This note is not meant to bring tears or sorrow. I am not crying (much) as I write it. On the contrary, I am renewed. It is a letter I am writing for me. But I pray it may encourage others, too. For that reason, I am also posting it. I would ask that if you choose to read it, you read it in it’s entirety, and in the light in which it is written: an open and honest conversation from a mom to her girls, sharing what God spoke to her heart. NOT an emotional, feeling sorry for oneself outpouring of heartache. And if you feel like you want to respond, please keep that in mind. I am not looking for empathy. I am sharing what God put on my heart. Again, I write it for me, I post it with a prayer that it may encourage someone else.
Much Love, H.
To My Sweet Girls,
I don’t visit often
enough. It’s just never been a place I get excited to go to. And I know you’re not even really there. It’s just a remembering spot, and the truth is, I remember everywhere. I don’t need to go to a spot to do that.
Just the same, it’s your spot.
And so I go. But only once in a great while.
Can I just be honest? Going to that spot… it’s kind of a drag, really. Looking around at all the spots for others gone far too young. There are just so many. Their mommies and daddies come and lay flowers down through tears. By the time I see them, the petals are wilted and dying, ribbons faded and tattered. I imagine the broken hearts standing over spots where the dates are written for lives taken so soon, wondering, questioning, aching. The whole scene is just depressing. So going to that spot, it’s something I really avoid doing.
And when I do, I never, never bring flowers. I can’t bring myself to leave them there for another Mommy to see wilted, drooping and dead over your spot. I don’t want them to come to their spot and feel saddened by more death. (Why is it that even with you gone, I have Mommy Guilt for that? Mommy Guilt for not putting flowers on your remembering spot? I suppose if I did, I’d just have Mommy Guilt for leaving them there wilted and dead far too long.)
But on Memorial Day, we decided to go, to take your sister and brother, and leave some flowers for you both. Your sister and I, we picked out a small potted plant with bright pink blooms. I wanted something that might last a while. Something that wouldn’t just die.
Your brother made us laugh. He asked anxiously, “When are dey getting here, Mommy?!?” I asked him what he was talking about. “Madison and Taylor!” he replied with a tell-tale look on his face, the one that means Duh, obviously! I told him you weren’t coming. He looked at me like I was crazy, with one cheek scrunched up under his eye – his confused look, “You mean, dey aren’t even coming to get deir flowers???” I smiled as I shook my head no and explained that you’re not coming, because you’re in Heaven. He scrunched his face again, but spoke rather irritated, “Well… why won’t Jesus dist let dem come?”
Body and soul is a hard thing to explain to a 3-year-old. I gave up, and we left when he started playing hop-scotch on other babies’ spots. Sometimes, you just have to laugh at the awkwardness of it all.
That was the last time I visited.
Then this weekend approached. You would have turned 7. (When I said that to your sister, she quickly replied, “NO, Mom. They are seven. Just because they’re dead here doesn’t mean they don’t get a birthday. They are alive in Heaven, you know. Probably Jesus and everyone sang to them there already.” She then burst into an operatic version – arms spread wide and all – of Happy Birthday, dear Ma-di-suhhhhhhnnnnnn.)
I found myself alone when the first date approached. I wasn’t sure what to do. Do I go? Do I not go? If I go, do I bring something? Oh dear, I remembered. We brought something last time. That was months ago. It’s probably dead by now. How I hate going and finding dead stuff on your spot. I almost didn’t go, just so I wouldn’t have to see it and throw it away.
But, it was your birthday, Madison. And as your sister reminded me, you’re still alive in Heaven. So, I decided to bring you both a balloon, a Happy Birthday balloon.
Picking out the right one proved to be a bit challenging. The one with bright yellow happy faces all over it? No, that didn’t seem appropriate. How about the one with confetti and brightly colored ribbon? I didn’t really feel like celebrating. Hello Kitty? Thomas the Train? The florescent one with the dancing cupcake surrounded by dozens of Happy Birthdays? Too pop culture. Too boyish. Too… chipper.
I began to think mixing a celebratory theme with a not-so-celebratory feeling was just a bad idea. I was about to leave empty-handed when I found one. Sky blue with a simply written Happy Birthday and two butterflies. One green, one lavender. Perfect. No, wait. There were actually four butterflies. 2 were larger, like they were closer up just right there, and 2 were smaller, like they were far away, but still very much alive. Even more perfect.
