This is something I wrote last year on this day. It still holds true.
At this time 8 months ago today I was washing my daughters body and preparing her for her siblings to say goodbye.
Today, we celebrate the 3 Kings who came to see Baby Jesus. Most of us know the story. Ancient wise men who had read in their books that a mighty King was to be born under this night sky. So, they went in search of him bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold for a king. Frankincense to show His mighty priesthood, and myrrh because he was to die and His Body be anointed with this oil. Fulton Sheen said it best, “What would our mothers have thought if the neighbors brought in embalming fluid when we were born?” Imagine receiving this as a gift!
Before Maggie died I refused to allow myself to think of something happening to one of my 5 children. And suddenly, I was thrust into the unexpected. The very thing I had tried to avoid even thinking about. And I was caught off guard. I realized that within my womb I bore not only life but death as well. I realized that when I welcomed my 9 lb bundle of joy that without realizing it I was saying hello to her goodbye. Every one of my children will face death one day. I have no idea if my remaining 4 will go before me or after me. But leave we must all do. Joyce Rupp so very clearly states in her book Praying Our Goodbyes that we all follow the common pattern of hello-goodbye-hello. There is no avoiding it. Every human must follow. We just don’t expect it will be our children to follow that pattern first.
This new year has been so very difficult already. It came to me faster then I ever expected. Suddenly, I am thrust into a world where I can no longer say that “my daughter died earlier this year.” Instead, suddenly and unexpectedly much like her death, I am saying, “Last year my daughter died.” It makes me feel so very far removed from her. I am greeted to my left and my right with, “Happy New Year!” I do not begrudge anyone a happy new year. I am not angry or hurt when they say it. But my body screams, “No! It is not a happy new year! My baby is in the past! Her body lies beneath the cold, hard ground!” And I have to stop. I have to clear my mind. I have to focus hard and look up. I remind myself that she is not in the past. That she is in the future and that I must get there! The soul knows the truth but the body is so very tired and beaten down by merciless time.
Is this too raw? Too real? Is what I say not hopeful enough? Please hear me. This is a grief journey. Not a process. Not a moment in time. Not something that I can ever “get over.” This is a journey that has no ending until I have her in my arms again. You will see the ups and downs. You will either grow restless wondering when I will move on or you will hunker down with me and walk with me throughout my life. The “stages” of grief are, to me, a myth. They do not exist. Grief is not so easily described as a particular stage that one gets through.
I read a poem today by William Cullen Bryant called Death of the Flowers. And it is beautiful. My Maggie died at the end of the Easter season thus dying with the flowers.
“And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died,
The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side.
In the cold moist earth we laid her, when the forests cast the leaf, And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief; Yet not unmeet it was that one, like that young friend of ours, So gentle and so beautiful, should perish with the flowers.”
There will, in time, be a beautiful spring day and she will rise again with the flowers in her own, glorious Easter season. Until then I cling to hope in my Lord Jesus Christ and I still say with resolve, “When miracles happen Blessed be God. When miracles do not happen blessed be God.”
Thank you for walking with me.