I remember March 30th, many years ago.
The sky was brilliant, turquoise and sparkling. The sun offered spring warmth, teasing us; hinted of better times coming. It was a beautiful day.
I had been to the Doctor‘s office and was heading home to pick up my son. My Mom was babysitting him. I parked my car and headed up to my parents’ apartment.
I knocked on the door, my Mom opened it, let me in. Her first words stunned me, drop-kicked me in the gut. “Elisabeth’s gone,” she said.
Elisabeth was my brother’s 5-year-old daughter.
“What?” I gasped in horror.
“She’s gone to be with Jesus.”
How can this be?
I sank helpless, to the couch, unable to take it in. My parents’ came and we formed a circle of sorrow, tears falling in wordless grief and shock. My little boy, Geoff, on the floor playing quietly, he looked at us quizzical and without real understanding.
Understanding, how to understand? How could this have happened? She had not been sick.
Mom tried to give order to our day, gave us soup. But none of us could eat. I will never forget my Dad sitting there at the table, tears like rain pouring down his face. There were no words. No words.
After a while, I left and went to our apartment, my husband came home, threw himself on the bed sobbing.
Later we found out that a virus had attacked Elisabeth’s heart and that 10 minutes after she had gone upstairs, my sister-in-law climbed those stairs to check on her and found her there. Gone. She was gone.
Weight of grief
We all gather at my brother‘s house. Huddled together we wept and tried to comfort one another. No one should have to live through moments like that. Ever. Unspeakable sorrow drenched us. The weight of grief crushed us.
It breaks my heart now as I write. Emotion choking me, sorrow overtaking me. You would imagine after all these years, I would recall it with less agony. But I cannot.
The beautiful day a cruel pretension. The day was an ominous black. Life had folded in upon itself. And death was all we knew.
I remember the day the funeral home came to my brother’s home. They were coming to pick up a dress to bury Elisabeth in; I remember the overwhelming panic and terror. Please do not put that darling wee girl in a cold grave. No, no, no!
The day of the funeral we walked into the church, sat down. I remember sitting there, my head down. I remember nothing the Pastor said that day. Not one thing. It was something we had to endure.
Elisabeth was a darling wee sprite. Soft brown hair falling to her shoulder, big blue eyes hidden behind her glasses. There are many sweet memories: playing with her, holding her, rocking her. When she was little and crawling, she would rush towards me with a big smile. I delighted in her. She left a hole in our family that we cannot fill.
Too short, much too short, the time between hello and goodbye.
I cannot pretend to explain any of this. Broken we are, born to grief, and tragedy.
Loved and missed
Elisabeth, I believe, is in heaven, in the tender care of her Heavenly Father. My Dad and Mom have joined her there. And my other brother’s daughter, she is there too. One day we will meet and, He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. My heart longs for that day.
So, today, I remember.
Today, I honour this wee girl who brought so much joy to my heart.
I love you Elisabeth and I miss you.