From the back seat, “Mama, when we go to heaven, are we allowed to take anything with us?” Always while we are in the car, the biggest stuff comes out. (One exception: while showering last week, she peeked in to ask me what her birth mother’s name was!)
I knew where this was going and I knew why it was on her mind. I paused to gather my thoughts. “Are you worried about Panda, Ella?” Yes, she was. I thought about explaining how none of our ‘stuff’ here matters in heaven. Instead, I told her God understands how much Panda means to her and that he would be with her as long as she needed him, even in heaven.
It has been a long seven days for our family. Our little beacon of grace and strength, cousin Marie, has been fading peacefully under the care of wonderful hospice nurses. We knew this would be coming as she stopped all treatment for cancer. But we thought we had a few more months, you know? Don’t we always think that?
Since Marie, Jesse and their children live about four hours south of us, we arranged a time for Ella and me to ‘talk’ to her. Jesse held the phone up to her ear and we said our good-byes. KatieRoz were at our house at the time so Roz was able to talk to her as well. Looking your child square in the eye and being practical and honest about death is not as difficult as I thought it would be. You throw on your big girl pants and just dive in, which is how I try to handle most in life.
It doesn’t mean it didn’t break my heart wide open to hear these little girls tell Marie to sleep well. It doesn’t mean my throat didn’t catch when I whispered to her that I’d see her on the other side.
Marie, 34 years ago on New Year’s Day 1981. I can’t take my eyes off this photo. It holds promise and newness; there is a slight tinge of orneriness. She is truly herself here, comfortable with whomever was on the other side of the camera.
Even as we wait and prepare for the next steps, we will do our solid best to hold on to the promise, newness and yes, even that orneriness she is showing us here.