In the summer of 2006 we learned that we were going to be able to say that we had a handful of kids. Our family of 6 was growing into one of 7. My pregnancy seemed to progress normally with the usual morning sickness and by 14 weeks we figured I was passed the point of miscarriage so we told all our kids that they were going to have another sibling.
Pete and I had what some may consider an unusual habit during pregnancy. We always prayed, separately and together, about what to name our kids. We had done it with Josiah and Eden and now we were doing it with our next blessing.
One afternoon Pete walked in the back door after work and announced that he had gotten the baby’s name that day. “That’s funny”, I said, “because I got the baby’s name today also.” We simultaneously told each other that the baby was to be named Benjamin Jakob. We didn’t have any doubt that God had been instrumental in putting the same name in both our minds. Benjamin Jakob.
It wasn’t many weeks later that we learned that our baby had died in utero. It was difficult. I had had an early miscarriage between my first and second daughters but this was different. All the kids knew this time and we all had to process it. We talked about Ben and how we knew he was in Heaven.
Sometime between Ben going to Heaven and Arlynne dying, a friend had told me about a book she had read called “Heaven is for Real” by Colton and Kevin Burpo. Eden was there when my friend was saying that she had gotten a copy of it and had read it, cover to cover, in one evening. Eden insisted that we go straight to the Christian Bookstore and buy a copy. I read it but so did she. She really liked the part about Colton meeting his big sister in Heaven. She transferred this to Ben and she was glad that Ben had a name and that she would meet him there.
Eden, aged 9 1/2, was intimately involved in the news of her sister’s death. She was out of bed moments after the police officer told us of Arlynne’s death. Pete grabbed her and pulled her into our huddle of three when he started praying that God would be in the centre of our circumstance, our loss. She was up half the night as friends, family and strangers arrived to comfort, pray and cry with us in those first hours. She was there. In the thick of it. She knew what was happening. And she started the grieving process.
That first week after Arlynne’s death was a blur of visits to the cemetery, the funeral home, the church, the florist. We had meetings and arrangements, visitations and appointments. Our twins were often with my nieces during that week. Josiah ended up going to a pre-arranged week of camp. We were going to cancel it but he wanted to go and we knew that he would do much better if he stayed in some sort of schedule.
Eden was another story. She was very clingy. Her stomach hurt. She didn’t want to be left with the twins. She ended up going to the cemetery with us. She and Karissa chose Arlynne’s burial plot. My parents took her quite a few times. She wouldn’t go to the florist to help pick out the flowers but she went to the dollar store and bought some artificial flowers that represented what she wanted for Arlynne. She went shopping with my sister-in-law and niece for clothes to wear to the funeral. She went to the funeral home with us to see Arlynne for the first time. She cried. She stopped eating. She mourned.
But she also created. She was 5 years old when we found out that Ben had died. She talked about it with us. She had processed it in her 5 year old way. Now those early lessons were coming back to her. At one point that week, Eden drew a picture for me. She was trying to comfort me any way she knew how. Arlynne had been teaching Sunday School and working with kids all that last summer and I think that Eden transferred her activities on earth to what she figured Arlynne would be doing in Heaven. She was pretty sure that Arlynne was looking after her little brother Ben.
Eden’s theology might not be spot on. I don’t believe that Arlynne and Ben are angels but I can hope that they are together and that Arlynne is looking after him. This brings me comfort and I believe that it has comforted Eden too.
As I have said in previous posts, Eden has had a hard time. She has had to learn lessons quickly and early. She hasn’t been faced with a grandparent dying like I had by her age but she had to face losing her sister. We have tried to support her. She has been a part of grieving groups for kids and Big Sisters. She has spent time speaking to the youth worker at school. She horrified her teacher on the first day of grade 5 by announcing to the class that her sister had died that past summer. She talks about it. A LOT. You wouldn’t really be her friend if you didn’t know about Arlynne.
While I mourn the loss of Arlynne, I have to also mourn the loss of Eden’s innocence. I am glad that I didn’t have to go through as much pain as Eden has before I turned 10. What has inspired me is her ability to take these tragic events and do something with them. I have faith that God is able to take all that she has gone through and turn it into something positive.
I can’t see the future. I am pretty sure that I wouldn’t want to. What I can say, though, is that my Father God has been there all along the way and He will continue to be. For me and for Eden. And of that, I am incredibly thankful.