A celebration of life, April 4, 2017

It has been hard for me to sit down and write this blog. The second year of grief is harder than the first in some ways. I meant to write about April 4 much earlier, so here goes, as better late than never.

Last month, we survived the one year mark without Fiona. We felt carried by the many prayers of friends and family, and blessed by the support we received. Cards, treats, meals, flowers, prayers, and kind words were all like a loving balm on our wound.

Fiona’s school marked the occasion with free ice cream for the entire school, donated by a friend of the principal. Our family met at Fiona’s tree on the playground with her class, and some of the children shared a little about Fiona. They sang a beautiful song they’d prepared, standing in a circle with their arms around each other. The music teacher led them in the song, strumming her guitar. Two girls played a song that Fiona’s dear friend Avalon composed for the recorder entitled simply, “Fiona”. The children gave us a large stack of letters they’d written to Fiona along with artwork they’d created in her memory. I will treasure these notes forever. I spent much time reading them over and over, as they were truly beautiful. Fiona’s last teacher recounted how when she was a student at the school years before, she’d lost a classmate too. She said over the years her friends would get together to remember their friend, just as Fiona’s class was doing today. There is a plaque and a small garden plot in his memory in the front of the school.

I wanted to let her classmates know the hope I have found in the midst of grief. They are at the beginning of their lives, and I hoped they might remember how to find hope in their journey of life, whatever it may bring. I shared an analogy about an anchor as a symbol of hope. Here is what I read to the students:

This past year has been the hardest year of my life, as one of the worst things that could happen to someone has happened to me; the death of my daughter, Fiona Rose. In the midst of pain and suffering, I have found hope.  I want to share that hope with you, so that you will know and remember that we all can be anchored in hope in the midst of all difficult times in our lives. This hope I have is well represented by the symbol of an anchor. I got this anchor to hang on our house, by my front door, as a reminder of the hope we have in Christ. An anchor on a ship prevents the ship from being tossed about and sunk by the waves in a stormy sea. In this time of grief, I am anchored in my faith. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure”, says Hebrews 6:19.  The hope I have is that Fiona’s life has not ended; she lives on in a better place, in Heaven; happy, whole, and safe in God’s loving arms. The hope I have is in a powerful, loving, compassionate God who gives me strength beyond my own ability to find my way in this journey. I have hope that I will see her again someday, and we will share a future together that will never end. May each one of you grab hold of this hope in your journey of life, and may you have the peace that surpasses all understanding.

I wanted to give the kids an anchor symbol to keep. I had looked on Amazon and couldn’t find anything I liked that was in my budget for 56 kids. I went to Hobby Lobby and in the clearance section at the end of an aisle, I found exactly 8 sets of 7 small anchor charms. I got some colored string and made backpack charms to hand out to each student.

Getting through this event at the school felt like a major accomplishment. I was glad I had the supportive presence of my friend Dyann, who has also known the heartache of child loss, and my pastor that day. I heard later that some parents were upset that we marked the occasion of Fiona’s death anniversary at the school. I can understand that parents want to shield their children from pain and sadness. I deal with much guilt for failing to keep my child alive, and shame for feeling we have caused suffering for her friends. I feel very horrible for the sadness her death has brought at a wonderful school that I love. (I’ll blog about survivor/parental guilt later; that’s why I’m still in therapy).

Should Fiona’s death be forgotten, hidden away, as it’s too ugly, shameful and inappropriate to speak about with children? That would also mean her life and her short time on this planet should no longer be acknowledged or remembered. Poppy would need to stop talking about Fiona at school so as not to upset certain children. Not sure how that would work! Poppy pretty much speaks her mind and talks about Fiona freely. I wonder how I would be if I was not the parent who had lost the child, but on the other side. I can’t really know how I would act, but I hope I’d offer compassion, kindness and generosity as so many beautiful souls have extended to me.

All of this has made me realize that although there is much ugliness in this life, there is also much beauty. They exist together, like my pain and the comfort I feel from God while I’m in pain. Like my anger at God for his failure to save my child from death, and my thankfulness for the gift of having her in my life. I look forward to the one day when all the ugliness will be no more. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

In the evening of the 4th, we had family over for a potluck dinner. Ryan made BBQ ribs, and we had many yummy side dishes. Our battered family united in our love for the one we’ve lost. Fiona is so missed and dearly loved, and we will always remember her and wonder how things would be if she were still here, as she should be. Life will never feel right without Fiona in our family. Not until we are reunited will we ever feel whole again.

After dinner, we had a small open house for friends to stop in and write down a memory about Fiona, look at pictures, watch videos, and have a cupcake, one of her favorite treats. We were able to laugh at some of the videos. Fiona was a beautiful child and such a sweet, kind soul. My golden girl. I miss her every moment. I was glad we were able to spend the day celebrating her life, instead of being swallowed with the darkness of her final day on earth. God’s presence was with us, walking beside us, offering peace and comfort in the midst of the pain. I was able to get through that day by the grace of God, who enables me to get through every day without my daughter.

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4 thoughts on “A celebration of life, April 4, 2017

  1. I’m not sure if you watch 60 minutes or not. We dvr it and watch it when we can. This last week we watched one that had a story about the COO of Facebook (sheryl sandberg) who recently lost her husband very unexpectedly. I thought of you because she shared about her grief and also how alone she felt after since people didn’t really say much to her. You can maybe look online and see if you can find the interview. Different situation because she lost her husband vs. her child, but I think she still deals with similar things due to grief. It completely rocked her world. I do not know if she is a christian or not, but it was an interesting interview.
    I feel bad that some parents from Poly were maybe upset. Maybe Poly could have warned them in some way beforehand if they didn’t want their child to participate. But I’m glad you had the support of the staff. It sounds like they really put time and thought into it. We live in a different era where we really try hard to protect our kids (overprotect) and I know I struggle with this and Jon is usually telling me that we need to let them learn and see that we can’t always protect them and shield them. We do have to pray for them and give them to God. It’s hard to know how I would react as well, but I think (I hope) I would be ok with it. Even as Shashe is a Kindergartener – I think I’d be ok with it.
    I also think how awesome it was that you found those anchor charms in the clearance section of Hobby Lobby! So great to see how God provided in even that small way.
    What you said sounded perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My friend Shawnell gave me Sheryl’s book, it’s very good so far, I’m not too far into it yet. She’s a very resilient, amazing person. I’m looking forward to hearing her speak at the Global Leadership Summit in August. You are right though, that the loss of a child is much different than a spouse in many ways.

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  2. What a beautiful celebration of Fiona’s life. Praying for you and the family as you continue on your journey. Hugs.

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