Preparations for this day, the second anniversary of the girls’s death, started a few weeks back. We ordered a package of Chinese Sky Lanterns and emailed family informing them that we intended to bring them to our Christmas celebration. The family was gathering on Christmas Eve and we wanted to give everyone a chance to write a message on a lantern, in preparation for flight. We also invited family to join us for the launch, December 26, 2015, at approximately 2:45 p.m. – Bethany & Katie’s heaven date and time.
In early afternoon it began to mist. The forecast for rain left me anxious. Following the news that our daughters’ fingerprints were not available so we could order a much desired memorial necklace for me and key chain for David, being able to launch the lanterns on the day of the girls’ death took on an increased level of importance for me.
Family gathered at my in-laws home and we caravanned to the launch site. By the time we arrived, it was still misting and what had been a calm day had turned into a gusty day. The manufacturer’s instructions said to choose a calm day and to have water or a fire extinguisher handy. We gave it a valiant effort, attempting to light a test lantern (one without a message) but it was not to be.
We thanked the family for coming out and dispersed quickly because it had gotten considerably colder. On the way home, I looked over at my husband and quietly asked, “Are you disappointed?” (David doesn’t volunteer his feelings. If I want to know, I have to ask). A simple “Yes” was his reply.
“I am too, but you know, I’m not surprised, and not because of the weather. I guess I’ve grown accustomed to disappointment.”
And I have, but disappointment cuts much deeper when your hopes are tied to your dead child. Every dashed hope feels as if God is allowing you to be repeatedly kicked while you are down. It may be unreasonable, but then emotions are frequently illogical under the best of circumstances, and the anniversary of your child’s death is by no stretch of the imagination the best of circumstances.
The lanterns remained in our vehicle. No sense unloading them only to have them be a visual reminder of our disappointment every time our eyes landed upon the box in which they were shipped. They would go home with us the next day. Maybe we could try again on the anniversary of burial, I thought. It would be an equally fitting day, but that did not happen either.
The truth is, we are destined to be disappointed over and over in the years to come. We will encounter big and small missed opportunities; there’s just no way to avoid it because Bethany and Katie are forever lost to us for the remainder of our days.
So maybe, it’s not a bad thing that I wasn’t surprised by the aborted lantern launch. Painful as it might be, I need to have realistic expectations where my girls are concerned. Even when the plans I make are a resounding success, they will still be bittersweet because my heart will always long for Bethany and Katie’s presence. Choosing to acknowledge circumstances that might derail my hoped for plans, will guard my heart from bitter disappointment. I need to protect my heart because it is considerably more vulnerable than it was in the past. I need to prepare for deferred hope because I don’t want to live a life underscored by constant sadness.
If I picked up a stone and painted upon it’s surface the name of each and every disappointment I suffered through and stored those stones in a glass jar placed in a prominent location in my home where I’d look upon them every day; the constant visual reminder would surely result in bitterness and resentment toward God. However, if I placed those same stones in a lidded wooden box and set them in the same location, my response to those disappointments would be much different. I would no longer be able to see the evidence of my many disappointments. The same number of stones would accumulate in each container, but the lidded box would conceal exactly how much disappointment I’d suffered while the glass container would reveal the same information. One container demands you keep record of every perceived wrong, the other encourages you to release those over time. There’s nothing wrong with naming your disappointments. Doesn’t the Lord ask us to cast our burdens upon Him?
Satan encourages us to keep score. God invites us to surrender our disappointments to Him. Satan encourages dissatisfaction. The Holy Spirit helps us carry the weight of our disappointments until His supernatural work enables us to recognize them for what they really are; light and momentary afflictions.
So while I’m disappointed that my plans fell through, I will look for another launch date. Does it really matter that those lanterns light the sky on the day of the girls’ deaths or burial. Not so much, because I miss them every day. I don’t need to wait for a significant date to light up the sky displaying our love and longing for Bethany, Katie and Cole too.