Our children are connected to us in a way that defies human understanding. We give them life and they are a part of our very being. We care for their physical needs and nurture their minds, hearts and souls. Watch them grow. Relish in who they are becoming. Love them fiercely with a sacrificial love that knows no limits. We have hopes and dreams for their futures. They are the fruit of our marriage sacrament. With the birth of each child the family culture changes and grows and each child’s unique temperament and gifts add to the beautiful balance of family life. By welcoming them into the world we embrace the mystery of familial union. A mystery that reflects the greatest mystery of all: The Most Holy Trinity.
It’s incomprehensible that you can take your children to do something fun on a Saturday and within a matter of one hour life as you knew it comes to an abrupt end. All of the nurturing, hopes, and dreams you had for your child and your family as a whole unit…gone. A peace of our hearts was severed from us and left the earth forever.
That’s not something you ever “get over”.
And now we live suspended between Heaven and Earth not fully present in either realm.
I have become accustomed to the sorrow and longing for what once was. To say that I miss my little girl is a gross understatement. There really aren’t adequate words in the human vocabulary to express the pain of losing Evie and the astounding hole that her absence created in our family. We face it every day, in every moment. There’s no escape.
As I lay in bed one night, crying myself to sleep again, the following passage from Scripture came to mind:
“And a man named Jairus, an official of the synagogue, came forward. He fell at the feet of Jesus and begged him to come to his house, because he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying. As he went, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped. Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?” While all were denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you.” But Jesus said, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.” When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately. he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
That woman is me…bleeding on the inside. Weary. Exhausted by grief.
My pain is so deep that I often feel alone in the crowd. I find it difficult to engage in the trivialities of life and my patience for small talk has reached an all-time low. The things that people seem to worry about and that I myself once fretted over seem unimportant. I see people around me “pushing and pressing in” like the crowd in the Gospel trying to get where they are going and check things off their list. They are busy with their lives and their families. They greet me with a smile and a, “how are you?” but I’m not sure how to answer that question nor do I think everyone really wants to hear an honest response.
Facing such profound pain, it’s easy to retreat into oneself and hold the world at arm’s length. Even for an extrovert. Because losing a child propels you into another dimension.
And like the woman in the story, it brings me to my knees in search of the One who can heal my broken heart. I’m willing to crawl on my hands and knees through the pain to seek Him, recognizing that the bleeding has no expiration date but that someday it will stop. If not in this world, then in the next.
But what I find most compelling about the Gospel passage is that Jesus doesn’t allow this bleeding woman to remain anonymous. Her suffering and eventual healing is not just between the two of them. It’s meant to be lived out in community.
Because as this broken and lonely soul touches Him, this Teacher and Great Physician stops in His tracks. He asks the most ridiculous question imaginable in a teeming crowd of people…
“Who touched me?”
By acknowledging her, Jesus opens the door for her to share her story and in sharing, her healing is complete and she becomes a witness to the truth.
Losing a child can be a very lonely experience and parents feel even lonelier when their loss is not acknowledged. Perhaps people don’t know what to say or they are afraid to say the wrong thing so they say nothing at all. Maybe they have good intentions but the opportunity passed them by. Fear of upsetting the family could be a factor. But trust me. You are not going to remind them of something they’re not already thinking about constantly. There’s no reason to be afraid of tears or apologize for them. They are a normal and regular part of grief and a healthy release.
More than anything, a grieving parent wants so badly for someone to acknowledge their pain, to say their child’s name, to remember her, to share their grief with them, to cry. And when I see Jesus’ reaction to this woman, I know in my heart that the need for acknowledgment is valid.
Remaining silent causes hurt feelings and isolates the parent even more but shared grief is like a lifeline pulling them out of the darkness.
Personally, we treasure the cards we receive that contain a special memory of Evie or a way in which she has impacted someone in her death. The book of memories that our homeschooling co-op made for us is a precious gift. My husband savors it bit by bit so that he always has a new discovery waiting for him. We love it when people share new pictures or videos even if we can’t muster up the strength to view them right away. We are blessed when people do things to honor her because she was an amazing little girl and it would be another tragedy for the world to forget her beautiful life.
And we are so thankful for those who continue to reach out to us in our exhaustion with tangible offers to help, for those who let us know they are praying and truly want to know how we are doing. For those who pray with us and hold us when we cry. For those who recognize that grief has no timeline.
Because when you acknowledge the suffering of another human being, when you reach out in empathy and compassion, when you become vulnerable and selflessly give of yourself to help a hurting soul, you reveal Jesus to the world.
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
St. Teresa of Avila