Seven has always been my favorite number. I don't know why; it just is. When I was seven I wore bright red patent leather shoes for Easter with a light blue dress. It didn't match, but I didn't care then. I remember feeling beautiful. I'm not sure if that's why seven has always been the number I love best.
This seven ...I don't like much. The seven year mark since Phoebe passed. It's a good amount of time, but seems like moments in so many ways.
I watch and listen to parents new to this loss, and I remember how life ended that day. Not just Phoebe's but mine too ...and my family's. Life was over. Simple. It was gone. And like those stranded after shipwreck, we began to rebuild bit by bit, tear by tear. We found a new normal, a new way, and made a life again. All God's grace.
There is laughter and adventure, newness weaving through our family life. And yet, it still begs for Phoebe's return, her belonging here hasn't changed. We've just accommodated the loss of her.
Friends reach out, remembering and wanting to take away the pain that remains. It is a long time for them too. There will always be a hint of sorrow no matter how great the joy! The Ressurection only follows the Crucifixion ...one cannot be without the other.
Just the other day I met with an old friend I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. I hold her responsible for teaching me my faith at a time I was truly ready and eager to learn. She gathered us in, all young mothers, toddlers and babies in tow, to hear lessons on our faith. It's those same women who carried me through this loss, that sat with me in that little rustic classroom. She had left so unexpectedly for a family emergency there were no goodbyes or exchange of addresses. Our little group adjusted and carried on with other teachers trying to offer the charism that came from Mimi. Her faith was so certain and strong, and so beautifully delivered through her heavy Ukrainian accent. It grounded me. I still have the leather bound notebook I wrote in week by week, and look though it once again finding the treasures of faith.
Mimi came back as unexpectedly as she left. I saw her across a crowd and something in my heart settled. I screamed her name and wove my way to her. She stood there with one of my dearest friends, who has never left my side. There was so much to share, what had happened over the years for all of us. We agreed to meet.
When we did, we spoke only briefly of Phoebe. She shared her memory of my little girl, just five. Together they found her a job to water the plants. And she did each time we met, eagerly searching for her cup with her name on it. Those are precious memories that speak to her innocence. Mimi called Phoebe's death a mystery in the sense that it belongs to God and beyond our understanding. And in true Mimi form, she urged me onward. Her eyes spoke volumes "Carolyn, it is very painful this loss, and it cannot be understood now, but you will one day. For now, there is work that must be done, and you must do it with all your heart." And she is right! There is so much work to be done, so many hearts that need tending, so many feet that need lamplight ...way more than I could ever hope to help.
So this weekend started with a strong sense and urge to give back to someone else, to help someone who might be in need. And all weekend they came in various forms. People struggling with such hardship, such distress and despair. It is painful to watch, but so hopeful when they are willing to turn to God and allow His plan to unfold. So often His plans contradict our own. I wrestle with that constantly, and it takes time to notice His way is better.
Seven years is a long time to miss someone, a long, long time. And the aching wears on me.
But ...it is lighter and less threatening than it was in the beginning.
I have the vision to see the beauty around me, the depth of love that resides in my home among my kids and husband. It is safe here, it is safe now. I will be with Phoebe again.
God does not abandon us, ever. Into each pain, each sorrow, each loss ...is a gift. Doesn't lessen the intensity, but gives us the strength and grace we need to carry it.
Pray especially for those parents new to loss, they are living a nightmare.