Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 13, 2014

Who are the lucky ones?

— — “Aren’t we the lucky ones?” my husband said to me with a sardonic smile on his face and ironic gleam in his eye.  We had just walked into a busy and popular restaurant in town at lunchtime and noticed, fortunately, two empty tables. We had also just been discussing some of the difficulties we face in daily life and in trying to move forward after trauma, tragedy and loss.

We often employ sarcasm and humor as a coping mechanism in our family. As long as we are still doing that — coping — it helps to keep your sense of humor, I’ve been told, read, and learned from experience.

I’d been thinking about this lately, how lucky I am, with my tongue somewhat planted in my cheek. But one could take a deep philosophical and spiritual look at this time in my life and note that I do have the unusual opportunity to thoroughly test out my faith, my love of God and my own resilience. And, externally, it is an amazing test of your relationships.

But this perspective — this idea that I’m lucky — certainly came with a big huge slap of irony that stung my face. The thought process was initiated by my small group Bible study about what our treasures are here on earth compared to those we have set aside above. What do we treasure here?

The question made me think about what people typically treasure — money, fame, talent, success, a big house, blah, blah, blah. All those usual material and useless things that will become rotted nothingness in the end.

Other people, of course, treasure deeper and more meaningful things such as family, friends, health, etc. And most people treasure something above all else: their children.

I thought of a woman I know from high school who I imagine, at least from the little contact we’ve had and her Facebook page, is an incredibly loving, warm and devoted mom. I knew immediately what would be inside her “most treasured” treasure chest if one could open it: her beloved children.

Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” But how does that work when our earthly treasures are living and breathing, are part of our heart?

I have pictured this woman and wondered — although I could picture any parent I know — what would happen if her beloved child was taken away? How would she feel about God, what emotions would she experience, and what crisis of faith would she face if one of those beautiful gifts was taken away?

I hope and pray she, and no other parent I know, will ever find out. She will lose other family members and face other difficulties as we all do but, in all likelihood, she will never face losing a child. I pray she will never face that. I pray that for anyone. I pray it especially for parents when I hear they are trying to help a child who is suicidal.

But here I sit, learning what life is like — what faith is like — after experiencing a parent’s worst nightmare. And I am not alone. There are many of us who are facing this. There are many of us who are living what others “can’t imagine” as people often say ... as in, “I can’t imagine what you are going through.” Our answer has typically been, “No, I understand. I couldn’t imagine it before it happened either.”

One of the first things a man who lost his wife to suicide said to my husband after our daughter died was, “You’ll find out who your friends are.” He said it with gravelly bitterness in his voice. I understood and believed him.

But in that, we have been lucky. We have discovered an abundant wealth of friends, family and loved ones — a warm and embracing community that reaches deeper, and holds tighter, than we might have discovered otherwise.

We are also lucky to see how resilient and strong we can be. Sometimes, that is. Sometimes we are very strong and that memory, that sense of strength, carries me through when I am extremely weak.

I’ve also been lucky to see the power of God — the comfort, the prayers of others, the breath of wisdom that sometimes seems to blow into the room from nowhere, the other worldliness that propels us through paralyzing periods in our earthly pain.

To paraphrase a devotional, “Streams in the Desert,” “We never completely recover from our greatest griefs and are never exactly the same after having passed through them. Yet sorrow that is endured in the right spirit helps us grow more favorably and makes us more compassionate for others. Indeed, those who have no scars of sorrow or suffering ... are poor.”

“We are the lucky ones?” my husband said to me again, another time, as we sat next to each other on a date at a different restaurant. “We are the lucky ones in some ways,” I said, stressing the last two words firmly but cajolingly.

“We are the lucky ones in some ways ... yes,” he answered.

Some days you simply have to focus on that fact — that faith — and appreciate what is lucky in your life and let it carry you through the unlucky days, and even the nightmares, that may come.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at

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