Saturday, December 29, 2012

AVERYday: Perfectly Imperfect - Part 17

Last night I had to force myself to sift through two months worth of mail. Because it's already been two months. Do you know what comes in the mail in two months? Reminders for a bi-annual dental cleaning appointment that will never be made. Bills for braces that will never come off. The summer camp catalog where you'll find the perfect volleyball camp that will never be attended. There will also be unsolicited invitations to contact attorneys who will help you win millions of dollars in a wrongful death suit.

Amongst the mail will be reminders: of the orchestra concert you were planning on taking your daughter to. Of the paint colors you were going to paint her room. And an extra Keep Kids Safe card you can keep in your wallet that has her name and photo on it. And then you will remember that you have one in your wallet already and it did not keep her safe.

You will cry, of course. I mean, that happens all the time now. But just when you think you can't handle it a second longer; just when you think you'll never be able to complete a simple task like sort through paperwork again, just when you think all the breath has been syphoned out of your lungs and you will never take another breath again - you'll be gifted something beautiful:

A simple reminder of who she really was and why her life was so important. And you'll smile thinking how did she get this good? And, feeling good in an otherwise awful moment, you'll post that hidden gem that came exactly when it was needed to your Facebook feed, because all the other mommies of the alive children are posting what their kids are doing and you want to post things about your child, too, even though she's gone.

If anyone followed my blog and Facebook before Avery's death, they'd be the first to tell you I most often share the things about my family normal people would rather keep quiet. I've been open and willing to throw my family under the bus for the sake of a laugh. I wasn't someone that presented my children, my life or myself as having it all together. Instead, I concentrated on the annoyances and the fact that my family drove me absolutely crazy. I lost count how many times I proclaimed "I cannot wait until they grow up, I get my house all to myself and get to do things my way."

If I were brutally honest with myself I would have to admit that if I had found that same little piece of paper scribbled all over with tween handwriting when Avery was alive I would have quietly thrown it away. (She did that stuff all the time.) Instead, I would have posted the one where the doodles looked highly inappropriate and risque. Because I wanted that laugh.

If I were to be brutally honest with myself I would have to admit that I failed to give voice to Avery's faith and love for God during her life. I failed to acknowledge and embrace who she fully was; I only picked out the parts that I personally felt comfortable with. And now, in her death, I have a choice whether or not to give her faith a voice... or to keep it silent.

And then today I received a message from someone who needed to let me know they are struggling with how Avery has been recently portrayed. That while she was beautiful, she was not perfect and that she was being turned into a god. And that they had to sit their kids down and give it to them straight: Avery was not perfect. If they wanted to look up to someone, it should be Christ, not Avery.

Man, I gotta tell you. That hit harder than the woman who told me I was grieving incorrectly. I wanted to scream - but I didn't know what exactly I would cry out. I mean, really? My daughter died two months ago; this is the hardest Christmas I've ever had to face; I ache with every fiber of my being for my child I will never see, speak to, hold, smell, kiss again; I am full of anxieties and fears of Jadrian's future - legally, emotionally - and yet that's not enough? You really needed to point out that my deceased daughter wasn't perfect?

I'm frustrated and angry and I hate that my family has to navigate this grief. I hate that I sob in the shower and I hate how Jadrian had to take the ACT just a few short weeks after her sister died and she couldn't concentrate on a single question. I hate that Matt is awkward and unknowing in how to comfort us. I hate how we had Christmas and the person who loved Christmas the most wasn't even there. I hate that I don't know what to say or how to be strong. I hate how I got the pity handshake today before my five o'clock meeting. I hate that I even have to go to meetings and pretend I comprehend what people are saying. But most of all, I hate how people feel compelled to tell me I'm doing it wrong.

I sat for awhile - shocked mostly. Then self-consciously doubting myself: what if I was doing it wrong? What if I was painting this picture perfect image of a child who was, well, not? And so I processed this the only way I knew how: by writing a response.

Oh, Avery certainly was NOT perfect - and I certainly never intended to present her that way. It seems wrong, somehow, for me to focus on her faults – (she had them for sure!) - when I think that the entire world would do better if we focused on each other's strengths. But I can see how a continuous stream of "oh look at this good thing she did" can give the impression I thought she was perfect. Avery could be lazy, whiney, annoying, needy, dirty, snotty and frustrating.

