Our community, our school, and our little family have been hit hard by the loss of a bright little three and a half year old. Brooklyn was Haley’s age. Her momma and I were looking forward to upcoming years of our girls being together. Brooklyn has sisters who are twins in Darla’s class and another sister in Everett’s class. Brooklyn and Haley were buddies as they tagged along on field trips, class parties, and as our families played together. When Brooklyn was admitted to the hospital for e.coli, no one imagined she would slip into heaven only a couple days later.
The day Brooklyn died, Darla and I walked through raspberry fields with tears and words. Nine year old Darla articulated what many of us struggle to, “It feels like nothing will ever be the same. Will it always be this awful? I can’t imagine something being funny again. I want to be with the twins right now because they must be the saddest ever- but then what should I do? What could I say? Nothing makes it better, does it? This doesn't feel real at all."
Oh, the ache of a mom wishing she could shoulder the harshness of the world and shield her children from inevitable pain and heartache.
“God can comfort and He gives us hope, Darla- but the truth is life on earth leaves us with a lot of holes. Losing Brooklyn leaves a Brooklyn hole. We learn to live in a new normal, but there will always be a Brooklyn hole. Until we get to heaven and Jesus fills all the holes forever- we walk around reminded of losses. Brooklyn’s family will never be the same. They might get used to having three girls, eventually- but the fact is they have four and we only get to see three on earth.”
“Mom, it does make heaven more real- doesn’t it? I mean- it makes me more excited to go there. Now I know Grandma Sandy and Brooklyn will be there and it makes it seem closer somehow.”
We twirled leaves, kicked at the dust, and even had a moment of quiet… which is rare between the two of us.
“I want to do something but nothing can make it happy. I’ll draw the twins a picture of all four girls together or maybe just a picture of Brooklyn,” the words tumbled out on top of each other, “but then… will that only make them sadder?”
“Mmm. If you lost a sister, would you hope people remember her, remind you of what they love about her, and do things to show they understand? Or would you want them to ignore this huge thing that happened, hoping it will make you happier faster?”
Pretending normal doesn’t create normal, does it?
“Definitely I'd want to remember. I’m going to draw a picture.”
Our conversation was long. It ended with headaches from trying to wrap minds around grief and energy spent on tears. Darla immediately went to work on a picture. We need to do something with all of it, don't we? Make a meal, write memories, send flowers, look through pictures. Somehow come to terms, somehow process, somehow pour grief into efforts other than tears.
It’s an honor to grieve with others- a painful, exhausting honor. The day after Brooklyn died Darla went to be with the twins while the family met with visitors and their pastor. We prayed together before she left. We talked about how strange grief is- sometimes we can’t make ourselves believe it’s our reality. Sometimes we’re sad. Sometimes we ignore it, and play, and remember what normal felt like. Sometimes we want people surrounding us and other times we can only tolerate solitude. We have great hope and excitement over the eternal and can be happy for Brooklyn, who is forever healed and in the presence of God. We have great agony because we’re still here. We look around and realize how temporary most things that surround us are. It exhausts us, but there isn't a way around it. To grip the hand of someone experiencing loss and go straight through it with them... is an honor.
It’s a privilege to sit at a funeral to bear witness to a life now moved to heaven, with no words that could do the situation justice, and to file home not understanding how the sun can still shine bright.
It’s sacred to sit in the teacher’s lounge with a bunch of moms to plan fundraising and school events, and instead spend a chunk of the morning praying, interceding for a family, while passing Kleenex back and forth.
It's a blessing to remember. This week... and the next when one momma doesn't have her three year old at home after the others hop on the bus... and next month when cards and flowers have subsided... and next year when new normal has settled but grief still has ability to knock you flat.
The more loss I experience, the more people I walk with through grief, the more I face the ugliness of a falling short world, the more I fail and am wounded by other's failures, the more I imagine myself covered with holes. Holes can grow me bitter and jaded or soft and empathetic, depending where my trust and hope is.
I identify holes in others, too. They might look like wrinkles, hair graying or sparse a few years too soon. They might be physical scars, or emotional ones evident on the face. They appear in depth that occurs through hardship, or a compassionate “I understand” in place of judgment.
While holes appear and I wonder if I'll always walk with a limp, I simultaneously sense that I’m not losing my footing. With each hole, my feet wiggle their way into the Word of God, burrow into hope for the eternal, and settle into the person of Jesus who is the foundation- the only hope of me maintaining my footing. Only through Him can I point to the redemption and hope within each gaping hole; war wounds that hold evidence of His faithfulness.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...