Beauty and the Beast

There are many things you may not know about me.

Did you know that I like to waltz through empty hospital hallways at night? Hospitals have the best floors for practicing!

Did you know that I have taught the children how to jump at just the right moment on an elevator to get a moment of almost-weightlessness like on the moon?

Or did you know that my friend Sarah gave me four tickets to go see the 3D Beauty and the Beast movie at the IMAX?  Or that it was so beautiful that I cried?  It’s true!

It was cinematically breathtaking.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism about feminist Emma Watson being in a Stockholm syndrome movie; however, historically it wasn’t understood as a captor/captive narrative. It was a political statement against forced or arranged marriages, and an effort to demonstrate the difference when love is chosen and/or actively nurtured.  Originally, it was a story about no matter how you end up married, you can live happily ever after if both people do the work… but it takes both people to do a relationship well (and safely).

I’m okay with that, and taught my children that context of the film.

That said, in Jungian psychology, your own self plays all the parts.

So not only are you Belle, but you are also the Beast.  And the clock.  And the candelabra.  And the piano bench puppy.

This actually means the movie begs the question: what in your life are you destroying by force that could grow naturally if you cultivated it instead?

You are even Gaston, and also his buddy, so in what ways have you hurt others by being vain? In what ways have you ignored your conscious when it prompted you on the morals of your interactions with others, but you squashed and abandoned that still, small voice even to your own detriment?

And the adolescent outsider? The book worm instead of the pretty girl?  The fiercely independent girl who discovers her tragic past lies in both loving her parents and letting them go?

Of course I loved that movie.

And I love popcorn.

Even when I share it with three second graders, who had the treat of their life with such a big screen and real glasses and so many snacks.

It was a bit of fun we all needed, after this hard week grieving with our very beloved friend whose little son was killed when a gun fell and fired.

It was shocking and horrifying and we couldn’t even talk about it until it was all public, and even then it wasn’t our story to tell.

And worse (for us), this was a friend who had helped us protect Kyrie’s life and prepare for her death, when now all the sudden her own son is gone.

It was unfathomable.

It was beyond awful, what happened, and there was nothing anyone could do to un-do it.

Just like that, a little boy the same age as my three second graders had left us all in shock.

It all made my brain hurt as much as it made my heart break.

We went to the viewing last night, and I hugged my friend but couldn’t look at her for fear I would never stop crying, and she had more fish to fry at that party than just me.

It was the fourth funeral our children have been to with us, and they were very respectful and I was grateful.  Nathan and I took the children up to the casket to see the tiny cowboy, and Kyrie shouted, “Mama! He is sleeping! He is sleeping! Wake up, Kade! Wake up!”

Except Kade does not get to wake up, not today.

He will, we know, but for today it just hurts.

Today was the funeral, and the Caney Valley gym was packed to the gills.  My children sat with me on the front row of the side seats, where they could see and Mary could hear.  They watched his pictures and listened to the funny stories about him, and we lined up once more to say goodbye a final time.

Kyrie noticed the people crying.

They’re so sad, Mama!  

They are crying, Mama!

I hugged her tight, and wiped my tears in her hair.

We hugged my friend, and we walked passed the casket a second time.

This time as we walked away, Kyrie only whispered, “Goodbye, Kade.  Goodbye.”

She waved, wriggled out of my arms to walk like the big kids, and then strutted behind Nathan in our line of little ducklings.

We slammed into a harsh normality as we left the emotional scene, and reality hit as the kids scrambled to not-fight over but pretty much race to a water fountain.

I counted the children (again), and wondered how did I ever get from the burial of my parents to a day of walking in the unexpected sunshine with my own children? 

How did Nathan and I ever breathe through the hard things we have endured?

How many breaths does Kyrie have left?

Except she’s having a good day, right?

I look at her, measuring her panting as she plays and comparing the color of her hands and the color of her cheeks and the white stripes that shouldn’t be around her nose and mouth.  Are her lips blue? Or is it just the lights?

Except nothing was wrong with Kade. Nothing at all.  And now he’s gone.

It’s like how my father passed so brutally and slowly from cancer, and we knew it was coming, and then my mother was killed in a car accident while we weren’t looking.  This felt like that. It happened out of nowhere, and didn’t fit any piece of any kind of future we had imagined.

I have grieved the loss of babies I have seen and held and touched but could not bury.

I have grieved the loss of other people’s children who have come and gone from my home.

I have even had to sit with the palliative care team and make funeral arrangements for my daughter who won’t die.

But I cannot imagine burying my eight year old child.

My heart is broken for my friend, and she is shattered, and her family needs you to wrap them up in tender prayers this night and in coming days.

We needed to hold the children close after these services, to touch them and muss their hair and soak in their voices the way you stand under a really hot shower when you want to cry.  

We felt sentimental, and took the children to the duck pond, where Nathan and I finally met each other in person for our first date in June five years ago.

We told them our story, and how back then on that day, we never could have imagined standing there on this day with six children hand chosen out of so many.

Our family is twice as many as you can see right now, not even counting the children you will have some day, and their children, and their children.

We told them how like Kade’s spirit is still alive, the little ones we have lost are still alive, and part of our family, and thriving as fantastically invisible brothers and sisters in a picture where you can almost see where they would be.

And we talked about what community means, and how in the wake of Kade’s passing, the community rallied around his family in the same way the community rallied around our family as we fought to keep Kyrie alive.

And we talked about how this is what makes us beautiful instead of beastly, to care well for others and be there for them authentically when they need us.

This is what makes us human: to let go of the selfish behaviors that make us monsters, to protect the choices of others so that we might enjoy freedom together, to forgive one another even when accidents happen, to unite together in support of souls in need rather than being divided by differences, and to choose love even when it hurts.

(Be) willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in…

~ Mosiah 18:9

Time moves so quickly, and our little ones are growing up so fast, and no one is promised tomorrow.

But we are promised blessings of peace and hope if we choose love.

And that builds in you a kind of joy that is real even when your heart is broken, and you know it’s because that kind of joy isn’t contingent upon circumstances.

And that’s the kind of love and hope and joy that unites a community even while they grieve.

And that’s the kind of love and hope and joy that makes a girl dance in the hallways, even when she is exhausted.

And that’s the kind of love and hope and joy that makes life beautiful, even when it can be really beastly sometimes.

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Beauty and the Beast — 2 Comments

  1. Beautiful thoughts, praying our heavenly father wraps Kade’s family in love today and always… praying for you and your kiddos and your future…amazed it’s only been 5 years since you and Nathan were at the pond.. and … hoping you will show me how to jump in the elevator at the right time as well… Love you guys!