Her room was unorganized and unkempt - but her heart was orderly with love for God first and then love for others neatly behind that.

She whined that she didn't like the food I cooked for supper, pleading instead to go to McDonald's - but she feasted on the word of God, choosing to read her bible more than any other book written.

She hated noisy places, begging to leave and having near breakdowns when we wouldn't - but the stillness and peace in her mind was where she found God.

She'd wear the same pants, same shoes and a baggy t-shirt every single day, not caring what her hair looked like or what others thought of her outwardly appearance - but she  lived believing the world was blind; what mattered was on her inside, how she treated others.

Did she do all of this perfectly? No. There were days when she wasn't the nicest kid, when she wasn't the friendliest, when she was a mere mortal and had a grumpy look on her face and was annoyed at the world.

No, I do not believe she was perfect.

I apologize if that's what my posts have been portraying. I do sincerely apologize for anything I've said or done that implies I (and therefore others) ought to turn Avery into a god.

She was my child. And she was good and bad. And I was lucky because during most of my experiences with her the good outweighed the bad. That doesn't mean someone else didn't experience things with her which would cause them to say, "THAT child?! Oh, trust me - that child was NOT that great!"

But she WAS my child. Past tense. I don't get her anymore. I don't get to hold her. Or touch her. Or get annoyed because she won't put her bowl in the kitchen because damn it - I want my living room to look presentable. I don't get to ride through her good side any more than I get to ride through her bad side. So, I guess it's kind of up to me to decide if I want to focus on her good parts or her bad parts. And I chose to focus on her good. Because her good was all about GOD and I can’t go wrong with that.

She wanted the world to know that you could love God in a way that was unashamed and real and messy and everything less than perfect.

I never forced Avery to love God or be who she was. She was just as God intended her to be: not perfect. Not a god. And, sadly, not with me.

I, again, am incredibly sorry for portraying a false image of Avery. It was never my intention at all. But it WAS and IS my intention to be her voice. And her voice focused on a faith I really need to rely on right now.

But I still didn't feel better. Not even after I hit send.

Do I think Avery was perfect? No. But is that disproven because I chose to show the world a side of my daughter they hadn't seen before?  

I thought about all the role models we have in the world. Past presidents and people of influence. Compassionate careworkers and people who volunteer at soup kitchens; missionaries and women of faith who speak at conferences -- people who encourage us to think about how we live our lives, how to be better people, how to be more Christ-like... and you know what? They aren't perfect. But their imperfections shouldn't overshadow the message they're trying to share with the world. 

The best part about the bible is that it is FILLED with imperfect people that loved God. Are we to take our children to church and then point out that it was great they just learned that Sunday School story - but the character was not perfect.

Yes, I get it. Only God is perfect and therefore we should strive to be like God. It's the whole "What Would Jesus Do?" campaign. But... what if you don't know Jesus? What if you honestly don't know what Jesus would do? That would be like me suggesting you do what Franklin Pierce would have done in some situation. If you don't know who Franklin Pierce is, that advice means nothing.

So, wouldn't it be great if we had some people walking the earth that we could point to as someone doing a fairly good job? Someone we could get to know and learn from? Regardless of whether or not they were perfect? And allow that person to bring us closer to God?

Avery never judged others. She was friends with everyone: the girl with dark skin, the shy girl who struggled with learning, the boy who was picked on for not being athletic enough. She looked past their outward appearances and straight into their soul. Don't worry: I don't think that Avery was perfect. But I do believe that God loved all her imperfections perfectly. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could love (and learn from) people with imperfections , too?


KIT said...

She was perfectly Avery. I hate that you've had to apologize for grieving. This blog has been such a spiritual awakening for me.

Rebecca said...

I'm so sorry people put you in that position. You are absolutely grieving your daughter correctly. You are grieving her perfectly, because that is the only way you *can* grieve her. It was inappropriate for anyone to tell you otherwise.

