In 2010, Esra fell down a steep flight of stairs in her standing frame and landed on her head. A traumatic and frightening experience for everyone involved; we were sure there was some sort of internal damage. However, Esra arrived home from the hospital a few hours later with just a few scrapes on her face and a big bump on her forehead. It was as if angels had guided her fall and softened the blow. In the midst of this scary moment, we had just returned from Manhattan where Sam's Dad was recovering from surgery to remove an aggressive brain tumor. I wrote on the family blog,
'I'm still in such shock that [Esra's accident} happened but more so that its over and she's okay. After this week, one would think there would be more devastation and grief happening in this little family considering what has occurred. If we were trying to sell [newspapers], I guess the headlines would read: "Cancerous brain tumor leaves patriarch of family immobilized and hopeless." "Paralyzed little girl gravely injured after fall down stairs. Parents devastated." Instead, this is what is being written, "A bright future lies in store for optimistic fisherman and his family. Tumor removed successfully and replaced by immense joy, gratitude and love." And, also, "Brave and cheerful Esra, a little sore but very thankful and happy after frightening fall." '
Okay, so I am a terrible headline writer! But you get the point.
That week I had been studying a sermon entitled Finding Joy in the Journey by President Thomas S. Monson. (He was a modern-day prophet and leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An influential teacher he loved using poetry, prose and wonderful medium of the Broadway Musical to teach gospel principles.) He taught, "Our realization of what is most important in life goes hand in hand with gratitude for our blessings. Said one well-known author, 'both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend … when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that’s present—love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature, and personal pursuits that bring us [happiness]—the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience heaven on earth.'"
These words were such a buoy to me as I focused on how to sow gratitude and appreciation into my own secret garden.
My blog post continued, "I am learning a lot about tending my secret garden this week. I really don't know where to go next, because I feel compelled to dwell in the negative and be stunned and shocked and tell everyone "wo, is me", but, its not true. If there were a Gieger counter for ministering of angels, we'd be off the charts this week. The tender mercies that have come to [Sam's parents] are tangible. Sam and I have been watched over and blessed with immense abundance as we work through the events of the past week." We were holding on everyday to those tender mercies. Like manna, we need these angelic reassurances everyday to keep going. This can be best illustrated through the words of a song from the Broadway adaptation of the book, The Secret Garden.
When you see the storm is coming,
See the lightning part the skies,
It’s too late to run--
There’s terror in your eyes!
What you do then is remember
This old thing you heard me say:
“It's the storm, not you,
That’s bound to blow away.” …
Hold on. The night will soon be by.
Until there’s nothing left to try.
Child, hold on. There’s angels on their way!
Hold on and hear them say,
"Child, oh, child!” …
For those who know Esra, they would agree that her resilience and joy are like bright sunflowers in her secret garden. What they do not see very often is her fear and confusion that peak up in different places. However, her positivity and innocence are a protection to her as she experiences the discouragements that can come with isolation and exclusion. Lloyd D. Newell offered this additional thought in a recent Music and the Spoken Word: "Our garden may seem to be filled with weeds and thorns, but it is also filled with the potential to become lush and fragrant and beautiful. Even when life seems dark and hopeless, with some patient care and attention, things can always change for the better."
Maybe this season of Thanksgiving be one of joy and simplicity as you tend your own secret garden. And remember, "There's angels on their way!"