We’ve had a blanket of family lately. It helps.
Yesterday I took the shovel and dug for a while in the backyard, turning soil to get ready for seeds and sprouts. It helps to DO things. Get out of the house where every room is filled with her things and her family but absolutely empty of her.
Robby came out to me and said: “This is a happy day with Granna and Grandpa and family here. But, well, you know…”
Me, smiling but teary: “There’s a word for this day, Rob. Do you know it? It’s the word bittersweet.”
Rob: “What does that mean?”
Me: “It means something feels happy, that’s the sweet, but there’s sadness mixed in too. That’s the bitter. Can you hear it? Bitter-sweet.”
He smiled and ran off. A moment of grace.
Abbey arrived at school this morning carrying a thick folder with her 5th Grade report on Maryland, backpack, lunch, and sweater. I followed her into the classroom, empty of her mates since we arrived late and they had all gone on to assembly, and she said with confusion: “They used my desk to store extra stuff?” And then we realized at the same moment: her desk was covered in tiny gifts!
A little bag of peanuts, a special cookie shaped like a star, a new eraser, a tiny bottle of orange Gatorade , some new pencils and stickers. Offerings from 5th graders who have enough love to meet any difficulty in life, even if they don’t have words to say how. A moment of grace.
And this email was waiting for me early in the morning, after James and I laid her body in the back of the funeral van, wrapped tenderly in a pink prayer quilt she received many months ago. “Psalm 91” written on the corner, straight neat letters against the log cabin blocks, little curly stick-figure girls cartwheeling on flannel amidst butterflies and breast cancer ribbons. The essence of female gender writ small on pink cloth.
This from Amos’ dear teacher, named Lisa:
How I wish I had a photo for you to capture the look on Amos’ face I saw yesterday. I will do my best to describe it in words so you can tuck it away in your heart as you remember these days.
We pray for Lucy every day during Jesus time. I say something and the class repeats it after me. There is something so powerful about the prayer of a child. Yesterday we prayed these words. Dear Jesus…please be with Lucy…hold her hand…and hold her close to you…so that she knows….you will be with her…forever and ever…Amen.
And then I looked up at Amos’ face.
He had the smile of the angels on his face. A look of complete, beautific peace and joy. It warmed my heart to the very core of my being.
Later while we were reading Dr. Seuss’s ABC’s we got to L. Big L, Little L…what begins with L? Sara shouted out, “Lucy begins with L!” I looked at Amos.
He smiled that smile again and said, “That’s MY Lucy.”
I said, “Yes it is. We love her very much.”
He didn’t talk about Lucy any more that day. But when he came to hug me later that afternoon I got such a long, long hug. I was not about to be the first one to let go, so I let him rest there for as long as he needed. And I prayed for him over the top of his head the whole time.
Today my hearts aches for him and for all of you. For the hole that has entered your lives as you spend your first moments without your Lucy. We will pray for comfort, for peace, and for hope.
So I wrote back.
Dear Lisa,Thank you so much for giving me the gift of that moment. As hard as this day is, seeing the children easily show honest grief and love has softened the edges.I will give you a moment in return: Lucy answered Jesus’ call at around 3:00 am, and after the nurse came to get us James and I spent the remaining small hours of the night holding her and grieving together. We moved her to our own bed to get what rest we could but not miss our last few hours with her physical body.
One by one as the children woke up in the morning they came to our bed and we told them as gently as we could the she had died. Each one surprised me with their bravery and naturalness; stroking her hair, kissing her cold cheeks, and reaching to touch her as their tears began to flow.
Amos was the first one to come. (He is normally an early riser.) When we quietly told him that Lucy had died, that her spirit had gone to be with Jesus, he looked at her for a long moment, and then his sweet face crumpled, he dropped his bunny on the floor, covered his face with his hands and said through his tears: “I want to go to school!”
I think in that first instant of loss the most wonderful, safe place he could think of was to be in his classroom with you there to guide him.
When we explained that we would stay here he climbed up to touch and kiss her and cry while we held him. “At least we still have Helen.”, he said.
Thanks for being such a loving teacher. To have him yearn for his classroom at the point of anguish testifies to the powerful work God is doing there in spirit and growth. Using your words, your arms, your voice along with Mrs. Scrimshire’s to tell those children over and over that He loves them.
I love you, Lisa, and I’m thankful for you.
The bittersweet of yesterday will be more bitter than sweet for a long time. Moments of grace are strength for another step, another breath…Thanks for your kind words and songs and love. They are holding us up. – Katie