Remembering Caroline

Tonight is the night she shuddered out her last breath and left us holding the shell of a girl. I thought for a time it was to make me better, consumed as I am with me, and I thought maybe it was because God leaves no joy unpunished, and I reasoned there must be some purpose deeper still than man can know, and I wondered if it was because God does not care, and then I decided that I don’t care, though the truth I am left with at the end of all this embittered ruminating, and at the end of myself, is that I do care.

I do care, and though I understand why the darkness hungers most for children I can’t understand why the light yields them up so easily.

Caroline

Unless heaven resounds with weeping at what is wrought here on earth. Then I think it holds a place for me, for you, for all we weeping creatures and for the groaning, crying-out earth itself. But perhaps heaven is running over with laughter, even in the face of teeth-grinding despair, and it is the mirth heard in the cackle of a bleary-eyed prophet, seeing as he does the tragedy to come and the restoration to unfold after, all of it with the grand-sweeping vision of God.

I wonder what it would be like for these four boys, to have their older sister here. They miss her. They miss what they don’t know, and I guess I do too, because I miss having a teen-aged daughter, though I never had one and never will. I miss grumbling at outsized phone bills, and rendering awkward courting boys fearful, and the drama of a girl primping for her first dance.

We’ll take her brothers to a pumpkin patch today. We’ll drink cider and climb hay bales and maybe lose ourselves in a corn maze. The maze isn’t so bad when you are all together. You just hold hands, especially as the treetops peering over the frayed tips of corn grow distant when they are supposed to be drawing closer, and you fear that you will never make your way through to the end.

You hold hands then especially, and when you do get through — because always you do, though sometimes it takes so much longer than you expected — you laugh because you have made it, you have made it, you have come through and finally you are where you have strived all this time to be. You laugh because your journey has ended, and because you are all here together.

Maybe this is a way to think of heaven, as gathering place and finishing place and laughing place, and maybe too a forgetting place, not of everything, but of the broken things, the pain-twisted face, the muted tongue, the weak hopeless brush of fingers. I am working to forget these things, and to remember instead her giggle and her unbrushed hair against my face and the wiggle of her toes when I would put on her shoes.

Daughter, I am thankful for all of it. Every lost hour of sleep, every unexpected belly laugh, every bit of stubbornness and mischief and sweetness, every day of health and of sickness unto death, singing child and crying child, talking child and mute child, running child and bedridden child, home-dwelling child and heaven-waiting child, I am thankful for all of you.

Comments

  1. Jonny

    “Who would not lament for you, my child, as your end journey begins from this world to another home? For while still a little child, all too soon from your mother’s arms, as might a birdling on speeding wing upborne, are you departed to Him that made all things. O child, who from lament could refrain when he beholds your lovely face, which was like a gladsome rose, now fading fast away?”

    “O Lord Who watches over children in the present life and in the world to come because of their simplicity and innocence of mind, abundantly satisfying them with a place in Abraham’s bosom, bringing them to live in radiantly shining places where the spirits of the righteous dwell: receive in peace the soul of Your little servant Caroline, for You Yourself have said, “Let the little children come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

    God be with you and yours, both living and asleep, now and always, my dear friend.

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  3. Deoxy

    I hadn’t been to your website in quite some time… one of the many victims of my great purge when I was spending so much time on the internet that I was starting to do so at work.

    Came by chance tonight, remembering your writing and the amazing family I know so much about without ever having met. Funny that it was so close to this day. I’ve read a lot of your writing over the years, and the ones about Caroline are always the most piercing to me. I have four children of my own – the oldest is now eight, and the youngest is almost two.

    I had been worried that I would step into a life, here, that I no longer recognized, a stream of consciousness I was missing to much to flow along with, but it’s like that description of deep friendships that can survive years without contact, something I never seem to do and don’t really understand.

    Thank you so very, very much for sharing your life and hers with so many. It has touched my life in ways I had forgotten until a few moments ago. Tears for a girl who died years ago, that I never met. She is an amazing treasure.

  4. Judi Pitsiokos

    If I give you an awkward hug next time I see you, you will know why. I have lost children too, though not after they were born and laughing and crying and keeping me up all night. And I know it’s different.

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