Charlie chatters while I sand. His words come dimly. "How old is this bed, Mama?"
I push away black cloud. "It's old, Charlie. It was your papa's bed when he was a boy."
"How old is your car?"
"Old as far as cars go. About as old as Lauren." I sand until tires crunch gravel and then I put the bed back in the garage and rinse off dust and switch shorts for dress. The tires carry us away.
And too soon I stand in front of the husk of a girl. Young, not old. Younger than our car. A smidge younger than Lauren. A beautiful, beautiful girl... in spirit and in body. I hold her Mama hard and the tears come, hers and mine. "I'm so sorry. We're praying courage... grace..." Watery, weak words. A poor substitute for a daughter lying cold in a box.
Hair brushed back, full lips, fingers wrapped still around a blue blanket. Still. I look for her chest to rise, her heart to beat. It seems that time should stop, people become statues. Instead we live. In our few minutes with broken-hearted parents we make introductions, shake hands, cry, laugh, breath. Live.
Later we lie restless in the dark. "Are you asleep?" Stuart asks. "It doesn't seem fair, does it for parents to lose a child."
I'm quiet for a bit, thinking how to compress emotion into words. "That's not a safe question because it leads us away from the sovereignty of God. She's whole and safe and well. How can that not be good? I'm so, so sad for the empty place in her family. I'm sad for her parents, her brothers, but I cannot be sad for Abby." We toss a long time before we sleep and tears soak the pillow for a mother with empty arms and empty hours.
I grieve but to look death in the face is instructive. To see death teaches that there is a time to die. To see death teaches one to number the finite minutes and to learn to live those appointed days with wisdom. Like Abby.
Artwork and words from the back of Abby's funeral program. A recent creation from Abby's own hand.