Monday, June 11, 2012

One Year Later, the Guest Posts: Christine

A year ago today, we buried Garrett. I thought the day of the funeral that I'd be kind of okay. I wouldn't weep all over everyone. The funeral director was a woman who had lost a baby just the year before and that helped. But not enough. I saw the little casket with Cheri's beautiful flowers and the blanket Lindsay embroidered, which I vaguely wish I had a photo of, and lost it. All I could think of was how terrible it must have been for Lindsay to sew Garrett's name and birth date, knowing the blanket wouldn't ever hold him. Our friends were so kind...quite a few more people arrived than I ever expected: Mike's coworkers, people from Autumn's school, her Sunday School teacher, Manuel, martial arts friends, Mike's aunt and uncle from Alabama. I thought it'd be just some close friends and a few family members so I was amazed. And the service that Mo, the children's pastor at our church, presented was so beautiful. Even more beautiful? He cried during a good bit of the service and I don't think he'll ever know how much that touched us.

Christine has been one of my best friends for many years and I've been holding on to her contribution to post along with my remembrance of the funeral because it seemed right. I got to visit her and her family in April at Pascha, the Greek Orthodox Easter, and I enjoyed being with them to celebrate new life because for some time it seemed like we only saw each other to hold each other up in hard times. 

I felt relief and joy when I heard Christine was coming to be here, even if it was only for a night, and I will always be thankful to her friend Angie for driving with her all the way from South Carolina. Any time Christine comes, be it when we lost Garrett or when we lost my dad, I know it is at great sacrifice because she works and her husband has to adjust his own work schedule in order to care for their 7 (almost 8) children. It meant a lot. And it meant that in the afternoon and late into the night, we had someone to talk to, someone who could talk to visitors when we were still spacing out occasionally, and someone who hadn't already been fielding questions and phone calls so we didn't have to feel guilty about it.

Thank you for the years, Christine. And thank you for the post. Your "nothing" is actually quite a lot. And I'm glad you keep calling me. I still vote for the name Violet for your little girl. 

Christine, Christine, and me in 2006!! It seems forever ago but just yesterday at the same time!
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When Israel passed on foot over the sea, as if it was dry land, and they beheld their pursuer Pharaoh drowning in the sea, they cried aloud unto God,Let us sing a song of victory!

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

I haven’t anything to say.

O Word of God Who did impoverish Yourself in the flesh and, without change, was well-pleased to become a child: Join the child whom You have received, we pray, to the bosom of Abraham.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

Sharaze has talked about what not to say to grieving parents, and though I’ve tried hard I know I haven’t been perfect. She knows me well enough to take my intentions over my actual words, thank God.
Now I’m trying to write something for Garrett’s birthday, and I have nothing.

You Who did exist before all the ages was seen as a child, and, as You are good, You did promise Your Kingdom unto children. Number there the child here present.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

So I’m relying on an Orthodox Canon sung for an infant’s death, in Tone 8. I am new enough to Orthodoxy that I couldn’t tell how “Tone 8” goes if my life depended on it.
What I have learned, however, is the comfort of a “pre-written prayer” for certain situations.

You have accepted this undefiled child, O Christ the Savior, before he had been tempted by earthly sweetness, counting him worthy of eternal good things, as the Lover of Mankind.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

My own prayers are bitter and confused.
This doesn’t make sense. It isn’t fair.
A child’s whine, I know.
It’s been many years since I expected life to be fair. A few less years since I’ve learned to be grateful for that very lack of fairness…especially here in America.
Right now that doesn’t make me feel better.
My friends are hurting, bereft of someone precious, a child they loved, and it doesn’t make sense. It makes me feel angry.
It makes me feel guilty.

O You who ineffably did bear the Wisdom and Word of the Father, heal the cruel wound of my soul, and appease the affliction of my heart.

I suffer from a form of “survivors’ guilt.” This August, my eighth child is due.

And there is no doubt in my mind that I don’t deserve her. In no way am I better than Sharaze. In no way do we provide a more stable, loving home. We do our best and we love our kids and each other etc….but better?

This isn’t a self-esteem issue.
I don’t regret having all these kids in any way. When strangers call me crazy, stupid, or irresponsible I am unfazed, and usually have a snarky comeback of my own.
But when talking to my best friend, or other friends and family who are having their own issues with infertility, loss, and sickness, my face grows hot with shame, my voice stutters, and I usually say something stupid and self-centered ‘cause that’s just how I deal with those kind of feelings.

Sometimes I want to “fix” it. Well, since my womb works pretty well I’ll just loan it out! I feel like I “owe” those who can’t have children as easily as I do. Womb time, or an egg or two, or God forbid, my advice.

Much of the time I feel like I owe it to them to stay away, to not call them, to not ask them how they are doing. To not talk about my kids, or my pregnancy, and especially to not share my own struggles. No mentioning any money problems, marital disagreements, or anything that might make someone think, “I deserve kids more than she does.”

There is none so holy as You, O Lord my God, who have exalted the power of Your faithful, O Blessed One, and have established upon the rock of Your confession.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

Sometimes I am afraid. If Mike and Sharaze can lose a child, so can I. Why haven’t I?
I’ve had it too good. “Life isn’t fair” doesn’t imply that it will always be good to me.
I am not willing to sacrifice my child just so that I can “relate.” I clutch them tighter, knowing that I am living in a moment of grace, surrounded by grieving friends and knowing that I am not special.

O Most-perfect Word, Who did reveal Yourself as a perfect Child: You have taken unto Yourself a child imperfect in growth. Give him rest with all the Righteous who have been well-pleasing unto You, O Only Lover of Mankind.

Give rest, O Lord, to the soul of Your infant Garrett Michael, who is fallen asleep.

I’ll never forget that tiny white casket. I ache over Autumn’s innocent grief. A year later I still cry when I remember Mike’s call to me that Sunday morning, and Sharaze’s tight grip when I hugged her at the funeral.
I’ll never understand.
That’s okay.
Death is a tragedy, an unnatural separation of what was a created to be one, the soul and the body.
Death has been defeated; it is temporary.
Jesus didn’t stay dead and because of that, neither will Garrett.
Neither will Sharaze or Mike or Autumn or I or my kids or anyone else who accepts God’s gift.

I’m angry and sad over Garrett’s death and thankful and joyful when I think of his and our salvation. Someday Mike and Sharaze and Autumn and the rest of his family will all be together again and I am so excited for that. So I pray the prayers that remind me that God isn’t fair, He is Love, and I try to love because that’s the only thing useful in this situation, or any, for that matter.

Make this most-pure child whom You have been well-pleased to take unto Yourself, O Savior, a partaker of the heavenly chambers, of radiant repose, and of the most-sacred Choir of the Saints, O Lord.

Now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.

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