The Baggage of Grief

I have thought again and again of writing about some of the stuff I have gone through as a mom who has buried her daughter. I see other blogs and I fear that I have waited too long, that I haven’t anything to say. I have read the blog of other moms who have had a warning that their child was leaving. They start blogging as soon as they can get their heads around the thought that they need an army of prayer warriors to come to their aid. We didn’t get any warning that our daughter’s life was almost over—just a quiet knock at the door, late one evening. We didn’t get a chance to worry or say good-bye, just the news that our daughter was gone.

I sometimes think that three years later I should somehow have moved on. That I no longer have anything to say that anyone would care to hear. Life isn’t that simple. Our emotions and experiences can’t be wrapped up into a little box, set on a shelf. I don’t wallow. I haven’t stopped living. It is just harder sometimes to hold my emotions in check. And those emotions can resurface almost without warning.

We are a pretty big family living in not too big a house. Our four youngest children had been sharing bedrooms upstairs while our two eldest had their own rooms downstairs. Arlynne’s room remained untouched for a long time. I never slept in it but it brought me comfort to be able to go and in touch her things, sit on the bed she slept in, smell her. It was difficult when I realized that we needed to move our oldest son into her room. I truly believed that she would have wanted it that way. We packed the remnants up, we repainted, we moved on. I kept things but it wasn’t the same anymore. Her space was gone.

Our basement flooded recently. It was a shock. Unexpected. I wasn’t too upset until I realized that a couple of the boxes of things from her room had gotten wet. I quickly unpacked them and saved the most important things. I was upset but it was okay—until today.

Arlynne lived out of a suitcase for the last 5 weeks of her life. We actually had it back before we had her back. It sat in the corner of our bedroom for weeks. It was filled with everything that she needed that summer. And it smelled of her. Don’t misunderstand–it wasn’t a bad smell. It was more of a scent. The scent of Arlynne. Whenever I would really start hurting, start missing her, I would stick my nose into her suitcase and remember her. Her sister had to stop wearing the same scent that Arlynne had because that scent would bring me to tears. Every once in a while I would get the faintest whiff of her. I don’t believe she was there. I know where she is but it was like an auditory reminder.

When the restoration company came to help dry out our basement, they moved some things outside. I think they were the things they thought were too far gone to try to salvage. One of the things out there was a suitcase. I saw it. I thought it was the suitcase I bought my husband for a wedding gift. It wasn’t great but it was okay. That was until today. We were downstairs trying to find our son’s room, sorting through some of the damage when I found a suitcase. Our suitcase. It didn’t even register until a while later when I was outside, trying to retrieve anything salvageable before another storm struck, that I realized that the suitcase outside, the one covered with mold and only ready for the trash, was Arlynne’s. It was a shocking realization. Frankly, it hurt–a lot. I opened it up and stuck my face close into it. It still smelled of her and I felt like I have to give another part of her away. The other younger kids saw me and I don’t believe they got it. I told them whose it was but she was their sister. She was my daughter and it felt like another little bit of her was slipping away.

So I write. I weep. I miss her again, maybe not as often as I once did but with no less intensity. Children may still surround me, but I will never, ever forget that one is missing. It may be too long ago to talk about but I hope and trust that I will spend the rest of my days remembering her, even if I am the only one who does. And ultimately, I know, without a doubt that she is not gone forever. I will see her again. Sometimes it seems too long–that I can’t hold on. But when I finally get to hug her in Heaven, I will have forgotten all the time we were apart.

And so I wait. And try to remain faithful to the Saviour who has promised us that we can have hope of life in Him. I desperately want to see her again but I am even more desperate to hear from my Jesus that I did well; that I ran my race with integrity and ultimately others saw Him, not only through her, but also through me.