If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now

Anticipatory GriefAll the gospel narratives relate that before his death, Jesus underwent a sort of anticipatory grief.  They tell us that in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed that, if it were possible, the “hour” might pass from him; he knew what lay ahead.  A deep melancholy seems to have filled the soul of Jesus in the hours preceding his death; a terrible anguish weighed upon him but, it is written, obedience to the Divine will sustained him.

This scriptural account of Jesus ’ anticipatory grief came to my mind recently—a gift really— and provided insight and consolation to something I have been experiencing.  A sadness and anxiety has been enveloping my days and, once aware of it, I sought to identify the source, the cause of the disquiet.  Why am I often on the precipice of tears and, though lonely, find solitude so desirous?  I realize that I too, know what lies ahead; I have been anticipating the inexplicable grief I experienced in 2011, at that “hour” on August 5, when I received the telephone call from a police officer informing me that my daughter had been killed in a terrible car accident.

In these weeks leading to August 5th, 2017, I have, by no conscious intention of my own, been returning, emotionally and mentally, to the same weeks in 2011, recalling how those days were spent; the conversations I had with my daughter, the lunches we shared, the plans we made, the purse she borrowed for her trip. Though the memories are bittersweet they in some way enable me to be with her again for she was alive at this time in 2011.

The memories do bring regrets, some “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve’s”, but gratitude always wins the day.  I’ve never been angry with God; how could I be; the accident was not His fault nor His doing.  I was grateful to Him when she was born—that she was born—and that gratitude never wavered while she was alive.  And I believe she still is —just not where I can see her.

I do long for my daughter and always will.  A mother and child who share a heartbeat are forever linked even when only one is still beating. This is what makes the loss so intense and would probably lead to despair if not matched by an equal intensity of faith.  I will always be grateful to have had Madelen even if it was for a little while.

While anticipatory grief often relates to those caring for someone who is dying or to the person facing death, anticipatory grief also finds resonance with us who face the anniversary of the death of a loved one.

The days of and between August 5 and August 10, the day of Madelen’s death and of her funeral, our final time together on earth, are dark days.  In 2011 they were dark because it was a period of profound grief and disbelief in the events unfolding; since then they remain dark for it is a period of remembering, reliving, regretting—and longing; dark also because of the temptation to despair, to question, to doubt, and the consequent struggle to resist.

I know that without Easter there would be nothing good about Good Friday. That is, I know death does not have the last word.  And because I believe I am sustained  – as Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane.



16 thoughts on “If I Only Knew Then What I Know Now

  1. What a beautiful remembrance! May God be with you always and may your words and thoughts enlighten those who need to know. May the peace of Christ be with you always.


  2. Yvonne,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you go through this dark week in your life. Thank you for sharing your story and your strong faith in-spite of the great loss you have and continue to have daily. You so eloquently stated “A mother and child who share a heartbeat are forever linked even when only one is still beating.” – which is so true, from the very first moment I heard my son’s heartbeat while still in my womb, I knew I would always have that connection and am so thankful and grateful God allowed me the blessing of him in my life. Your life of faith in the face of great loss is truly an inspiration to me as I am re-discovering my deeper faith journey. Thank you for sharing your story. You are such a beautiful soul and truly one of God’s great pleasures! May his love and peace carry you through these dark days.


  3. Yvonne,

    Thank you for this beautiful commentary. It touched my heart; it helped strengthen me.

    May God bless you and hold you gently in the palm of his hand.

    Susan Vacek


  4. Yvonne, your courage & generosity in sharing your time of intense grief & beautiful faith truly touches my heart. We who are mothers are forever bound by the indescribable love we have for our children. I continue to pray for God’s healing & peace for you & your family.


    • Janet, thank you. I do have sadness but also profound peace. Lyrics to a favorite song say: “We are Resurrection people….we have the peace the world can’t give us and it cannot take away.” Lyrics from another reverberate: “Love never dies, love will continue, love keeps on beating even when you’re gone.” The former tempers the latter.


  5. Thank you for sharing that insight into the story of your grief and how you have dealt with it. It’s tragic that you lost a child and breaks my heart even to imagine what you went through (and still do at times). On the other hand, it’s inspiring to me that your faith has remained so strong and that you can carry on as such an amazing leader and loving, generous servant of our parish. Thank you for all you do. It is widely appreciated and you are well loved by SJV parishioners (especially me). I will pray for you to have comfort through the darker days and rough patches. God bless you, Yvonne!


    • Kelli, thank you for your kind words. God is so great in that He transforms even our darkest hours into enlightening and enlivening experiences. If He had not held me lovingly and firmly in His grip – so I wouldn’t lose mine – during those and these times, I do not believe I would have the conviction of faith to pass on. St. Paul says it best: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”


  6. Yvonne,
    You are in my thoughts and prayers. May Our Blesssed Mother wrap her mantle around you and bring you peace. I will pray for the repose of Madelen’s soul. May she Rest In Peace with Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother, and all the angels and saints.
    God Bless you.


    • Cheryl, I prayed so fervently to our mother, Mary, just to conceive Madelen and was so grateful to her when I did. As Mary was with me in the beginning of Madelen’s life, she was also my close companion at the end of my daughter’s life. I knew she was well aware of what it feels to lose a child. I always prayed that Madelen have peace in her life and continue to do so; for her, her son who is now 9 years old and for my two sons who adored their sister. Thank you for your prayers.


  7. Dear Yvonne,
    My heart goes out to you during this time of remembrance and grief for Madelen. Your words were beautifully written with sentiment that connected to my soul. I pray for God’s peace and comfort to wash over you.
    Ann Piazza


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