On the morning of February 2nd, I drove the kids to school instead of taking them to the elementary school where they normally catch the bus. The middles are going to a rural public school this year. I’ll write more about that at some point. One of them was not having the best morning as sometimes happens and I told her we’d stay home a few more minutes to give her time to change outfits…again. Then, I would drive them the 22 minutes to school instead of the 5 minutes to the bus stop.
We were listening to KLOVE on the way and were singing “Jesus, break our hearts for what breaks yours.”
Emma came home not feeling well that day, something she now regrets.
Other than that, it was pretty normal.
Gloria and I attended a baptism service for students at our church. When we pulled into the garage back at home at about 8:45, her phone started dinging constantly, prayer request for a student’s family lost in a car accident.
We came in and told Emma, the family referenced was that of a friend of hers. Texts continued to pour in. Emma grabbed her phone and started texting. The original texts were incorrect, it was not the family but the student who had passed. Emma dropped to the floor and began to sob.
What do you tell a child when someone her own age is gone? There is nothing that will make it ok.
A few months back Emma met a girl named Bella at band camp. Emma had decided that band wasn’t for her, but she continued to notice this girl who stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t long before Emma realized why. She noticed scriptures written on Bella’s arm and they became friends after discussing the scriptures and realizing that Bella attends Newspring on the weekends. Emma volunteers with guest services so, after they actually met, they’d see each other at church on Sunday mornings. They ran into each other at dinner on the evening of Snowball and got to hang out at the dance. Emma was excited to have this new friend that was a fan of the same bands as her and loves Jesus too. It’s hard to be at a new school, Bella was sweet and welcoming.
The next Monday morning, after Bella’s accident, I was writing my schedule out for the week in my calendar. On Wednesday, just like every other appointment, I wrote “Funeral for Bella.” It shared the page with the class I was going to at the gym and the times for youth group that night. I stared at it for just a minute and my eyes filled with tears. I knew that date was going to bring so much pain as a family said goodbye. It is hard to think what it must be like to say goodbye to one’s own child. I didn’t know this girl. I felt guilty for being so sad about it, like I don’t have a right, like I don’t get the honor of crying for her. But, I am so sad for her mother. I have a 17-year-old daughter. I know exactly what it’s like.
I’ve never attended the funeral of a child, I hope to never do it again. So many students were there with their friends. A whole community of high schoolers quietly wiping eyes as they said goodbye to a classmate. I couldn’t let Emma go with friends. I had to be with her. I had to sit and hold her hand, give her tissues and talk it out on the way home. I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility to just be there, and that day, being there was all I could do.
When Bella’s mother walked in, she could barely stand. I wept for her.
It was a beautiful memorial and the pastor preached the gospel.
Pictures of Bella passed by on the big screen. Baby pictures, toddler pictures, preteen pictures and those of a beautiful young woman. These pictures were meant to be glued to a display board for a graduation party, not make a slideshow for a funeral. When it got too hard, I’d look away. How unfair. I get to look away. Her mother can’t ever look away. Her heart will always be broken.
Jesus, break my heart for what breaks yours.
This past weekend our youth pastor spoke to the middle schoolers about dark times in our lives. He spoke of the death of Lazarus and talked about how Jesus wept. His heart broke for what broke the hearts of humans, his own friends. He of all people knew heaven, he knew where Lazarus was, he knew peace. Yet, he wept. His heart broke for Mary and Martha. So I’m going to derive that the pain a mother feels when she loses her child breaks the heart of Jesus. He loves that mother and I think he is sad for her sadness. Even though he knows peace, even though he knows Bella, his heart breaks for her mother. His heart breaks for her family, for her friends.
Several days later Audrey found the order of service paper with a picture of Bella, sitting on the seat of our car. She asked “Doesn’t Bella miss her mom? How can she be in heaven and not miss her mom?” Sweet baby Audrey.
I answered “I guess it’s like if you got to a party before me. Like maybe grandma’s Easter party, and you aren’t sad. Because you know I’m coming. You don’t miss me because you’re at the party and you know I’ll be there soon.”
Kiss the one you love, lay in the bed with your teenager, rock your crying baby just a little longer. We aren’t promised tomorrow.