It's been two weeks and a day since the accident that has left this family grieving the loss of Claire.
I watched as her family kept vigil, praying for her and for one another. I got to be part of the small group that gathered in this 11 year old's PICU room to sing and pray over her.
My heart was breaking for my friend, her mama.
My heart was breaking for her siblings.
I prayed for God to show mercy as Marla had asked--for God to have mercy, whatever that would look like...even if that meant death.
As I stood there, tears clogging my throat and streaming down my face, petitioning God on behalf of this family, I saw clearly that He had indeed granted mercy--in that room were friends to hold them, cry with them, share the hurt, and help them face the road ahead. Knowing we were all born-again believers made it such a safe place to be real...to cry in our sorrow as we praised the Sovereign King.
The days passed in a blur of beeping monitors and vital numbers that were too high to maintain human hope, with doctors searching every corner of their minds for something they may have missed that might help this child recover.
The accident was on a Sunday morning and in the early hours of the following Monday, Claire met Jesus.
The cries of a mother who's child has died are some of the saddest you will ever hear.
That same afternoon, when the family arrived home from the hospital an hour-and-a-half away, Marla asked me to come over.
We sat in the living room and alternately stared at each other with nothing to say, intermittently thinking of things that needed to be done, ranging from the mundane to the pertinent.
The carpet needs to be vacuumed.
We need to choose an outfit for Claire.
The clothes (from having lived in a hospital for a week) need unpacking and washing.
We need to choose Scripture for the funeral.
Does the dog have fresh water?
We need to call the funeral director.
The floor needs to be swept.
We need to find the right picture so they will know how to do her hair...
Claire's sisters went to her closet to choose the dress she would be buried in. Her oldest sister painstakingly ironed that for nearly an hour. It was beautiful and so sad all at the same time. She needed just a bit of a mom's input from me on a couple of hard spots, but I knew I should definitely not take over--this was something she wanted--needed--to do.
With such a front row seat to this, I've been doing a lot of thinking:
Death, not unlike birth, is horrifyingly painful and tenderly beautiful at the same time.
The pain of watching your child(ren) hurt.
The tender way a mama's presence can make it better--even if just a bit.
There is pain in loss.
There is beauty in watching a family hold one another up as they persevere.
There is pain in writing a little sister's obituary.
There is beauty in knowing it was lovingly written by her big sister and her mama.
There is pain in knowing they won't touch her face again this side of heaven.
There is beauty when a friend brings a gorgeous framed picture, taken just months earlier. Because how can one not smile when you see her face?
There is pain in remembering again that though it feels like she's just away at camp, she's never coming home.
There is a tender beauty in knowing she really is home.
I sang for her funeral and it went really well--thank you for those who prayed for me. It was really such a "God thing." I made it through, and then I was absolutely spent. Literally, as I put the microphone back in it's stand, I started to cry.
I keep thinking about this pain and beauty...at this funeral you could hear the sobs of grief from those gathered. Many, many, many tears were shed.
Yet I am confident that even though people came to show their love and support to this family, a vast majority left that day feeling blessed--that they had been ministered to by this family, their friends, and the pastors who preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was painful and beautiful at the same time.
Today when I left her house, all I could do was look at my friend as tears welled in my eyes because I had no words to say.
She looked at me and we both just knew--nothing needed to be said.
'Cause this just plain hurts.
And so we said, "See ya." and "Bye."
It was enough.