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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The souls who surround me

I spent the end of last week at a Girls' Camp for the young women from Church. Along with the camp directors, I helped plan and put together a special faith-promoting activity for the last night. To our surprise, when we arrived at the camp, the couples who are the year-round care-takers had set up a smaller version of the same type of obstacle course we had plans to carry out. They were generous enough to take as many of the leaders through as possible, allowing us to experience the course for ourselves, to put ourselves in the shoes of the girls. It was an incredibly enlightening experience.

We started off being instructed about what we were about to experience - we would be blindfolded, we needed to be quiet while blindfolded, there would be uneven ground, we'd have a rope that would get us from the beginning to the end, there'd be some challenges along the way, but as long as we held onto the rope, we'd make it safely to the end. Once there, we'd need to stay blindfolded and quiet until told otherwise.

They had us put on the blindfolds and almost immediately I felt a hand gently take mine and guided me to the starting point. As we walked there, the woman's soft whisper offered some final reminders and words of encouragement and then she placed my hand on a rope. It was dark and disorienting to be without my eyesight. Relying solely on sound and touch proved to be much more confusing and frustrating than I expected. I came to a couple of dead ends, but really had no idea that's what they were and wasn't sure initially how to respond. Do I turn back and retrace my steps and how far back do I have to go? Is there another rope connecting that I just haven't found? I knew better than to let go of the rope, so I did go back and both times immediately found other connecting routes that finally led me to the end. There, after fumbling around, wondering if I'd reached another dead end, I felt a hand along with a voice that whispered, "Welcome home!"

I was guided to a bench, where I sat waiting for the others in my little group to come through. At one point, the woman who was our guide came back and asked for my blindfold for another person that had come to do the course. Without my blindfold, I couldn't help but look back on the course I'd just struggled through. It was so short and looked so simple and straightforward. There was nothing truly complicated about it. And, I found myself questioning - Why was that so hard? Why was I so worried and confused? Why did I not enjoy the process with a little more trust? I should have enjoyed it more!

And, then as I was reflecting on my response to the experience, I started watching the final person struggling to find the right path, making many of the same mistakes I had made. And that's when I saw something I hadn't had the perspective to see for myself while blindfolded and in the thick of it. That struggling girl was surrounded by helpers. Our guides were at the dead ends, they were standing next to the cliff drop-offs, they were watching our every step, ready to intervene and redirect if we were in danger or distress.

And, that was when I wished I could get the tiniest glimpse of who those unseen souls (or angels) are that surround me through this real-life experience I'm in right now. How have I been protected from danger without even knowing it? Who has quietly assured me through my doubts? When have I received heavenly encouragement that I wasn't even aware of? As I pondered all of this, I felt sure that at least at times, if not continuously, there are two souls who will one day call me mother who are much closer to me now than I can fully comprehend. I've always felt that to some degree, but watching this simulation of life play out before my eyes, it just felt so true and so right.

Last night, as the first wave of grief hit me and I couldn't help but relive the events from seven years ago, I recounted some of this Girls Camp experience to Marc as we waited for sleep to come. I told him that I didn't like feeling sad for my loss because I know it's all okay, but at the same time if Elliana and Emmaline are surrounding me today - on their birthday - then I'd want them to see my tears and to know how much I love and miss them. But, I also want them to know that I'm okay, that I have the firmest hope of one day having the blessing of being their mother through the eternities.

I feel comforted knowing that they are in a safe place.  Just as we surrounded each other to get through this day, I hope that they had their own fellow angels to surround them today, too. Surely their Papa Carson and all sets of their great-grandparents, and their Uncle Robbie, just to name a few. But, surely, for them it isn't as hard or sad, since they have a much clearer perspective of this course of life we're in right now.

If I can only remember what I felt as I looked back on the simulation - recognizing how short the experience really was and wishing I had just enjoyed it more. So, that's exactly what I'm going to try to do today. And for the rest of the todays I have left until I see my girls again and then we can look back together on this life and they can recount for me all the moments they were with me through it all.

As for today, I just feel so grateful to have so much to live for and so much to hope for, being surrounded on both sides with the most precious of souls.