Take off your sandals, for the place
where you are standing is
The funeral home called a few days ago (7/8) to tell us that Audrey’s grave marker was in.
This week has been hard, and for some reason, this pushed me over the edge emotionally. I don’t even know if I could say it was sadness, because I have been waiting for weeks for this call. I wanted her to have more than the little plastic placeholder with the piece of paper in it. I was relieved that it was finally there, but it took my breath away to hear the words. It feels so final.
Immediately, I told Todd I wanted to go over and see it. We only have one car right now (I kind of wrecked the other one a little bit, but I contend that it was the pile of cement’s fault. It practically jumped out and ripped off my bumper) and the twins had a friend over, so I started out the door. Kate saw me grab my keys and she started screaming and begging to come with me. I told her that I was going to see Audrey and then to the grocery store, and that I didn’t think she would have as much fun as if she stayed and played with all the girls. She protested. And then she started putting on her shoes and saying over and over, “Ona go, momma. Ona go.” When Kate says she “wants to” go, she is pretty persistent. I didn’t have the strength to fight her, so I told her she could come. She ran to the playroom and grabbed the back page of a princess magazine they had been reading, wiped her eyes, and said “let’s go, momma. I go wif you, just you and kate, momma. just us, right?”
“Just you and me, Kate. We’re going to go see Audrey.” She climbed in her car seat, clinging on to the magazine page.
The whole way to the cemetery, I watched her smile in the rear-view mirror. I love taking each of my girl’s out for “alone time,” because we get to connect in a different way than when we are all together, and I think it helps them to know they are each so special to me. Kate really needs this time, especially lately.
We got to the cemetery and I grabbed my camera to take pictures so Todd could see Audrey’s marker. I obliged when Kate asked to take off her shoes. She loves the feeling of grass in her toes; she is the kind of kid who wants to “feel” everything fully. She wants to touch the flowers (pluck mercilessly), sort my purse (turn upside-down and use up my new lipstick), and to enjoy her food (shove fistfuls of it into her mouth while closing her eyes and purring “mmm-mmm.”). She doesn’t know how to do life halfway, and I love that about her.
She grabbed her little page and started walking around the cemetery with this big grin. I spent some time talking to Audrey, and then asked her if she wanted to come over with me (she had discovered the joy of stealing the little flags from several vases….don’t worry, they have been returned…).
She looked up at me, confused.
“Ona see Audrey.”
“She’s right here, honey. They just gave her a special new plaque that tells about her. It has her name on it.” I ran my fingers along the letters and she took a step in my direction, then stopped.
“Ona see her, momma. Where is she? Where is Audrey?”
Tears filled my eyes as I realized what was happening. She thought that we were going to see Audrey. The Audrey she held, not the one who is under this marker. The Audrey that wore a dress and looked like a baby doll. That’s why she had been smiling the whole way here. No wonder she wanted to come with me so badly…she probably wondered why it had taken us so long to go back to see her. I didn’t know what to say. She kept looking at me, clutching her little page.
“What did you bring, Kate?” I studied her face.
“A book for Audrey. I give it to her.” She looked at the grave and then looked at me.
“Okay, honey. Let’s give it to Audrey.” I couldn’t see through the tears because in that moment, my emotions did not stretch farther than the bounds of her 2 1/2 year old brain. I couldn’t stand it either. We should be reading books at home with her, not sobbing together in the middle of a cemetery. Oh Lord Jesus, come be near to us. Hold us with Your unfailing love, we cannot sustain ourselves…
She bent down and gingerly set the page on her sister’s grave.
I read the words over and over in those moments…
Audrey Caroline Smith
April 7, 2008
Not many words. Not many hours. So many, many tears.
I cannot seem to find my way these past few days. I have bruises on my legs from bumping into furniture that has not moved in years. I got lost driving home the other night from a very familiar place, and didn’t even realize I was lost until I had been driving in the wrong direction for almost 15 minutes. All day long, I forget the most simple words, the most familiar faces, the words to a song I know by heart. Sometimes I just stand in the shower with the water scalding my skin so that I can feel something that registers. My brain just doesn’t know it’s way around the sorrow, it seems. I know all of these things are part of the process, or so my grief books say. I have stacks of them, piled up by my bed, nestled on shelves, stored on the coffee tables. They are to be my roadmap through this valley, and yet, in this moment, all of the words are just meaningless. I know this is “normal,” but I assure you, it is anything but.
We figured out a way to tuck Kate’s gift into the back of Audrey’s vase so that it wouldn’t blow away. Kate cried as we walked back to the car, because she finally realized we were not going to “see” Audrey. I put her sandals back on her dirty feet and wiped her cheeks clean. Then I wiped mine clean as well.
As I drove away, I looked back at the roses and I couldn’t help but think of how much I wished she could have had a wedding bouquet herself.
I thought about something I haven’t talked about here yet, and I want to. Well, I want to start talking about it. It has been so hard for me, but this blog has become a sort of therapy for me, and I think it will help me process if I can begin the conversation…
The day we buried Audrey was really hard. It was a beautiful day, and God made Himself present in amazing ways, but humanly speaking, it was one of the worst days of my life. Tom (Uchida Photography) gave me the photos from Audrey’s burial tonight and I have spend quite awhile lost in memories of that day. I wanted to remember the way that everything had gone, because some of it was a blur. In my letter to Audrey, I said that we were going to take the band-aids off her bunny because she was healed. The day of her burial, we set up the bunny by her tiny little casket and we stood together while Abby, Ellie and Kate peeled them off her heart. I knew in that moment a great peace, a peace passed understanding, as the Bible says. I knew she was healed. I knew she was in the arms of the Lord, and that was enough for me. I missed her, yes. But I truly rejoiced knowing that she was in the arms of her Savior. Good, strong, beautiful, safe arms.
There are a couple of things that I remember feeling that day, and one of them was a nice, steady breeze. It was a warm day, and it felt like grace itself was winding it’s way through the tent as our Pastor spoke powerful words of truth. My hair blew all around me and it reminded me that we are not alone. We are never alone. There are wind chimes in the baby garden where she is buried, and there is always enough of a breeze to make them dance with music. I remember thinking that the wind was like the Holy Spirit, unseen in this moment, but moving. Ever moving.
I remember the scriptures that my niece and nephew read in front of the crowd. Verses they had picked out themselves for this occasion. I was so proud that they had done that, and they chose words that ministered to me greatly.
I also remember the feeling of absolute panic and shock when I saw her little coffin. We requested a wooden coffin because they are so simple, and we wanted something that looked like it had been carved by human hands. I originally wanted an Amish coffin, but our funeral home told us that they had a Jewish one that was wooden, and I thought it was beautiful. All of the “example” pictures were of regular-sized coffins, and so were all of the displays at the funeral home. I guess my brain didn’t fully understand that hers would be a very, very tiny version of the ones I was seeing. When I first saw it, I gasped out loud. It was small. I had to remind myself that she was small too.
There are a lot of moments I will treasure from that day, and I will share more with you as time goes by, but I really wanted to show you a few that are special to me in the hopes that you, my faithful friends, will feel like you were with us. Not just for the burial, but for the healing that God performed when He brought her to His side. No more band-aids, sweet Audrey-blossom. Only Him.
We have received a few questions about the beautiful light that sits in her flowers…the truth is that we have no idea where it came from. It doesn’t appear to be from the funeral home, but we didn’t put it there, either. It seems it is a sweet gift from someone who has heard her story…we would love to know so that we could thank you in person for such a thoughtful gift…
Thank you for your love, and for your time.
I love to meet you here and tell you the story of a little girl who had weight in this life.
We miss you, baby. Every day.