Tomorrow is Memorial Day. In church this morning, our minister talked about remembering all those who have gone on before us over the past year, about loving and missing and honoring them. And I quietly fell apart...
It has been a hard year for our family, a year of enormous losses. We have faced death again and again - a schoolmate of Katherine's, my beloved Uncle Gary, my 15 year old cousin, a former student of Steve's, Great Grandma. My sister had a miscarriage. We have been constantly assaulted by national events that have forced us to deal with evil in many forms - school shootings, bombings, deadly tornados. There has been stress and pain, grief and loss in so many different forms. We have survived it, even become stronger because of it, but we all carry scars that were not there a year ago.
Rachel asks over and over again about death and dying and cemeteries and heaven. I have tried to explain the concept of "soul" to her, but neither of us is satisfied with my answers. She thinks cancer and death are the same thing. If she hears about someone dying, she asks if they had cancer. If she hears someone has cancer, she assumes they are going to die. And with every answer I give, she responds "But why?"
Katherine doesn't say a lot, but she reads and watches and soaks everything in. I worried for a time about how she was going to process it all. But then I realized that in time, she would express what she was feeling on paper, she would write it out. (And I know with all my heart that this is a good, good thing. It's exactly what I do, only I didn't figure out that release until I was much older!) After the bombings at the Boston marathon, Kate started creating newspapers with a pencil and paper. They were impressive, with huge headlines, columns of print, dates, pictures, and captions. And every single story was about some horrible imaginary catastrophe with enormous numbers of casualties. "Fire at Disneyland! 300 killed! 500 hurt!" "Train crash kills 48 people!" Morbid yes, but probably a good way to express the horror and confusion of real events.
This week, Katherine showed me the latest chapter of a many, many pages long story she has been writing for more than a year. A minor character had died and Kate wrote about the funeral in great detail. She wrote about the funeral dinner, including the tablecloths and food served. She wrote about the flower service and sitting while all the names were read off the flower arrangements. She wrote about the funeral home, about viewing the body and waiting with the family before the funeral. She wrote about the funeral itself, the music and the service and the tears. Through each part the older kids in the story explained to their younger siblings what was happening. "I haven't gotten to the cemetery, yet" Kate said casually. "That will be next." It is clear that over the past 8 months, funerals have been deeply etched into my girl's life...
And me? Well, there are days when I just feel a heaviness on my shoulders and other days that I feel scoured, raw. I miss my loved ones. A lot. And the horrible events around the nation weigh on my heart. I have never been so proud and so afraid to be a teacher. Right now I tear up every time I hear about teachers throwing themselves on top of their students, trying to protect them, during the tornado in Moore, Oklahoma last week. Like so many stories in the news, that could be me.
For now, I try to soothe myself by walking around my yard, admiring the iris that came from Great Grandma's yard...
You make beautiful things
out of the dust.
You make beautiful things
out of us.