The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Winter

Writing about hard times is supposed to be a cathartic experience; here’s hoping it is.

Typically, winter is not the season that people look forward to. Winter is cold, dark and bleak. Trees are bare, grass turns brown, birds don’t sing. The sun rarely seems to shine, and even when it does, it’s a sun that usually provides glare without giving warmth.

This has been an especially cold winter in my corner of the world, with record amounts of snowfall and multiple days of temperatures below zero (which is a big deal in Arkansas). But for reasons more than the bad weather, this has seemed like an especially long and bleak winter to me, as frustrations and disappointments have seemed to pile up around me even more quickly than the falling snow.

Back at the beginning of November (maybe that doesn’t even really count as part of winter), my car was hit in a parking lot and totaled. I’ve never been one who cared too much about cars, but I was a big fan of this car. In addition to being a nice car and being crammed full of features I enjoyed, it was also paid off years in advance and still had a warranty on it, so it carried with it a sense of my own responsibility that I was proud of.

Nevertheless, it was just a car; no one was injured in the accident, insurance covered it, and I’m now driving another vehicle (albeit, one I don’t like quite as much). I just took the incident as a reminder that I should care less about material possessions.

I got over being upset about the car.

Then in early December, I received my grades for the graduate courses I took in the fall semester and discovered that I had been given an 89.3 (B) in one course. I was dismayed when I saw the breakdown of my grades and realized that, from my perspective, I had lost a semester letter grade because of the way one of my papers was formatted (incorrect spacing). I talked to my professor and pleaded my case, but he disagreed with my point of view and gave me a B for the course.

I do believe the professor did what he thought was right, but ultimately, I don’t think he gave me the grade I deserved. Considering that I had worked hard in the class and have always taken some degree of pride in my ability to get good grades, I was very upset.

Nevertheless, I realized that in a world filled with injustice, getting an unfair grade in a class isn’t really a big deal. Furthermore, it occurred to me that I always teach my teens that God wants our best, and that as long as we give our best, He’s pleased with us. To take my own teachings to heart, in this case, God was pleased with my 89.3 because it was the best I could do.

I mostly got over being upset about the grade.

About the same time, the hard drive on my laptop failed. This was unfortunate because I didn’t have my hard drive backed up, and this meant that countless hours of work had been lost. Data recovery services are very expensive (potentially thousands of dollars), and so after calling several companies, I chose a place that guaranteed a free evaluation and offered cheaper rates.

To cut a long story short, it turned out that the company I sent my laptop to was only semi-legitimate, and they regularly scammed people. I spent several frantic days afraid that I would never see my laptop again, until, thankfully, my rock-star attorney sister intervened and, with a phone call, managed to frighten the company into sending my laptop back.

It took almost a month, and I still don’t have my hard drive data, but thankfully my laptop was returned to me (Incidentally, this was part of the reason for my blog hiatus: some posts I had been working on were lost when my hard drive failed, and rather than trying to re-write them, I decided to wait for my data to be recovered). This experience taught me the importance of backing up my valuable data, the necessity of extending trust carefully in a world unfortunately filled with dishonest people, and reminded me, once again, that my sister is awesome.

I got over being upset about the hard drive.

All of these experiences—the totaled car, the bad grade, the failed hard drive and the fraudulent company—were frustrating and disappointing, and although they seemed important at the time, with a little perspective, they weren’t really that big of a deal.

Unfortunately, the perspective that helped me see that clearly was soon to come.

The New Year started with an exciting indication that things were changing for the better, as my wife discovered that we were expecting our first child. It wasn’t exactly something that had been planned, but my initial nervousness quickly began to be replaced by excitement as we joyously informed a small number of people and I thought about plans for the future and becoming a father.

But this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

It was just over a month ago now that it happened, but I remember it all very clearly, and know that I will for a long time. I remember what the sermon at church was about that morning, I remember talking on the way home and noticing a quiet apprehension in my wife’s responses, and I remember that I was changing my clothes when she came into the bedroom and told me something was terribly wrong. I remember trying to stay calm as I called the doctor, nervously waiting for a return call, and I remember the look on my wife’s face when, after receiving the call, she told me that she had suffered a miscarriage.

And then I remember the dark, suffocating sense of black despair that came upon us and refused to leave. I remember the helplessness I felt as I held my wife and knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to make it any better.

The next several days was a blur of doctor visits, tears, welcomed distractions, and forced smiles. It was a time filled with waking up over and over again and hoping it was all a bad dream, only to realize that it wasn’t. It was absolutely the worst time of my life.

In light of my recent tragedy, my earlier winter disappointments seemed trivial, but that wasn’t much comfort.

I haven’t gotten over being upset about this, and don’t ever expect to.

But, even in the coldest of winters, there are occasional rays of sunshine, and for these I am thankful, and because of them, I am doing some better. Words of kindness and acts of caring from loved ones have been incredibly meaningful. Lessons learned from a class on the Book of Job just last semester have been providentially appropriate. Even winter itself has helped, as repeated bouts of snowstorms have canceled school and given us precious days to spend together at home; I feel like we are closer now than ever before.

I face the future with uncertainty, and I know there is a wound inside me that will never quite heal. But regardless of that, I confidently echo the words of the prophet Jeremiah as he mourned the destruction of Jerusalem in Lamentations 3:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I will hope in Him.’”

In the meantime, I eagerly await the coming of spring.

8 Comments

  1. Luke, I’m so sorry. Know that you two are in our prayers.

    -Tom

  2. I am so very sorry to hear of all those things- but mostly the miscarriage. Wish we lived closer, so we could help in a more concrete way. But, I will tell Jonathan, and we will pray for peace and healing.

    And yes, Spring (specifically April for baseball season!) will be nice!

  3. Luke,

    If anyone can make sense of this, it’s you. I know it’s cliche, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I know you and Caroline are going to bounce back from this and be an even stronger couple and do great things for the Lord.

    I’m glad I can call you a friend and have always looked up to you. You know if you ever need anything, that I’ve always got your back.

  4. TWD,

    Thanks Tom; we appreciate the prayers.

  5. Lori,

    Thanks for the kind words; I got an email from Jonathan as well. Appreciate the prayers.

    Looking forward to April—hopefully the addition of UGH-la (I’m not a big fan) can help us overtake the Phillies’ juggernaut of a team!

  6. Derek,

    Really appreciate those words; they mean a lot.

  7. We will continue to pray for you…

    There is a lot in the book of Job that I “like” (what a terrible word, “like”)… I think one of my favorite lines is:

    “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both” -9:33 NIV (1984).

  8. Thanks Justin. I’m a big fan of that verse too. On Job’s side of history, his request seemed impossible. It’s comforting to be on the other side and to know that we have what he wished for.

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