Our daughter, Emily, was married a few months ago to a fine young man. It was a wonderful meeting of two families, a blessed event full of joy. But in the weeks before the wedding, we cried a fair bit.
Eleven years ago we lost our daughter Olivia to brain cancer and at that time Emily expressed the struggle of losing a sister. We hold close with thanksgiving the 18 years of wonderful memories, but as Emily said, I miss the memories we’ll never have.
So here comes the wedding and we feel the loss. And really, who could take a sister’s place?
As the day got closer, Emily came up with a beautiful idea. Tucked back in a closet were some of Olivia’s skirts; they were colorful, happy, vibrant and fun – like Olivia. Emily had them made into beautiful handkerchiefs.
She gave a few away before the wedding. Stephanie, who arranged the flowers, knew Olivia and walked with us through our pain, accepted one with tears and understanding. One went to Dawn who visited Olivia every day during her sickest days and made her laugh. (And then went home and cried.)
On the day of the wedding, Emily’s brothers and father tucked the handkerchiefs in their shirt pockets. Emily wrapped one around her bouquet of flowers and I held one in my hand.
It was right. It was fitting. And somehow our loved and missed one became part of that very happy day.
Sorrow, says CS Lewis, turns out to be not a state but a process. A process, may I add, that does not have a neat and tidy end. We live each day with all the rest of our story providing context and the comfort of memories softens the ever present pain of loss.
We are, the Psalmist wrote, fearfully and wonderfully made. I do marvel at the intricate workings of our physical bodies but the way our emotions, mind and memory work is equally, well, mind boggling!
Today, February 27th, on the anniversary of Olivia’s death, I thank God for the ability to love, the gift of laughter and tears and the warm comfort of memory.