Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Altar of Bereavement

A thin veil hangs between Earth and Glory, where Everleigh now resides, and we as humans just don't know what to do in that space. The church sanctuary is just that--a solemn, safe place for mourners to gush and share in a way people can only do when heaven is that palpable. So we weep and ask questions, hug one another, beg God for His comfort and promise to hold our babies longer, love them better. It's holy ground, where families long separated sit side by side, forgiveness in their embraces, tear-filled eyes smiling understanding. Somewhere in the deep chasm of loss, love and healing emanate potential light. Eulogies are given and behind words of anguish and anger, is a thread of hope that somehow there's a reason for the seeming insanity of baby death. 

Rick (Grandpa) reads Everleigh's favourite bedtime story, as he would each night, but this time to us, the assembly of fellow grievers. As he turns each page and asks, "Is that my panda?" sobs fill his voice and he gazes at the tiny casket and closes with, "Goodnight, Monkey."  Karen (Grandma) eloquently and honestly lists the ways this small person has transposed her from a private person to one who is open and enraptured with life as she views it through the eyes of a near-toddler. No one doubts the unconditional love for this little being. Heather, her young mother, is calm and lovely and speaks with a desire for all of us to know her daughter more. She holds the hand of Everleigh's daddy, Andrew, as he cries into the microphone how he loved his girl. His mom and sisters encircle each other and express their hearts too in a cascade of sadness and tenderness for their lost baby. So much pain, adoration and hope, all mingling at the altar of bereavement. 

Then, love-brimming, sorrow-filled pallbearers lift the wee box that holds only the pretty shell of little Everleigh, knowing her soul is long gone, healed and free. Still, as they walk, the aching human heart can barely grasp that truth. Jesus Loves Me plays while the procession carries her out of that Holy Place. But the song is really for us, because we're left behind and so very much need to feel that, in the middle of all of this, Jesus loves us, that His plan still proceeds and that this terrible thing isn't unseen by Him. We need to know He hears the cry of His people and rushes to comfort. We need to feel His Spirit after we've left the Holy Place and we're floundering for answers and are tormented by heartache. We need to move on and choose joy when it seems right to remain broken--for her. 

The days will march on and my loved ones who held that giggling bundle with each rising and setting sun will clasp emptiness for awhile. It will take their breath away at times. Grief hurts. But Jesus was not unacquainted with sorrow and He will tangibly offer solace if we enter the Holy Place that becomes portable as we whisper-cry His name. And, one day, just as that precious baby girl sees Him face to face, we will too. Then we will know and understand what we couldn't possibly have comprehended in this earthly life. But for now, when sweeping answers won't suffice, it will only be the experience of real heart-mending Love that will be desperately sought. Love for Everleigh embodied every word and every song in the sanctuary. It was present because of the Love that was given at this very time of year. That Love now holds us close in our deepest mourning and helps us to enfold each other to restore joy once again.

all of us wearing purple clothing or tiny purple bows in honour and memory of Everleigh
balloons and beautiful large photos filled the sanctuary

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