In 1985 Marty McFly hit the big screen for the first time. Back to the Future was epic, with its DeLorean time travel machine, flux capacitor and crazy Doc screeching, “1.21 Gigawatts!”. Marty finds himself in 1955 and has to get back to the future whilst ensuring his parents still fall in love.The whole concept of the film pivots around ‘What if?’What if his mum falls for him instead of his dad and never makes it to the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance? What if they never kiss and Marty and his siblings never exist?
Everyday life is full of ‘what ifs’. Most of them are inconsequential and decisions are made without a fanfare. At other times, however, what could have happened hangs above us like large black clouds changing the whole climate and weather system of our lives.
‘What if she hadn’t got on that plane?’
‘What if he had left in the car ten minutes later?’
‘What if I had gone to hospital the first time I noticed my baby not moving?’
In the days and weeks after my eldest son’s MRI scan confirmed the dramatic and widespread damage to his brain, my mind and emotions were gripped with what could have been. If he had been born a day or two earlier would he have been born without complication, a fit and well baby?
When he was born it was as though the long film reel of the life I had been dreaming and anticipating was abruptly sheared by a pair of large scissors. Instead of my future being neatly rolled up just waiting to unfurl, the story of my life dangled precariously in the air. I simply couldn’t see the future before me; nothing remained the same.
I had to relearn living with a new perspective.
Firstly I had to mourn. I grieved the baby I had hoped and prayed for. It is absolutely right to mourn the loss of a person, relationship or situation. It can take months, years or a lifetime of living with grief; often it leaves us changed.
The forecast of my life, however, began changing when I stopped dwelling on the alternate universe that only ever happened in my mind. I came to realise I had stopped mourning what had happened and was instead mourning what hadn’t happened. I was mourning something that was never mine in the first place; something that only ever occurred in my imagination.
My husband’s perspective was very different; he asserted that there was never a world where our son wasn’t born with severe brain damage. He reminded me that along with all of my brighter, more glossy, scenarios, there were just as many worse options.
It is only fairly recently that I could say both of my sons were ‘Born at the Right Time’. That doesn’t mean what happened was ‘right’, nor does it mean it doesn’t make me sad or at times is incredibly difficult, rather it means that I changed.
My perspective changed.
I kind of see it a lot like prayer. I don’t see prayer as me cajoling, haranguing or persuading God to make my life and world a better place. I see praying as me trying to hear and see what God is doing in the world around me, and joining in. It’s about me becoming the hands, words and love of God with whoever and wherever I am.
I came to seeing it as ‘right’ because I allowed my perspective and view to come in line with my reality. I made a decision to trust God with not only the good in my life but the pain and mess also.
What I found was, when I learnt to live in the reality of today, and not the expectations of my imagination, I had the potential to be healed.
There is a sign on the side of a building I pass on the drive to Great Ormond Street Hospital. It says,“Sorry the lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.”When I realised the lifestyle I had ordered wasn’t in stock I had to make a choice. I either sit in the shop and moan, groan and stamp my feet, or I look around at the different, yet beautiful things in stock, and learn to “Love the skies I’m under.”* For me it has been a vital step in acceptance.
*Mumford and Sons song “Hopeless Wanderer”
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