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Life After Death

A hot breeze blows in the shade under the maple tree where I sand away the stain and varnish from Stuart's boyhood bed. Bits blow and stick and soon I'm covered with reddish dust. It's a good day for dust. I work and listen for the sound of Stuart's tires in the driveway. Dread hearing tires. Dread where they will take me in an hour.

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.


ValleyGirl said…
Oh Kate. It's so unimaginable, losing a child. But you're right, and you've once again put principle into amazing words of comfort and hope.
I am so sorry. This family is in my thoughts....
Carrie said…
Heartbreaking comments but so beautifully written and what a beautiful way to keep things in the right perspective.
Your answer to Stuart is exactly right...we have to trust in God's sovereign grace and plan for all of creation. It's the only thing that makes such horrifc situations such as these bearable. My prayers are with Abby's family, and with yours as you grapple with this loss.

Heather C said…
Kate. I had forgotten what an incredible gift you have with words. You have given shape to thoughts in such a beautiful and touching way... thoughts that are difficult to contemplate, yet necessary. He is indeed sovereign... and faithful. And I'm grateful.

Praying for your friends.
deb said…
may I quietly leave a thought. a prayer for such unimaginable loss and stretching of hearts and souls.
Your writing is as breathtaking as the subject.
Alana said…
I feel like I can't breathe after reading that post. How is this family doing? I am praying now for them.

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