I’m an ordinary person just like you, trying to keep up with life and make the most of every day. Usually, we wake up each morning with plans for what we need or want to do that day. We get ourselves in gear and begin to put the day’s plan in motion without every thinking life might throw us a curve ball. Then one day, we get that pitch. If you’ve ever received news that puts you in a state of shock, you know how it feels to be left wondering how you can possible handle what was just thrown your way.
From Desert to Daughter’s Side – The Army, moving with quickness and compassion, speeds a father from the front lines of Saudi Arabia to be with his 4-year-old daughter just diagnosed with leukemia. February 2, 1991
Twenty-one years ago, those were the opening words of an article written in the LA Times about my granddaughter, Brittany Engle. For my family, this was the beginning of the most heartbreaking experience of our lives.
The day before Brittany became so ill, my daughter and I had taken her shopping for new clothes. She was to start a new preschool the next morning. When I went to wake them that morning, I learned that Brittany had been up all night with a temperature that went to the top of the thermometer. My daughter took her to the doctor that morning. From there, she was rushed to the hospital. Well, the next morning school began, but not the school we had planned on. That morning was the beginning of some very difficult lessons in the “school of life.”
In the beginning, the doctors felt she had a good chance of beating this disease. Their words were encouraging and that gave us hope. Every day we prayed that she would get through this and live a healthy life. Watching a small child fight for their life, is heart wrenching, but we did our best to stay hopeful.
Two and a half months later, we lost our little Brittany. She passed away two weeks after her fifth birthday at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). If you’ve gone through this kind of heartache, you know the pain that goes with it. There is no easy way to get through this type of devastation.
After her passing, I needed a way to express what was going on inside me and writing seemed to be the answer. It was a way of releasing my anger and sadness without bothering anyone else. As I wrote, I realized how much my faith and beliefs were being tested. I though I knew what I believed in, but realized I wasn’t sure. Confusion and anger were holding me back and keeping me from moving through the grief. I knew I had to figure out what I believe in, otherwise, I had nothing to grasp on to, nothing to help pull me up and over the edge.
For the last twenty years, I kept a journal. My writing consisted of my inner struggle to figure out what I believed in and find peace with this loss. I also wrote about the many events that happened to me that most would call a coincidence. For many years, I too called them just that because I was afraid to grasp onto those moments and give them meaning for fear it was just my wishful thinking. Then, one day, something told me to go back and read what I had been writing about all those years. I was quite surprised to see that the answers I had been looking for were right there on the pages of my journal. All that time, Brittany had been sending messages by way of “coincidental” events and all that time, she was watching and waiting for me to just get it.
Once I stopped asking for proof that what I was experiencing was real, it became easier to understand the messages without the need for conscious reasoning. I no longer needed to question or justify my interpretation of these events because I knew I had become a part of a divine connection. Once I opened my heart and mind to believing, a new world of peace was mine.
My book Brittany’s Rose is the story of my healing journey. It’s about a little girl and the power of a pink rose. It will teach you about faith, hope, and prayer and learning to believe in something greater than your self. It’s about believing in the unbelievable.
Our loved ones are still within our reach because there is no distance between souls. We just have to learn to touch them in a different way.
Mary Jane Clayton 2012