My dear friend Kate is laughing again.
The first time I met Kate her daughter Daisy was going though cancer. Kate’s long, gorgeous hair and bronze complexion standing next to her surfer husband make them a stereotypical stunning couple from California. Their beauty wasn’t one of intimidation, however. Their beauty didn’t invoke envy. Their beauty was deeper than skin deep.
Their beauty invited others into their story.
Years later I took a job in California, and even though traffic and miles separated us, our hearts continued to connect. Kate, an avid reader, bought me a copy of Ann Voskamp’s 1000 gifts, and remained a constant source of joy and encouragement to me. In the midst of Kate’s challenging season, she was clinging to her faith and encouraging me in mine. When all seemed hard, Kate was holding on.
In 2013 I drove up to Kate’s hometown in California to sit behind her at her daughter’s funeral. You’ve heard this grief before, one of parents burying a child. Such grief is too deep for words, and so I will let Kate be the one to tell you the story.
But from my perspective, Kate stood up. In her moment of grief, with laments too deep for words, Kate stood up at her daughter’s funeral, and spoke of her life in a beautiful and glorious way.
Only Jesus gives us life in the midst of death. Only God can give us strength when hours before we didn’t know if we could stand.
Years into this grief (a grief that continues because Daisy is and will forever be missed) Kate is laughing again. Her first book, “And Still She Laughs” gives us hope that we can live fully – even joyfully – in the middle of overwhelming pain.
Kate Merrick is not only a friend, she bears a testimony of a faithful God who doesn’t keep us in a lament forever. May we all persevere after life’s hardest storms. And may we learn, like Kate, to laugh again.
A MESSAGE FROM KATE:
Perspective is a giver. Comparison takes. Perspective is generous. Comparison pares down the loveliness of your life until it appears a thin shred of its former glory. Perspective carries us through life laughing. Comparison evokes cursing and frowns and grumbling.
Perspective says that I got eight years with the dearest little fairy a mama could hope for. Comparison says I got ripped off. Perspective says going to Israel was a gift to our family, the magic of extra time away together that melded us closer as a family amid every bite of hummus, every impatient honk and Hebrew profanity aimed at us, every car ride through pockmarked villages. Comparison says the three months we spent in Israel heaped hardship upon hardship, needlessly stretching paper-thin nerves. Perspective says we are blessed that Daisy didn’t die in obscurity but with the support of thousands who prayed and loved and sacrificed for her, who felt our pain and remember her beauty. Comparison says I don’t care if your kids learned compassion through her story; your kid is still right there with you and mine is gone.
One night in early November, just a week or so before we left Israel, Daisy and I were lying in bed together. There we were, under the thin borrowed covers, two bodies pressed into one another like spoons. Her form was so small, so spindly. Her hair was about an inch long, a fair, silky fleece she worked so hard to grow. In the stillness, we had late-night discussions of things an eight-year-old should never have to think about. And we breathed, together as one body, as if she were still in my womb, covered by my heartbeat.
We had been staying in a rental home in a hilltop town called Zikhron Ya’akov, a half Orthodox and half Muslim, Gentile, and good old-fashioned heathen town. We were nearing the end of our time there and Daisy didn’t seem to be getting much better. We had watched the sky metamorphose from dusky tan, melting into the land without border, to a more vivid blue, dotted with clouds pregnant with the necessary elements to bring life to the earth. The dramatic clouds were bold and fierce and full of emotion, much like every Sabra in Israel, much like us toward the end of our journey there. And those clouds let loose.
Thunderstorms in Israel during that time of year are breathtaking. They are loud, torrential, electrifying. As we lay in the darkness together, the room lit up. The storm was over our heads, and the decibel level was more than I’d ever experienced. The rain came in sheets through the black night, violently entering the atmosphere, piercing the cracked earth. It was the thunderstorm of thunderstorms, a display of the magnitude that is creation, contrasted with the frailty of humanity.
That night was a gift to me. The tears, the bravery of my shattered daughter, the way she melted into me—all of it a gift. I had no assurance of anything other than the God of heaven, his sovereignty, his fearsome might. And so I chose in that moment not to shrink from the lightning but to see the beauty in its potency. To not lose the magic of the moment by agonizing further about my daughter’s declining health. I chose to feel the warmth between us, to see the artful images the shadows on the wall were creating, to connect with the gift that was my firstborn daughter—who was still very much alive, still able to be enjoyed.
That terrifying yet wondrous night was like so much of life. Sometimes a few smudges mess up the shiny days, but other times the most priceless gift exists smack-dab in the middle of the worst. A clarity of vision, seeing the bigger picture painted by a generous God, makes all the difference. Just as I learned all these crucial things during the fight for Daisy’s life, I have learned to carry this over into my post-Daisy world of grief. It makes the sad days bearable and the average days magical. Life blooms radiant in the times I choose perspective over comparison, when I see poop for what it is, and let the storm wash it clean.
Allie & me visiting Daisy during one of her treatments.
Picture taken by Kate.