lace sent her mom a different Wilson song each day until one day her mom called her, saying “Lace, I’m strong enough to handle this now.”

Lace discussed all of Anne Wilson’s songs, going through a seemingly endless playlist of music that connected Lace with hope, faith and belief. It was a soundtrack to her recovery and watching her there at Big As Texas, face-to-face with Anne Wilson, hands stretched high, celebrating life and love amidst the rain and storms … it hit me. That’s how you recover from loss. You choose to.

Loss is a fact of life that hits both continuously and yet always so unexpectedly – and it HURTS. The pain is unavoidable, and no matter what we think our role is when the loss occurs, it’s never in our control. It can connect us though. Sixteen years ago, I lost a son. At the Big As Texas Festival, I watched a family mourn the loss of their loved one. Through that loss, I instantly understood them and became just as connected with them as they were with Anne Wilson … a person equally connected to loss.

Wilson’s song “Seventh of June” is about losing her brother in 2017. A situation she calls her “greatest loss.” This loss also led to her calling as a singer. She mentions the pain and shock in multiple interviews but also refers to hearing God’s voice saying to trust Him. She turned her trust to God and felt peace, she said, despite the intense tragedy. At her brother’s funeral, she sang. She sang to God, she sang to her family, she sang to her friends. More than 1,200 people came to celebrate her brother’s life and that’s when Anne said God told her, her calling was to sing for Him. That moment, understood through loss, opened a professional career that helped millions of others find peace. A peace that Lace and her family found, and a peace I found watching Lace celebrate life with Anne at Big As Texas. It was surreal.

Can we recover from loss? We sure can. We just can’t fight it. We must surrender to a will greater than our own and find peace in the connection loss provides us with others. For me, that means trusting God’s plan for me the way both Anne and Lace trust His plan for them. A plan that led us all to a field in Montgomery County, celebrating life and loss through Anne’s music, while having faith the storms surrounding us would remain calm … a true, living metaphor if I’ve ever heard one. A miracle by every standard.

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