A Little Box


When I was a little girl my father managed a funeral home. As a kid I spent many hours exploring and playing at Daddy’s “office” being exposed to the many parts and stages of the physical farewells of our culture. Surprisingly it was an inviting place for me. A safe environment to learn so much about loss.

My mother, being a pianist, would sometimes be asked to play in services for grieving families who didn’t have a church or community to draw from. When I was about eight years old my siblings and I were also asked to sing in a service. It was for an infant that we did not know but that day I sang all three verses of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ to a room of strangers. I remember stepping out on to the very familiar platform and not being able to take my eyes off the horribly unfamiliar casket. I had seen my fair share of coffers but never one so undersized. It was white, covered in something soft like feathers, and would have nicely fit my favourite doll.

Just a child myself I had no concept of a grieving mother’s pain, but when I walked out of that service I cried. I remember feeling confused and a little silly for the amount of emotion that unexpectedly came rushing out over someone I didn’t even know. That scene would often play in my head throughout the years and though the sharpness of the memory faded the intensity of my associated emotions seemed to grow stronger with each visit.

There are not many clear memories for me of the days after the car accident, but I do recall the absolute dread I felt about having to pick out a miniature box for my own daughter. As if I was eight again singing in front of strangers unable to take my eyes off a ‘train-wreck’. The fear was so strong and intimate it felt as if I must be reliving a nightmare. So much so that in my relief when I found out Madeline’s body would be allowed to rest in Colin’s arms I remember feeling hope.

Now as I fly home after a Christmas away there is this accustomed heaviness creeping in. Each mile I travel brings me closer to another devastating encounter with a tiny casket. My heart aches and my body dreads facing that little box. The knowledge that it holds the child of my dearest friend, a little girl who will forever be a significant part of my grieving journey, brings me right back to that helpless girl on the stage. Right back to my own goodbyes.

In life these little ones represent the greatest joy and in death they demonstrate the cruelest reality. All in such a tiny chest.

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Joyful, Joyful, We Adored Thee


Joy.

This was yesterday’s advent attribute. Such a big part of the Christmas season. Such a huge part of a victorious Christian life. A state of being I have been wrestling with.

I can recite the answers: Joy is not based on your feelings or circumstances. It is vast and more profound than happiness. It is also something that many people in my life hope for me. Though connecting all this knowledge to my heart has been a struggle.

Yet, as I was bombarded by this word yesterday I had an epiphany. You see two years ago Madeline was dedicated on this advent Sunday. It was one of the most poignant and memorable baby dedications I have been a part of and I remember our pastor saying how she was the perfect example of joy personified. Not because of anything she had done, but because of who she was to us. That resonated deeply with my mother’s heart.

So not only did the tragedy of the accident and all that I lost impact my joy, in essence I was robbed. That tiny, fragile, bundle, that joy was stolen from my very arms. Even the innermost longing for joy seems no match for the implausibility of this truth; as I know she is never coming back.

But my daughter didn’t just show up unannounced or without expectation. Colin and I chose to welcome her through our actions and preparation. There was anticipation in our household for her appearance and so when she did arrive we were ready. It was natural for us to have her reside with us because her place had been prepared in advance.

And I believe that this is true too for Joy. I won’t accidentally stumble across it during the day. It isn’t lost under a rock somewhere expecting to be found. It’s not broken or needing a battery replaced.

It lives inside me. It is waiting to be invited to the party. It politely stands behind fear and loathing. It even holds me while I cry. It is hoping I will choose it. And that is probably the toughest thing about it. It is a choice, a decision. An attitude that I have to submit to each and every moment. The pain and sorrow are still very real, but I was never meant to dwell there.

Misery isn’t the only one that loves company.