I made my purchase and headed to your spot, still dreading that dead plant I was going to have to dump.
When I got there, I rolled down the window and turned the car off. Maybe I’ll just sit here, I thought. I don’t need to actually walk over. It’s just too depressing to see, to stand there in the awkward silence, staring at your names. Even more awkward when I break the silence and talk to you.
I sat there for a minute and closed my eyes. That’s when I realized, it wasn’t silent at all. I could hear the birds chirping in the distant trees, the water flowing in the nearby fountain into the pond. It sounded… happy? No, that wasn’t it. It sounded… alive.
I glanced over to your spot. The sun was peeking through the trees, shedding light on the place we picked just for you. I could see the plant we set there, months ago. At first, I just noticed the tattered, faded floral paper and the brown, wilted flowers. But then I saw it, pink blooms, poking out of the brown.
I picked up the balloon and headed over. A new patch of clover was growing over the words in the bottom corner. I plucked it away to reveal “In God’s Nursery.” I wondered for a moment how accurate that was and what “age” you are in Heaven. The thought – one that usually sits and consumes for a while – flitterred away as I noticed more of the life around me. Grass growing over the edges of the stone marking your spot. I picked it away too, but not too much. Bright flowers blooming around the bubbling fountain. More birds. And bees, I hear them, too.
I remembered now why we chose this spot for you, in the shade of the sweet little tree near the little fountain and pond. It was so peaceful. But I just never noticed it before, it is also so… full of life.
I took a few pictures before I left, to show Daddy. He misses you, too.
My mind swirled as I drove away. Never have I felt this way leaving. Never have I left your spot feeling like there was life. I always focus on the death surrounding me there. Why am I suddenly noticing there is much more than that?
It is all in my perspective.
I know you are alive in Heaven, but do I really act like I believe it? I stand there, staring at your names, your dates, picturing the pink gingham box that holds your teeny tiny lifeless bodies below. When all along, you are very much alive.
“They would’ve been 7,” I had said to her. “NO, Mom. They ARE seven,” she replied. Even your 5-year-old sister knows.
My problem isn’t just there, standing at your spot. My problem is my daily focus. My mind is centered on this earthly place, where lives end and things die. And it’s perfectly okay to be sad about that. But how easily I forget how this life is but a speck in light of eternity. Where is my focus? On this life or the next?
I drove from your spot to where Daddy was, and he and I got to witness a beautiful union of two amazing individuals, so full of life. The outdoors, the ceremony, the dancing… alive and joyous. Several times, I got choked up as I became overwhelmed with the same feelings from when I stood overlooking your names: the overwhelming abundance of new life. Pure Joy.
Madison, for the first time on your birthday, I was overwhelmed with a sense of Joy. I kept thinking of this verse: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~ John 10:10
Your little lives didn’t turn out how I had hoped and planned and dreamed. There are days where that time seems like a lifetime ago, a different life altogether. But there are days where the weight of losing you both is suffocating and could easily destroy. Yet we go on.
But it isn’t about that. It isn’t just about life just goes on. I don’t want to live minimally. That isn’t what God intended. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Just living isn’t enough.
And Taylor, when your birthday came two days later, I was reminded again. 7 years ago, I could never ever have imagined our house being as full of life as it was on this day that I quietly celebrated you. 7 years ago, I felt so empty. Hopeless. Your birthday was a stark contrast to that feeling. On your birthday, it was just me… and 7 little people. All full of giggles all day. 7 happy mouths to feed. 7 joyful voices talking, playing, laughing, singing. I should have taken a picture of the 7 sets of dirty little bare feet after running outside in the sunshine all day. And then when Daddy came home, we had a dance party with 7 littles all in their PJs. What a day full of life. Full of hope.
And I thought of this verse: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” ~ Romans 15:13. Another translation says, “…so that you may overflow with hope.”
Filled. With all joy. Abounding and overflowing with hope. That’s so much more than just living…
…And it requires a focus beyond here.
I want to live, teeming with life*. Like at your spot. Like at the wedding. Like here, when the house was full, teeming with joy and laughter.
I want this kind of joy, hope, life to spill over to others. I pray it does. I pray that – just like the new blooms appearing through the wilted brown, new life – eternal life – will come from your earthly death and the hopelessness Daddy and I felt 7 years ago.
From your death, new life.
From our hopelessness, eternal hope.
This I pray.
I love you forever, My Girls.
*John 11:25,26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
*John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…”