In Memoriam

   I stop and start. I type words and delete them all. Words usually matter, but not this week. A child has died and there are no words that will make it untrue.

   Tears fall. Days pass and I feel unworthy to shed them. I didn’t really know her. That wasn’t my privilege. Pain is real, God reminds me, even when it has nothing to do with me.

   So even though I have no right to mourn, I do not fight my sorrow. I hope it is a result of prayer – that God is easing rightful grief by placing some of it on me.

   But platitudes are meaningless. Flowers can’t be spared for language; they are needed for her grave.

  She is a light returned to God, but her parents are still here, feeling everything and nothing all at once.  Numbness gives way, sleep is impossible.  When it finally shrouds, it bursts with nightmares – none worse than the reality morning brings. Nourishment seems pointless; when finally taken, it’s swallowed with guilt.

   Life should end, but it doesn’t. Breath should cease, but it refuses.

   There are no words, but we must say something. We are helpless, but we must help.

   But hopeless?

   Here I stumble. I want to say yes. Words flow, unanchored: Anger, fear, resentment. Sorrow, rage. Regret, despair.

   But hope?

   My grandmother lost a baby – her son – who died of a childhood disease and was buried on his first birthday. I don’t know much about the days and weeks following his death, so I imagine. She must have thought life should end, that breath should cease.  I’m jealous for her right to grieve. I want to say she had a right to stay hopeless – to let it give way to rage, fear and sorrow.

   But she had another child; a little girl who would become my mother. Pulling from strength that defies will, she must have found hope in her. She put one foot in front of another and let each day follow the one before. She lived a long life; but I know her heart was never whole.

   Years later, she became a wonderful grandmother – my precious Nana. It’s been thirteen years since she died and her influence on my life still resonates.  I hear her voice, I smell her perfume, I taste her recipes, I touch her belongings. If I close my eyes, I see her smile.

Oregon Coastline.  Photo by Ralph Boyer
   She’s with her son now. I’m so happy about that. But I’m thankful that God gave her hope to finish this life first.  That he lifted her out of despair. I needed her. When her baby died, she couldn’t see into her future; she didn’t know how beautiful her daughter would become, inside and out. She didn’t know she would have three granddaughters who still look to her example for guidance. She didn’t know that her life would be worth so much more than her grief, but God did.

   My prayers continue for these parents who have lost their precious child this week. May God lift them up and hold them tight until they can see past their grief to hope again.


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