Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Finding Grace In the Sorrow

Death is common to children raised on a farm.

Those tiny baby bird eggs that fell out of the nest in today's wind storm?  Yes, it's probably too late, but yes, it's also okay if Opa helps put them back in the nest "just in case."

The football sized bumblebee barely moving on the carport?  Yes, he's really dying, but yes, it's also okay if you make him a comfortable habitat in an empty milk carton until he dies. 

Those two baby chicks crumpled and still in the corner of their pen?  No, they're not sleeping.  They're already dead. That's why God hatches so many.

Although the lady in the feed store tried to shoo my kids to another aisle once she realized there were dead chicks in the pen, I have never shielded my children from death.  To them, death has been presented as simply a part of life, not at all how God intended life to be but just how it is as a consequence of Adam and Eve's choice to sin in the garden. 

When they were still toddlers, I began taking my three children to wakes and funerals with me, not because I couldn't find a babysitter but because I wanted them to encounter death before someone of monumental importance to them died.  I didn't hold them in the far back of the room either, away from the open casket.  Tiny hands gripped tightly in mine, I would march my brood forward, then give them time to look at the shell of the person I had loved and to ask me questions.  By age two, one of my children would explain to anyone who would listen that the person in the coffin wasn't "in there" anymore.  He had "hatched."

As a result of this matter of fact attitude, I routinely find my children having "funerals" in the backyard.  Heaven only knows how many dead beetles, caterpillars, and lizard heads they've buried with my garden trowel in too-shallow graves.

As much as they understand death, though, that doesn't mean we don't cry.  That doesn't mean we aren't sad and sometimes even angry.  That doesn't mean we don't wish death didn't exist.  It simply means we understand just how much different what should be and what is are.  And it makes us long even more for the day when Jesus returns and death is no more.

Today was one of those days when the sting of death hit our whole family hard.  And yet, even in an afternoon of soul-crushing little girl tears and big boy clingy-ness, the children and I were able to see God's mercy and grace.

That heavenly grace started flowing early in the morning when husband decided to go in late to work in order to mow the lawn before the rains hit, something he never does.

An hour later, my daughter and I found Anya, my oldest son's three year old cat.  Although there were no physical marks on her Russian blue fur, it was obvious she was in bad shape, the result of a brief attack by my in-law's dog.

As I sat on the floor and ran my hand down her back, I knew it was too late.  But because he was at home, husband was able to take her to the vet.  There, the doctors were flummoxed over how no external damage could had resulted in such internal damage. 

Two hours later, they took her back to surgery and discovered the reason--her intestines were eaten up with cancer. Just as happened almost four years ago with our first cat, she simply never woke up.

Even amidst an afternoon of tears and Wyatt's sorrowful questions about "who will sleep on my bed with me?," "who will wake me up every morning?," and "who will eat cheese with me?," I was able to communicate how God had allowed this horrible thing to happen in order to save Anya a lot of pain and suffering since we wouldn't have known about the disease until she had suffered greatly.

It is that knowledge of grace and mercy that makes it a little easier even for this mother when the back of the sofa is empty tonight.  In that knowledge was even thankfulness as Amelia gave thanks that we "found Anya" and that she didn't simply disappear without us ever knowing what happened.

When the lights go down for the evening, I snuggle with my big boy and pull the universe beneath our chins.  He speaks of Hannah waking him up this morning, of her already filling Anya's paws.  Right on cue, her hulking calico form leaps onto the bed and comes to sit Sphinx-style on his chest, begging for love and attention in exchange for her rumbling purr and affection.

In that moment, we both can't help but smile and share a giggle, that gaping hole in our hearts taking its first step towards healing.

Images: Anya looking at the window at the birds & happier days with a mound of freshly harvested catnip.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Jennifer! I'm so sorry to hear this :( We loved Anya. Praying for all of you.