Have you ever woke up and proclaimed this is the best day ever?
It was just a regular day 17 years ago that I jumped out of bed and declared “this is the best day ever”!
Jumping out of bed should have made me suspicious. Unless this was a day that I was starting a vacation on a tropical island where I could wiggle my toes in the warm Caribbean sand, I wasn’t the jumping out of bed type. The snooze alarm is a top ten invention for me.
Hate going to bed, hate getting out even more.
My BDE was not my wedding day, which was a wonderful day. Nor was my BDE the day that I gave birth to any of my three children . All good days, but none of them, not any day in my entire life had I felt the way I did this beautiful best day ever.
This day was just an ordinary day, a Wednesday. The only exception – it was the first day of fall. Fall is my favorite season, the season I fell in love with Joe, my husband. The season of my first child Jessica’s birth. The season when the air is crisp and clean. The season my soul seeks.
Yet this day was different. I’d been through 41 fall seasons, but none of them had started off with this level of elation and excitement. My heart was light and filled with joy. Something special was going to happen today – I just knew it!
If I was suspicious about the jumping out of bed – the rest of the world was suspicious of my incessant proclamations about the superiority of this day.
Going to lunch with co-workers I noticed an amazing sky that was a deep shade of blue with not a cloud to be found. “Isn’t this the best day ever?” I said as we ate lunch and went to do a little shopping. My kind of day!
No matter what the reason for this feeling of elation – I’m still not sure. All that I know is that this was the best day ever.
Until it wasn’t.
Around 2:00pm I heard a page from the receptionist. “Call for Diane Belz.”
Picking up the phone all that I heard was a voice crying on the other end. Dread filled my heart. The wrenching sound of this cry only comes from tragedy. Sobs were so loud, so unconsolable, so gut wrenching that I could not detect what the caller was saying to me. For whatever reason, I asked him, “Who died?”
“Jessica”, was the unexpected answer.
My parents, my in laws, even my husband, who works construction, would have made more sense. But my 22 year old daughter.
What happened? My brother, the caller, did not have the answer.
When shock sets in we are never sure what we will do next?
Not a tear was shed, not a cry of unbelief, because I knew deep in my soul that this news was true. My daughter, though not “ill”, had predicated her early death. She would not even allow us to say she was 23.
Jessica suffered from bi-polar disease, diabetes and struggled with eating disorders, throw in an asthma attack every once in awhile to keep her life, and ours, interesting. Jess had moved to California one month prior. What I thought was another manic decision, she thought was a brilliant idea. She quit her job and went with a friend to sunny California the land of peace and promise, or at least that was what she was hoping for.
As she was sitting in her friends car, packed and ready to go, I asked her, “Have you checked with the Lord on this decision?”
“Yep”, she replied, “I believe I’ll find peace in California”.
In some strange way I felt grateful that she told me this. These were words that provided a calming salve to me even 16 years later. Jessica had finally found the peace she had sought for so long. Peace was her prayer, my prayer, the prayers of so many who had seen her struggle.
Our prayers were answered – just not the way we had wanted.
For most of us the beauty of the change of seasons brings promise and possibilities, for Jess it was different, very different. Especially the change from summer to fall; darkness would set in and depression took control of her days. Fall almost became literal as we would watch the elation of Jessica’s summer’s mania, crash down around her.
Ironic, maybe not, that she would leave the earth on this day, the first day of fall. Her predication was correct, she would die young and she never made it to 23. Dying 45 days before her dreaded 23rd birthday. It all made perfect sense, well to me anyway.
What do I do next?
Something, or Someone took over me. The only thing I knew – I had to get out of my office and get to my husband ASAP. Joe was working two towns over. I knew the construction site where he was working because I had dropped off donuts to him and his crew two weeks ago. That random act of kindness helped me find him when I needed him most. Nothing or no one was going to stop me from getting there.
Why I kept a decorum of professionalism I again will never know. Grabbing my hand bag I walked out of my office, told my co-workers what had happened and told them where I was going. They wanted to help but I couldn’t or wouldn’t let them. I had to do this myself. My husband and sons would not hear this news over the phone, it had to be face to face and they had to hear it from me – calmly, rationally and with a level of acceptance.
When I reached the construction site, again I noticed this outstandingly beautiful sky. Amazingly the color of the sky did not change for an entire week! Like Noah with his rainbow, my family has our “Jessie blue sky” as a reminder of Jessica and that God’s promises are true.
I’d lost one of the most important people who had ever lived that day? How would I go on?
Jessica and I grew up together, we were only 19 years apart. I knew I was in for the fight of my life and I needed to take at least one step forward into my new life, my life without Jessica.
My best day ever was not going to define me. My daughter’s death would not hold my identity, but I would allow it to refine me.
What her life and death would do was make me better than before, because that is how Jess would have wanted it.
How do I know that? Because she told me so in the book, Where Would I Be Without You, Mom?, Jess gave me for Mother’s Day that year.
This book, with her highlights and notations, I picked up and read to all the mourners who filled our house that night. Each line provided guidance, a lesson and a roadmap of how she wanted us to proceed. Not tearfully, not full of regrets, but with hope and a promise.
Through the words my daughter left behind she was ensuring me that I would learn the lessons she alone was meant to teach me. Especially that any day can be your best day ever. You just have to hold on to the promise that one day that best day will last – through eternity.
And now I realize:
- My joy was her joy
- My peace was her peace
- My awe at such a beautiful day, was her awe of the heavenly realm
Today 16 years later I finally realized. This was the best day ever – for Jess. She just wanted to share with me what heaven felt like.
Love you sweetie, MORE than sugar cane!