Right before McKenna passed I was doing really well with reading my scriptures and praying. I was on the longest role I had been on in a long time and was trying to "stay the course". I have never been someone who has just naturally found it easy to pray and read scriptures. For most of my teens to early adulthood scriptures were a guarantee bed time story. I would always fall asleep and prayers were a over rehearsed speech. For the last few years I have been slowly breaking these bad habits and really trying to replace them with some good ones. I was pretty happy with my progress but of course all of that came to a crashing halt after McKenna's death. Not because I was deliberately trying to avoid reading my scriptures but mainly because all the reading and praying I did was at night and night time is the worst emotionally for me. Night is when the ugly pain I have hidden all day comes out to play. When all of my hurt and tears take seize over my body and manifest themselves in loud whaling and shaking. Night is the enemy.
Now that 6 months have past the nightly terrors have lessened and only happen if I don't go right to sleep. I push myself to exhaustion, jump in the bed, and turn my brain off either by watching TV, getting on Facebook, or pinning everything on Pinterest. Then right afterwards I turn the scriptures on my phone to audio and fall asleep 5 minutes in, counting this as "studying" my scriptures before bed. I opened up to a few people and was advised to move it to the morning but my habits were at night and I enjoyed ending my chaotic day with a reminder of what really matters. I started noticing a gap in my life a few months ago by not saying my nightly prayers but still wanted to avoid them. I knew that it would set me off. I didn't know why but it always ended with me feeling miserable. I hate crying and this crying is even worse because it is not just tears from hurt feelings. Its a deep ache that comes from a pit in my soul that was never their before. Its an emptiness and a throbbing that can't be silenced. Once it starts there is a guarantee hour of trying to convince myself that life is not utterly hopeless.
I found that if I went back to my over rehearsed speeches I could get through the prayer and go straight to bed with just a little tugging at my heart but the gap was still their. My soul knew it wasn't the same and that I needed to console with the Lord in a deeper way in the morning AND the night. I toughed it out for a week. I forced myself to say nightly prayers and dealt with the meltdowns. Every time it was the same, I would start praying and try not to mention McKenna at all and then right at the very end her name would slip from my lips. Then the entire prayer would turn into me talking about her and even to her. Telling God to tell her how much I loved her, how sorry I was I wasn't there. For every moment I took for granted. How I hope she knew how much she meant to me. How sorry I was for not doing all I needed to do to see her again. How I was sorry I had been distant. Then it always finished with "Give her a hug and a kiss from me Lord... GOD PLEASE HAVE MERCY ON MY SOUL!" Then I would find myself in the closet, holding her clothes I have stashed away in there, reach out my arms for a hug into the heavens, and cry as quietly as I could on the ground until I knew I could be quiet enough to go to bed and not wake my husband. I usually don't wake Zach because I know if I do, I will start myself up all over again.
I couldn't handle it anymore so once again I stopped and even told my husband "I'm not saying nightly prayers anymore, you will have to say them for me" so we would pray together. This helped for a while but once again came the pulling at my heart strings, I have to say my own prayers. I continued to ignore it for a few more weeks. I started working on my scripture reading and trying to be more spiritual in other aspects of my life but those nightly prayers still creeped into my mind. A few nights ago I finally decided to give it another shot. Once again I tried hard not to bring up McKenna but as usual she came up right at the end. The pain started and this time I abruptly ended the prayer and broke into tears.
The sobbing woke my husband who pulled me close and it felt like he squeezed the tears out more. I told him how difficult it was to say nightly prayers and I didn't want to do them anymore. He asked me simply "Why is it so bad for you to cry in your prayers?". I replied "Because I don't want to have a melt down every night, it leaves me in a dark place and feeling despaired. I don't blame God for that but I just can't keep doing this. Prayer just brings out all the sadness." He laid their and held me while tears soaked his shirt and finally told me. "Shannon, you are really great at compartminilizing your feelings. I understand that you have to do it because you are in school and have all these problems with your family. I know you do this to survive and to thrive but it's not good for you. It has to come out and I think it's a beautiful thing that all of that pain comes out in your most tender moments. The moments you are conversing with your Heavenly Father. The one time of the day you are being open and honest with your feelings and can finally let it out to the One who can help you the most. It's good to let it out, it's good to cry, and it's good to pray. The Lord hears you Shannon and McKenna does too."
I had never thought of it quite that way. I kept looking at praying as the problem when really it's the opposite. I am the problem here. Holding it all in and then not giving myself any opportunity to let it all out is insane. Praying doesn't mean you are always going to get instant relief. Death is heavy, it doesn't go away in a week, 6 months, 1 year, or decades. It lingers, its a constant reminder of what you lost and it hurts. Avoiding it, hiding it, burying it deep wont push the pain out of you. It just covers it up for a little while and keeps your emotions at bay. I have to keep a strong face all day and I forgot that when I first started this it was really difficult but with time it became easier and easier to control my feelings in public. The same will happen with my prayers and it's a much healthier way to deal with my problems then "compartmentalizing" them the way I always do.
I realize now that prayer is so hard for me because it is the moment when I feel closest to McKenna. It is the only telephone line I have that goes straight to Heaven. It is the only direct connection I know that someone on the other line is LITTERALY with her. He doesn't just hear me, He hears her, He sees her. He has the ability to hold her, kiss her, do all the things I can't do and IT HURTS! I imagine it must be what it feels like to once be healthy, then all of a sudden be involved in a terrible accident and become completely handicapped. 6 months ago I held her, kissed her, brushed her hair and teeth. I dressed her every morning and sung to her at night and now I have become paralyzed.
My arms can't seem to lift up and reach her. My legs can't squat to get down and hug her. The only movement I am capable of are my lips. I can choose to keep them sealed and eventually watch them loose their use or I can use them as my only way to keep her in my life. I can move them and pray to show her my faith, I can pucker them up and blow kisses to her in heaven, I can whisper into the universe letting her know she is always on my mind and I miss her everyday. From now on I will try to end my prayers with a little more hope in them so she knows that I truly believe in God's plan by saying "I love you Kenna Bear and we will be together again one day." I have continued to have my breakdowns but now I see them as therapeutic instead of torture. I see the power of prayer and what a difference it makes in my life and I am grateful that at least I know she is with me in spirit. This body has become useless to me when it comes to wanting to feel the comfort of my daughters little body, but this soul feels her love everyday and I will do whatever needs to be done to hold her in my arms once again.