Yesterday was possibly the worst day of our family’s life–and that encompasses some pretty terrible days in general.
We buried Emily Grace.
The day was preceded by a night of visitation at the funeral home–people were kind and friends from far outside of Indy drove in and paid their respects and showed love to Wendy, Brian, and our family. It was touching. I had worked all day on flowers–well, most of that is true. I was waylaid with conversation before I even started on the arrangements (large sprays on easels), and when I actually got going, I found it hard to do. My hands shook and I was slow–very atypical for me. After all, I’ve designed flowers for 13 years now and this was not my first funeral piece, not by a long shot.
But it was the first one I’d done for a family member, much less a beautiful niece.
And I prayed. I prayed my heart out–for amazing things like a physical resurrection. I knew it was well out of the realm of possible in the natural world, but isn’t that the very definition of a miracle? And while I knew it was improbable and impossible to us, it wasn’t for God. And what would we hurt by asking? The worst God could say was “no,” right? If I had been Emily’s mom, I would’ve done exactly the same thing–this would have been MY BABY. And I would’ve questioned forever if I should have or if I put God in a box by *not* asking. So we asked.
The answer was “no.” We all would’ve passed out if the answer had been “yes,” but it was something we had to do anyhow.
So yesterday began with sending my boys off to Ann Arbor, site of The Job Interview for Mark and a place where Brendan would be well-tended and safe from the emotional upheaval that a funeral can be.
We dressed and checked out of the hotel and drove to the church. While it was great to see friends and relatives that we haven’t seen in a while, it struck me as sad that this usually happens when someone dies and that we don’t make more of an effort when people are still alive.
The service was beautiful, but it found me so deeply sad. Emily was my girl–she was smiley, active, and oh so beautiful–and she let me kiss the bridge of her nose (what I call “my special spot”). And of course when that happened, Brendan had to get in on the action, too–he had to have me kiss *his* “special spot” right after Emily did. 😉
I’ve never touched someone in a coffin before–I never felt the need to do so. But this was different. This was my Emily and she was so precious–her sweet legs stretched out, socked toes touching the inside of the coffin, her pink fingernails, and the bruises on her legs from keeping up with her big brothers. Her delicate curls of strawberry blonde hair framed her face, and she just deserved all the kisses in the world. I was slightly surprised that it felt like kissing a porcelain doll, but just couldn’t stop pouring out my love and affection.
We drove to the cemetery and had a short ceremony there in the cold, drizzly, and otherwise blustery day. I was actually glad that it was cold like that–I was very cold (my mom said I was shivering, but I honestly don’t remember shaking at all), but it matched my state of mind. You shouldn’t bury a child–they should bury you. I would’ve been quite p.o.’d if it had been bright and sunny–although we know without question that Emily is with Jesus, it would’ve seemed like a mockery of the day and its events if it had been bright and cheerful.
Later that night, I learned a valuable lesson about why some people self-medicate with alcohol–it was incredibly easy to drink several glasses of wine and leave the heaviness of my heart behind. Of course it was still there when I woke in the middle of the night and again in the morning, but for a few hours, it was easier to sit and pretend it didn’t exist. I’m grateful for the fact that I don’t have a huge proclivity to drink, as well as for the new depth of understanding for those who do struggle with alcohol.
One last thing: as I awoke in the wee hours of the morning and reflected on the pain in my heart, the verse from 1 Thessalonians 4 (13) rang true in my mind: “…I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow like people who have no hope….” Paul was so right–we don’t grieve as those who don’t know the Hope in our hearts, but sometimes I think we gloss over that and negate the grief we DO have. Our grief will eventually give way to peace and hope, unlike those who don’t share our faith. But the grief is still everpresent at this time, and it’s still necessary to work through for emotional health. It was an affirmation of what we’re all going through and what Wendy & Brian will continue to go through for years to come, and an understanding that Jesus feels the pain that we have (Heb. 4:14-16) and comforts us at the same time. It’s a strange tension, yet one that believers live with at all times..