Please continue to talk about her any way you wish. Of course she wasn't perfect, but if what you need at this time is for your wounded mother's heart to talk about the best of Avery, then do that. You shouldn't have to hear those things, and people need to handle their personal issues without involving you. That is not okay.

I'm so sorry.

You are doing fine. You are doing all you can. ((hugs))

Jessica Gibson said...

Avery was just who God intended her to be, in life and in death.No one is perfect, and I don't feel that you ever tried to portray her that way. Besides how could her life and love for God help people if all you focused on where the negatives of her life?

Joy Powers said...

The nerve of that woman. She should've dealt with her children herself and kept you out of it.

I have some 4 letter words for her...

Unknown said...

I've read every one of your posts since Avery's death. And I admire you. I read your words, and they affect how I see things in my own life. If a person does not agree with you and your view, they are welcome to leave, but no one, EVER, has the right to tell you how do grieve. You? Grieve better than anyone I have known. Healthy. And with generosity, to us, your readers.

Chiconky said...

I'm with Joy. But that's neither here nor there. I, for one, have been so inspired by your stories about Avery's pure, simple love for God. And I don't think for a moment that you've ignored or glossed over the fact that she was a kid. I'm sorry that you felt like you had to apologize for the way you choose to memorialize her.

Unknown said...

Your posts have been helpful to many people. I did not get the impression that Avery was perfect in your blogs. I knew her and it has been nice to hear more about her. You can not allow one person's negative comment stop you from writing what you feel or believe. If someone takes issues with your blog tell them they do not need to read it then....

Brenna said...

I can't begin to comprehend what goes through a person's mind to make them believe they have a right to tell you how you should be grieving or how you ought to portray your daughter, deceased or not. She is yours, she is the perfect daughter for YOU, and maybe my being angry isn't helpful or the response you were hoping for from your readers, but I have felt so gifted to be reading your words, so grateful that you've shared this much with the world. I hope that soon you find a way to not doubt yourself when someone decides to advise you in something as personal as your own emotions. The response you gave was far more than she deserved.

Rebecca said...

The one drawback with letting everything out in a very public way is opening yourself up to criticism when you aren't able to let it roll off like water off a duck's back the way you used to. This is her personal problem due to her personal beliefs - it really has nothing to do with you. You'll probably have a few others criticize as time goes on, just try to remember that it's their issue, not yours.

Unknown said...

Let me begin by saying before Avery's passing I would not have thought to use Bible verses to make my point. But the truth is there for us. Bridget I was so filled with anger for the women you speak of in your blog that I had to take time before responding. PROVERBS 21:23 "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble."
As for these women who have NO right to voice their opinions on your grieving/healing process, I suggest MATTHEW 12:36 "I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak."
So, I hope writing about this has brought you some healing from their careless and hurtful word. I also pray you can use the kind and loving words from us, your friends, to find solace. PROVERBS 12:18 "There is one whose rash words are like swords thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

Unknown said...

Oh, Bridget. How awful to have criticism of your grief added to that grief. 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all your cares upon Christ, for he cares for you. That includes the grief you bear for the loss of your beautiful Avery. God wants to bring you through this, not judge you for going through it. Your very appropriate love for Avery is seen in the pain you bear, and your words honor her very rightly and bless those who read them. God bless you and sustain you.

Deana said...

((((Hugs)))) Bridget, she had no right to tell you that how you are grieving is wrong, no one is perfect we all know that, but Avery is speaking to us through your blog, she is helping you write your messages and allowing us to get to know her through your postings, I don't know your family personally (I'm from Canada) but a friend shared your link with me awhile back and I have followed you ever since. I check your blog daily and crave reading your stories. I feel Avery speaking to us in your words. Don't ever appologize your letting your Angel shine bright.... We could all use Avery's "words" in our life, we could all learn from her. Please keep writing there are so many of us out here all accross the world that care. I may not always comment but I do always read. We <3 you and we are always praying for you.

Deana said...

*Don't ever appologize for your letting your Angel shine bright....

Getrealmommy said...

