Is that a bummer title? Sorry. We often don't want to think about death until suddenly we're thrust into it, having to deal with the death of a loved one.
I've shared in the death journeys of too many families over the past 4 years. And yet, it has been an honor, to see so many different ways of approaching, and dealing with, the death of a child.
My heart broke a little more than usual this week. A young teen, SaxGirl, who had the strength and spirit of 50, finally was released from her fight, an amazing kid whom we'd known since the beginning of our own journey. She fought it off for six years. She came extremely close to death at least once, as her body reacted not to the cancer, but to the "saving" chemo. So close her family was making plans ... and then, she pulled through. So many times, she pulled through. And lived life, exuberantly. And then another routine scan would deliver bad news.
I won't tell all of this last journey. It was very long. But both she and her mother awed me with their approach that this was simply another part of life, this death journey, and they were going to do it as well as they knew how. With music, and people that loved her.
The first time I read about a family doing anything other than just leaving it all up to the funeral home was in UU minister Kate Braestrup's Here If You Need Me, when she talked about taking care of her husband's body, all the way through the cremation. Ms. Kitty talks this week about going with a family to the morgue as they washed their son's body. For me, it feels like this would be more healing than what my parents went through -- identifying the body, the bag being zipped back up, the ashes delivered to a funeral parlor. My friend, Bad Bad Man, prefers to be called an "undertaker" rather than "funeral director." Because undertakers "undertake" those holy things families in modern times can't, or prefer not, to do.
SaxGirl died in her mother's arms. Later, at the funeral home, her mother and grandmother washed her body, as mothers and grandmothers have done for generations. Her father accompanied her body to be cremated. They all rejoiced at the cancer being incinerated to tiny bits. Yes, there can be beauty in death.
Little Warrior is at that age where she's asking questions about death. "So, everyone dies?"
Yes, I tell her. Everyone dies. Some people just die sooner than others. But we all die.
"Well, what if I live to be an old lady?" she asks.
Calmly, I say, "I really hope that you do."
"I do, too," she says.
Monday, she turns five.