de(tales): a grief observed
I had the pleasure of meeting Jody Lee Collins in person for the first time at Faith and Culture 2014, but we'd been connecting online before that. She is always there with a thoughtful and encouraging comment. It's been a joy getting to know her over the past few months. She has shared an incredibly moving de(tale) with us today. I know that you all will honor and appreciate her vulnerability, and her heart.
I came as a witness, the extra listener, to deflect and defend, maybe decide what this grief will look like.
The suited man at the table tells us there are options for this sort of thing. My daughter L holds a tissue, I poise my pen at the paper before me.
Burying a child is a delicate matter and his words are quiet and slow. I ache inside as W’s eyes glance at the caskets—small, white, simple décor, as if they might hold a child’s christening dress. But this is not a christening. This is good bye.
W turns aside, avoiding the display like viewing a deep wound—there is too much pain, and please let a physician take care of this.
But it must be done.
The grief care counselor asks him, “Will you be carrying it as we proceed from the chapel to the graveside? We could have one of our staff do that for you.”
The ache splinters my heart and I fear any sound from me will come out in sobs. It is just too much, but the question must be asked.
“I’m not sure,” W replies. “I’ll have to decide that day.”
We walk through more discussion, more decisions, papers are signed and checks exchanged.
“We’ll take you to the space now so you can choose where he’ll be.”
We slide into leather seats, a single comfort on this brutal, bright day; our friend the counselor speaks loudly with his silence.
I am stunned at this kindness to my children, his knowing it is all just too much to bear; any conversation would tax their ready tears.
I stare ahead through the glass, trees gliding by to our stop.
Pondering the markers as we tiptoe between spaces—Tori and Charles, John and Kenny- maybe this counselor is just as torn in two as we. Managing the emotions of broken parents while guiding them to their child’s resting place takes a remarkable kind of human being.
What a gift he is to brave this biting cold, waving a marker about, landing it “here” as we watch.
His one-of-a-kind manner that validates our needs and respond in a just right way makes me feel like hugging him.
We feel safe and sad, cold and comforted, like being wrapped in a quilt as we watch a flooded home come loose from its foundations.
But there is rebuilding in this tragedy and our grief-helping man knows this.
“Wait til you see this place in the Spring. The view of the mountain is really spectacular.”
“It’s lovely, really; why, you could even have a picnic right here next to the spot.”
We gather his words like shells, a memory of washed away dreams, and return home.
The children will rebuild in time, one tower and room at a time.
Meanwhile I stand on the shore, eyes on the horizon and trust in the warmth to come.
Currently in the sweet spot of life that includes grandchildren and working when she wants as a teacher/tutor, Jody’s passions include gardening and writing, a gift she’s shared in various published pieces over the last 30 plus years. She is committed to lifting up Jesus via her blog Three Way Light and has guest posted at (in)courage, BibleDude and Red Letter Believers.
Originally from Southern California, Jody and her husband now call the Seattle area home. She enjoys singing on her church worship team and recently learned to play the cajon (Peruvian beat box)—quite possibly the most fun ever.