I am just going to echo what your other readers have said. That woman was insensitive and WRONG for saying such things to you. There was no need for you to apologize. Your daughter sounds like she was an amazing human being and she deserves to remembered for the beauty she brought to the world. When we give eulogies of those who have passed we don't get up there and say "she was great, BUT...." that is just foolish. Remember her grace and beauty, and please keep writing about it. Her life had meaning and you are sharing it with your world. It would be a shame not to.


Amy said...

Bridget, through Averys passing, this womans comments and your thoughts, feelings and responses, many of us have found tremendous healing. What greater gift is there than that? Thank you for your willingness to be open and honest about your thoughts and all that you are experiencing. Your writing is brilliant... a true gift, and many of us look forward to reading your posts... you are teaching all of us. Remember that Christ himself was critisized (and crucified) and seen as a total radical as He didnt fit the image many had as a "true savior". Many people had their own selfish ideas of what that should look like. Instead of trusting Him and spreading His love, they spent their energy trying to correct a situation that wasn't correctable. Through Gods love, it was already perfect. Continue on your own path to healing.. many of us are right there, walking with you, even though on our own journeys, through this life. You are doing great, my friend ♥ I love you ♥

Unknown said...

I just found your blog and my heart is just breaking for you. I'm so sorry you lost your daughter. Nobody should have to go through that. I'm also so sorry you feel the need to defend yourself from comments like that. How incredibly rude and tactless of someone to say that to you. I'm so sorry mama.

Unknown said...

This woman is so unbelievably selfish and immature. Blaming you for her personal spiritual problems?? This was not about you. It was about her.

There are plenty of things I would like to say to people that I don't because it isn't right to add to or create pain for someone. I don't expect for a minute that I see things exactly the same way as anyone else.

A friend of mine's daughter is gravely ill. I don't agree with a lot of the choices this friend has made over the years but I look above for the strength to help her with my mouth clamped firmly shut(this is not easy for me). Don't get me wrong. If something needs saying I'll say it. I once told someone that their son's behavior looked like an autism spectrum disorder. It was. She didn't speak to me for a couple of years. He is much better now with treatment. Telling her was the right thing to do. Denial is powerful. I also once told a friend whose daughter was picking on mine that her daughter's behavior was odd enough that she should be evaluated for mental illness. They moved so I don't know what happened but I don't regret that either.

I love hearing about your wonderful kids. It would be odd to me if you didn't memorialize and remember Avery in the most positive light possible. You are however free to do it in whatever manner you choose.



You know what's amazing about you? That even though your bucket feels empty, you keep putting drops into the buckets of others. ... I don't know how else to explain this except that I read this book with my kids about an invisible bucket above your head that works kind of like Karma. Check out the book: "How Full Is Your Bucket: for Kids."

That woman has an empty bucket and she better watch it or I'm going to give her bucket a swift kick. LOL

Lisa said...

I'm sorry, I didn't find your blog until after the awful day that you lost Avery. Sometimes your posts are difficult to read because your pain is so real. You shouldn't have to apologise for remembering the good that your daughter was. I'm appalled and offended that someone would put you in that position. You have just begun to greive for Avery and anyone who won't be patient with you through this process isn't worth your time or friendship.

What I have understood from your posts is that Avery had a deep faith and love for God. That faith is your hope that you will be reuinted with her someday. It is reasonable that you would write about it.

I have been praying for you and your family, especially Jadrian. Now I will be praying for that woman, as in my best southern accent "Bless her heart! I'm going to put her on my prayer list." To invoke the Lords name to hurt others is just evil. God is not mocked, she will reap what she sows.

Do whatever you need to do to get through this and do not apologise to anyone for it.

Allison said...

Avery may not have been perfect, but through her... through your stories and words about her, we have all begun the journey towards perfection in God's eyes. I can't thank you enough for sharing your words about Avery. I think knowing her the way you knew her has helped me grieve and grow in more ways than I can count, and I will never be able to thank you enough for sharing her with us. She is such a spectacular light in all of our lives, and I hope you continue to share YOUR AVERY with us... because YOUR AVERY makes me want to be a better person averyday. =)

KtMeyers said...

I grew up learning that Jesus wasn't perfect, which is what makes him so accessible to so many. Even now, as a fallen away Christian, I aim to live my life like him. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Lovely openly, care deeply.

Be like your daughter.

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