A Spirit of Love
by Kay P. Adkins
Many prominent people in the world today believe in the theory that the spirit of each person agrees, before conception, to come and live on Earth knowing beforehand how that life will begin, what its quality will be, and how it will end.
An example of this theory in practice could be the spirit of Mother Teresa agreeing to come and forsake all creature comforts to live and work among the poor making what difference she could in their lives. Or the spirit of a young man knowing that he is coming to live only a short time, dying at an early age in a fiery motorcycle crash to send the message to other riders to wear helmets. Or perhaps a child spirit agrees to end a very short existence at the hands of an abortionist order to teach a young mother and father a more responsible way to live. A long-suffering spirit may agree to come spend his entire life as a drunken derelict so that others can look at him with a stirring of humility and gratitude and know that, whether they say it aloud or not, "There but for the grace of God go I."
Reading the works of people with these beliefs has given me reason to pause and reflect on my oldest daughter's life, with its many addictions, and the effect it has had on others.
LeAnn was different from the beginning: quiet, undemanding, intelligent, brooding, and hauntingly lovely with her small stature and her huge eyes so dark brown they look like bottomless wells of ink. Because of her undemanding nature, her siblings received more love and attention than she did, and though the inequity didn't appear to bother her, of course it did, and a more attentive mother would have seen the warning signals.
This quiet, beautiful little girl began taking drugs when she was 11 years old, embarking on a lifestyle that is now in its 21st year. Normally, when a child begins taking drugs at such a young age the emotional development is retarded, making the normal maturation process impossible. She was no exception to this rule.
When LeAnn was growing up, she was in and out of many schools and several "homes," from which we were always told she would have to leave. It was not because she was destructive, abusive, rude, loud, or violent. She simply had a problem with people and would withdraw physically, if possible, but always mentally and emotionally from any situation that was not to her liking, which was most situations. I believe that her drugs were not so much a desire for pleasure as they were an escape from a world she didn't understand, didn't know how or where she fit into, and didn't know how to deal with.
The pain, anguish, confusion, and turmoil that wracked our family during the early years of her addiction are indescribable. My husband and I had terrible arguments about her. Her brother and sister alternated between hating her and loving her, exposing her, and protecting her. We were all codependent, enabling her to stay in her addiction, locked in the depths of her own hell. At age 21, she served her first prison term and is presently, at age 32, serving her third. Drugs were either directly or indirectly the reason for all of her arrests.
Those are a few facts of LeAnn's life, but they say nothing about the person she is. I realize that, as her mother, my opinion is biased, but the things I am about to relay will be confirmed by anyone who knows her.
LeAnn is the sweetest, most compassionate, caring, unselfish person I have ever known. She has never raised her voice or said an unkind thing to me in her life. She is loving, gentle, affectionate, and would do anything for anyone. Through 21 years of hard drug use, alcohol abuse, and three prison terms, she still has the lovely little round face of a 16-year-old angel.
I learned how to separate a person from the person's behavior
Did her spirit agree to come to earth and suffer a life of loneliness, isolation, depression, and addiction so others might be helped? I see this as a very real possibility because of the influence that she has had in the lives of so many, beginning with me.
Having LeAnn in my life has taught me about unconditional love. Because of her, I learned how to separate a person from the person's behavior and love the person unconditionally even if I despised the behavior. I learned the damage I can inflict by helping people clean up their messes and relieving them of the responsibility of their actions. Also, LeAnn helped me to develop compassion for those whose souls scream for peace while their flesh screams for the escape of pleasure. Finally, she taught me never to judge unlovely behavior in a person, for it may be covering a scared child who is only seeking love and acceptance.
She taught her father and brother, who'd had stiff redneck personalities, that life is not always as simple as black or white, right or wrong. Neither of them understands addictions, not being addicts themselves, but through watching her numerous attempts at recovery they are forced to admit that perhaps their idea of "If you don't like it, don't do it" is not as easy as they thought. They also learned that sometimes love and family won't allow you to dismiss people from your lives just because you don't approve of their actions.
My youngest daughter, who grew up a cheerleader, head of her class, so popular with her beautiful blond hair and blue eyes, so very different from her sister, does not understand LeAnn at all but loves her beyond belief. She learned that loving others has nothing to do with the things you have in common with them or with how much they may deserve your love.
My mother and dad, LeAnn's grandparents, learned about total unselfishness from her when she gave her oldest son to them. Some look at the act more as total selfishness, thinking she didn't want to be bothered, but those closest to her know it was the ultimate act of love. She realized that her life was out of control, and she wanted the baby she loved so much to have a chance, so she gave him to the two people she knew wanted him and would give him that chance.
LeAnn taught the current man in her life that his money can't buy everything and that life does not always fit into neat little compartments. He's learned that no one has control over another person, that love doesn't respond to reason and logic, and that our emotions don't always obey our commands.
I've received letters from women with whom she's incarcerated, women whose lives she has touched, and some that she has changed. They all love her, and some say that she is the only bright spot in their lives. They tell me her optimism and her positive attitude are infectious and that the aura of a room literally changes when she enters.
LeAnn told me years ago that she felt that God was calling her to work with children. Though she has mentioned this periodically since then, she has never taken any steps toward actually pursuing it. (Could this be the reason she is constantly finding herself back behind bars, starting her life over?) I frequently think about the impact she will have on so many young lives when she does get herself aligned with God's calling.
Once, while doing community service in a treatment center for teenagers, a young boy asked her, "Are you a kid like us, or a grownup?" Perhaps that is why the drugs, alcohol, and time have not left their ravaging marks on her. The children with whom she will work will be able to identify with her. Did she say yes to the terrible pain and untold horrors of addiction so she can go to the young children and say, "I've been there, I've done that, and believe me, you don't want to go, and you don't want to do it."
Reflecting on this possibility has had two very profound effects on me. First, it has enabled me to look at LeAnn, her life, and our family from a perspective that makes more sense to me than just chaotic destructive lives with no purpose. Second, I'm not near as quick to judge others and their actions. It's becoming increasingly easier for me to pause and ask, "What is this person here to teach me?"