I’m standing over my daughter’s grave. A grief no parent should have to bear. It has been four years today.I’m not sure what to think this time. Not sure how to feel. Bryan echoes the sentiment. It’s the same as last time. And it is different.
I focus on the shiny white temporary marker underfoot. Another year and I still haven’t brought myself to make this thing permanent. The marker wiggles easily on top of the dead grass underneath it. It’s been a rough summer drought, I think to myself. They’ll have to take out some of the bushes in this cemetery. Not sure if all of these majestic trees are gonna make it.
Everything dies, I remind myself. I sigh and shake my head. Here…everything dies.I look around me, graves on every side. An expanse of granite slabs topped with bronze plates displaying names—names that matter to someone. Vases full of ugly silk flowers line the rows. Though they still “bloom”, these flowers, weathered over time, have lost their former glory, too.
Everything decays here.And, this whole scene is a rerun for me. We’ve been here before. Yet, as time separates me from the trauma of Audrey’s death, I still wonder what I am to make of it all. Will this always feel this way? How am I to soldier on? What is the meaning of it all?
Suddenly, I am compelled in the moment. I hate death! Oh, no, it won’t do this to ME! With a rush of adrenaline, in a last-ditch effort to fight back against the past, I all but leap into action right there in front of my family and friends. Only an unseen hand holds me back. If I had a shovel, I would dig and dig and dig, and I’d pull her right out of there! We’d run far away from here, and I’d keep her safe.As quickly as the thought occurs to me, it is diffused by rational thought. For all of the effort of digging and searching and reaching for her, I’d gain nothing. I would still come up empty. In this life.
So, now what?
I’ve asked that question before, Lord. I will ask it again. Now what?I glance again at our humble little marker. If the wind blew hard enough, that thing might fly away. But, I am settled inside. Truly, I like it more than the ones I see around me. It is different. And, not just because it is small and not meant to stay there. (It occurs to me that Audrey is also small and not meant to stay there…)
No, there’s more to this. There is more in this moment. “Don’t miss it!” something inside me screams. Why does that tiny, bright white marker shout loud to me in this silent place?Because it is the only one in my line of sight that bears a cross and a word of Scripture. The only thing in that desolate place that screams HOPE. Without the TRUTH, everything decays and dies and that’s it.
My mom puts her arm around me. My husband reaches for my hand. My friends cry and comfort and remember. My dad stands wistfully and gazes at the grave. I wonder what he’s thinking. Maybe that Audrey used to sidle up to his and mom’s bedside in the morning and whisper, “Mimi, Papa…coffee…” to entice them out.My friend says, “Here, hold the baby. Will that help? You need a snuggle?” I rock that precious child as I stand over the place where my daughter’s body was laid.
And, I am aware. Tanner is only here instead of there by God’s grace. I shudder. He could have died at birth. My friend could have gone with him. Born at 30 weeks, he arrived much too early and under duress. But, the delightful smile on his face today portrays an innocence I want to remember for myself…and one I want to preserve for him. Not the kind of innocence that pretends not to see, but the innocence that comes from childlike faith and trust in a perfect, all-knowing God who redeems.It occurs to me that this profound thought requires pictorial representation. How do you ask your friend to let you take a picture of her baby over your baby’s grave? Simply, if she is your heart friend. So she squats down and holds Tanner for the snapshot.
I look at that baby in that place, and I know. That is when the answer comes.Now what? “More work,” God answers. “Don’t give up now.”
My fellow Sunday school teachers come to mind. They are keeping their grandchildren this week while their children travel to Ethiopia to pick up their adopted son. Not too many months ago, he was on the brink of starvation. But, they are partnering with a very brave and loving mama in Africa to give him a better life. And, Stone Chera will learn of Jesus…of God’s great love for him. A beautiful picture of sacrifice and rescue and hope.And, someday, that boy will have the chance to do “more work” too…until God says enough is enough. But, we don’t know when that day will be. So, we soldier on.
I am sitting at my computer so entranced in my thoughts that I almost forget the children I still have in my watch care! I climb in my new van, determined to let music seep into me and breathe life into my soul. I blast my favorite new song: “We Are” by Kari Jobe.Maybe if I listen to it louder, I will feel it more profoundly. I raise the volume another notch. I have played it at least a hundred times in the last week, but I can’t seem to stop. I think God is trying to beat it into me. I sing along. “We are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill. We are the light of the world. We gotta, we gotta, we gotta let the light shine.” A smile takes over as I belt these words. And, I see a familiar face outside my passenger window. She is ten. A picture of innocence facing a complicated world. She is in my weekly Tween Time Bible study. Carefree, she is riding her bike and beaming. She is waving at me. And, I am energized.
Yes, Lord. There is more work to do. I trust you. I will wait for your redemption. No matter how much I hate what has happened here or how many times you have to remind me...because of your light, I will shine until you come."You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." Matthew 5:14-15