The Best Choice

The Best Choice

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

The Best Choice

If there were dreams to sell, what would you buy?

T. L. Beddoes

Choices—it’s what life is all about. Some are seemingly insignificant, while others are monumental. And sometimes, as I have learned, choices made in the toughest of circumstances can turn out to be very positive life-changers.

At twenty-seven, I figured I had made a lot of good choices up to that point in life. I chose a career that was in high demand and offered a comfortable income, and I chose to marry my high school sweetheart. Together, we chose to raise our “textbook” family (one boy and one girl) in the rural mountains far from the chaos of city life—not a terribly difficult choice, even though we had to make some sacrifices to make it all happen. I thought I was generally in control of my life by the choices I had made, but then something happened that was completely out of my control, and the choices became more difficult: our seven-week-old son died of sudden infant death syndrome.

This can’t be happening, I told myself. Never would I have chosen to experience something like this. In my carefully planned and executed life this kind of tragedy didn’t fit anywhere. It was my worst nightmare. There was no logical explanation for this kind of loss. There was nothing I could have done to prevent it, and it left me feeling completely out of control. Overnight, my world had been turned upside down without any warning.

It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with death (both of my parents died during my childhood), but I had never before held death in my arms, stroked its soft hair or kissed its lifeless face. Parents die; children do not. This was an unnatural and unwanted intrusion into my perfectly ordered world, and I was devastated. I didn’t choose it. I didn’t want it. But the funeral director told my husband and me something on that fateful morning that made a huge difference in our lives. With hands folded and a sober expression on his face, he told us quite candidly, “Statistics show the biggest aftermath from the loss of a child is the break-up of the marriage. If you don’t work hard to keep your lines of communication open, you’ll risk being among those statistics.”

Dealing with the death of a child was monumental enough. I didn’t want to face the death of a marriage as well. I knew that even the best of marriages could crumble without adequate maintenance, so I made a choice right then to do whatever it took to keep our marriage strong. It wasn’t always easy: we were often on an emotional seesaw, one of us up, the other down. It’s hard to offer each other support when you are both grieving the loss of a child. But every morning, before I got out of bed, I made the choice to be as supportive of my husband as I could be and to ask others for support on those days when I had none to give. I chose not to let the horrible pain I felt inside cripple my relationship with either my husband or our three-year-old daughter. Even though I might not be in control of things that happened to me, I could still be in control of how I reacted.

Fortunately, my husband made the same choice, and we worked hard at communicating more deeply than ever before. And together we chose to try again, even though we knew there was always the same risk with every child.

When our subsequent son was born just thirteen months later, I had even more difficult choices to make. It quickly became obvious that standing over his crib or keeping him in my sight twenty-four hours a day was not a viable option. I knew that ultimately I could not control whether he lived or died, so I looked beyond myself and chose to trust God with things that were beyond my control. It’s the best choice I’ve ever made.

Not long ago, my now twenty-seven-year-old son, the one whose crib I eventually had to stop watching over, asked me how I manage to seem so “normal” considering some of things I’ve endured in my life.

“It’s not that hard,” I told him. “It’s all about choices. You can choose to be a victim or a victor. I just chose the latter.”

Caroleah Johnson

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