“The earth will never be the same again
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in the pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
A (child’s) death, O this particular loss
A Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried
If this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies would have lied.
How shall we sing our love’s song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
Every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Ring of Endless Light
Quote given shared from my friend, Valerie, on her blog. The original said “dolphin.” It was replaced by “child.”
In the past week we have watched a dear friend lose her almost 3 month old baby. Despite the fact it was expected, it happened fast. And frankly, how does anyone really prepare for the death of a sweet infant? Just yesterday, the husband of one of the most phenomenal women I know died. George had a heart so full and giving that it is pretty hard to fathom. Somewhat fitting that a man who lived his life from a starting place of love would pass on Valentine’s Day. George’s wife was one of Alex’s preschool teachers last year and continues to be an incredible part of our lives.
Death is such a tough topic. Each person deals with it differently. When death is imminent, some are open and honest about what is to come. Others more private. And with both of these scenarios this week, I knew I would have to chat with my eldest about each situation. Alex was just about to start a painting for George when we received news he’d died. My heart sunk and when we began the conversation, he was just so sad that he wasn’t going to get to give his painting to George in person. We ended up re-channeling and making one for George’s wife. But so began the starting place for our conversation….trying to talk about how Alex wouldn’t get to see George again.
a beautiful picture that hangs on our wall, painted by George and gifted to Alex last fall
And then sweet Julia. Not even 3 months old. An incredible witness to truth, love and honesty in her short time here. And yet, how do we talk to kids about the harsh reality of an innocent, sweet bundle of baby goodness dying? Immediately Alex connected the situation to Julia’s older sister, a classmate and wonderful friend of his at school. He wondered how she was doing and felt sad for her.
About seven and a half year’s ago our friends lost their son, Zachary. We adore this family, and have had the gift of knowing them through church settings and school. Zachary’s death still brings me to tears. It’s still hard for me to imagine why. Here’s a video that gives you a little taste for his sweet sweet life….(the video is made to support a wonderful organization, the ben towne foundation)
We loved the name Zachary, and wanted to honor Zachary’s life and amazing presence. So, when Alex was born, that became his middle name. I often talk to Alex about who Zachary was and what the name means to us….the power of Zachary’s influence during his short life.
All this to say—death is hard. It is not something we like to think about, especially in our culture. And approaching it with children seems too challenging. In an effort to be honest, but age-appropriate, we have had conversations this week with Alex about the events that have unfolded. But as is often the case, he’ll bring up further questions or concerns at unexpected moments. I keep reminding myself that grief is unpredictable, even though there are psychologically “proven” stages of it. I’m guessing that my job is to do a lot of listening and not too much talking. We also used a wonderful resource at my school with students when Zachary died back in 2004. The book is called Tear Soup and I thought I’d pass it on here.
There is hope and joy knowing that all three of these dear souls are in a place without tears. Without pain. Without suffering. A place of healing. For me, the events of this week have reminded me to take time to say and really mean, “I love you”. To sit with my family and soak them in (which last night meant surviving a Valentine’s last minute meal at PF Changs since we had a gift card….wow….that was a lot of messy rice we left at our departure!). And to cling to and remember that God promises to “make everything new.”
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”