My first memory, the only one that I know to be true and not a photo memory, was traumatic. I was almost 3 and my grandma died. I don’t remember her, but I remember her funeral. The reason I remember her funeral is because I remember my mom’s tears.
There’s really no need to go into much history, but we were and are a close family. When I was little, extended family wasn’t very present, but I guess there really wasn’t many to be present. So my mom had her mom and my sisters and I, and my dad. When my grandma died, my mom’s world fell apart (a feeling I know all too well). I can close my eyes and I can see myself sitting next to this woman who always stood strong, unmovable really, but at that moment, she was completely broken.
I tell that story because that day I began a journey of loss. A journey that led me through many more deaths, friendships that ended abruptly and without warning and relationships that left scars that are still visible. All the while, teaching me that people could not be trusted, people would let me down always, they would misuse and abuse me, and they would eventually leave. Not an attitude that I wanted, but nonetheless, an attitude that I felt strapped to.
And then I had Grace…
How could I not fall in love with that 9lb 3oz giant of a baby? How could I not allow this, slightly smurf blue, bundle of screams, to melt my anger, insecurity and fear of love?
So I vowed on that day (and don’t get me wrong, the Lord had a bunch to do with this) to not allow that little girl to grow up doubting love. I didn’t want her to be afraid of trusting others. I didn’t want her second guessing everyone’s ability to be faithful. I wanted to share her and help her learn to share herself with those she came into contact with. I wanted her to see life through rose colored glasses, not my jaded, dark ones.
And so I shared her with people. I struggled with this, but my amazing husband gently encouraged me, to allow her to attach to grandparents (even though all I saw was future pain), to allow her to make friends, and throw her whole self into their friendship (even though I would want to scream out the tragedy’s that I endured at the hands of so-called friends), and to allow her to love freely, anyone or anything she came into contact with (an attitude that I still struggle to develop).
It takes me years to believe an “I love you,” it took her seconds. It takes me forever to trust someone, it took her a quick hug. I have to remind myself to soften my resting face, which is often held in a scowl, she didn’t sleep without a smile on her face. She was who I wanted to be, but feared so badly.
So because of her, I am hearing stories about trips around the hallways at school, where she stopped at lockers to encourage 10th graders, stopped in the kitchen to tease the lunch ladies, stopped in her tracks to hug her cousins, her favorite teachers, her friends, her 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade buddies, her coach, and anyone else that looked like they could use a dose of Grace.
So you all grieve with me, I know. Believe me, that is a fact that I am keenly aware of. Our whole family grieves, not only the three of us, but her grandparents, who didn’t have a, card on your birthday, relationship, they knew her daily activities because she told them, daily. Her aunts and uncles grieve, not because they lost a niece, but because they feel like they lost a daughter too, because she loved them like parents. Her friends grieve, because her kind of hugs are hard to come by. Her cousins grieve, because 4 is not the same as 5, and it never will be. Her school grieves, because her sparkle refuses to be swept away. Her church grieves, because she quietly lived out her faith in a sweet, but not overbearing way.
We made an effort to share her and to teach her to share herself with others. That’s why this hurts so badly for so many. She left an imprint of Grace on many lives, one that I hope and pray will not be forgotten.
Share your children, let them love like Jesus did, unashamed, uninhibited and without fear of pain. Of course, agony and ache and hurt will all come into our lives, but what’s the alternative?