Suffering with the Saints

On this very day, two years ago, she played her final song.

How can it be? How can it be that two years have gone by without her beaming smile, the sound of her feet skipping down the hall, stacks of unfinished drawings left haphazardly on the table and giggles echoing from the room where she shared late night secrets with her sister? How can it be that long since I have hugged her thin shoulders, braided her wild locks, or held her hand in mine?

So much has changed in the course of two years.

In February, we received the news that our new home, All Saints Farm, was finished and we began the process of moving. I did my best to sift, sort, and pack up our things in the midst of homeschooling, chasing a very active toddler, and carrying another little one inside of me. Every nook and cranny to be packed up became a final opportunity to unearth a precious relic of her life. An undiscovered piece of art, her name written on a slip of paper buried at the bottom of a bin of toys, a handwritten note declaring her love for us, and a blonde curl that a kind nurse urged me to cut and keep on the day she died all represented the fullness of Evie’s life. As we opened the door to our new home on the Feast of Saint Joseph it felt as if we were closing the final door on so many memories of our precious daughter and crossing the threshold of a new life.

In June, we welcomed little Miriam Hope to our family. We were blessed with another little girl and God answered our prayers for a full-term delivery and healthy baby. Her arrival brought both joy and sorrow as we offered up our gratitude for this precious gift, yet mourned the fact that our two youngest children will never meet their big sister.

 

August brought another round of birthdays for the girls. Evie would have been thirteen. Again, we ate cake without her and sent balloons soaring into the sky. Her sisters are another year older. Cecilia, tall for her age, wears the clothes that Evie wore shortly before she died. By the end of this day Eden, now eleven, will have outlived her big sister. She uses many of the same school books that Evie was using before her death and plays the same songs on the piano.

September ushered in a new school year for us all. Our oldest son Micaiah headed to high school and the girls began their fifth and first grade years at home. As the month faded away along with the lazy days of summer, I told myself the anniversary of Evie’s death was not going to bother me as much this year. After all, I miss her every day. Rarely a moment goes by that I am not thinking of her. What difference does one particular day make?

But then the calendar flipped to October. The leaves began their metamorphosis and the temperature dropped. Carved pumpkins and Mums lined front porches. My Facebook feed began to trickle with pictures of children dressed in costume. I couldn’t even enter a store without bumping into plastic spiders and creepy skeletons. Despite my attempts to shut my eyes and ears to the scene around me, my body remembers the trauma of that day and I feel the heavy cloak of sadness envelop me. My kids feel it too. They cry more than usual and refuse to go places and do things that bring back those painful memories.

In the wee hours of the night, when all is dark and still, I relive her death and the truth of it still shocks me and takes my breath away. She is dead. My daughter is dead. How am I still alive? Each day, for the past two years I have wondered how I will carry on without her. How can I survive the unthinkable?

Yet, I wake, pull the covers off, and put two feet on the floor. I change diapers, fold laundry and clean toilets. I gather eggs, wipe counters, and cook meals. I make mistakes and ask for forgiveness. I laugh at my toddler’s silly antics and kiss my baby’s soft cheeks. I teach my children about Jesus, math, and history. I embrace my husband and relish time spent in conversation. I’ve made room for joy and sorrow in the spaces of my soul.

I’ve learned to live again because He lives. This life, with all of its pain and suffering is my path to holiness and heaven is my final destination.

Today, while the secular world is celebrating costumes, candy, and plastic skeletons the Church begins to celebrate the great feast of All Saints. We remember the many holy men, women, and children who lived heroic lives of virtue even amidst horrific suffering. They have reached the beatific vision and are happy to pray for us when we call upon their names.

October 31 is not about death, but life. Each morning when I rise I see this beautiful image, created for our family by an iconographer and dear friend and I am reminded that because He lives my daughter also lives.

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She intercedes on our behalf and waits for us to join her one day along with all of the saints that she knew and loved during her brief earthly life.

Today we will honor that life. We will cry and remember. We’ll plant bulbs at her grave and grieve together as a family. We will come to the altar for the great feast of All Saints and join our daughter at the place where Heaven meets Earth.  Before we retire for the night as we join in family prayer before the crucifix we will sing a litany to the saints and our beloved Evelyn, as we do each evening, asking for their intercession.

And we will continue to live, just as the saints, in eager expectation for the day when our life’s work is complete and we can join our daughter and all of our heavenly friends in the New Jerusalem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 thoughts on “Suffering with the Saints

  1. beautifully said Jen. I pray for you and the family often. I am not sure why we were chosen for this journey a journey of sorrow sometimes so great that it is unbearable but the answer awaits us when we see those beautiful girls again. I think of you and your family often. With prayers, hugs and love.
    Sue Thompson

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  2. Prayers for all of you on this day and every day. Your words, your openness, and your faith continue to be an inspiration to me. Evie has continued to inspire so many young ladies to do good works. This icon goes right along with my mental picture of Evie at the Heavenly Banquet!

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  3. You give so many the hope we have as Catholic Christians through your words and actions. Thank you for sharing your faith, joys and sorrows with my family. You all have brought us closer to Christ just by watching you embrace and carry this heavy cross. Beloved Evie…pray for us! We love you all!

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  4. Dear friend, I am always so grateful for the choices you made in how you faced this with your family. Instead of numbing yourself with vain distractions, you worked. Every moment you had energy for a breath, it seemed you worked… on using your intellect to remind your heart of truth, on turning to the devotions that gave you the grace to keep breathing, and on keeping the heartbeat of your family beating. If only you could see how beautiful the result is! All Saints, pray for you!

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  5. I have been praying for you and your beautiful family today, especially. While your words bring tears to my eyes, I can not help but think how those same words remind me of our Christian Hope. I look forward to All Saints and All Souls Days.
    Thank you for sharing your pain and sorrow and Catholic /Christian faith.

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  6. Your family is often in our prayers. I’ve seen that work of art at your house, but I never realized Evelyn was in it. What a beautiful remembrance of a lovely and Christ-following girl. She is missed.

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  7. Dear Jen,
    Thank you for sharing your story at the Magnificat women’s breakfast. You are a beautiful witness to God’s goodness and mercy and an inspiration to many. The very presence of Christ is with us shining through you.

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