The end of the year hoopla led to a lot of flashbacks to the end of Jack's 6th grade year. Hard to believe that from that point on we had exactly 3 months left with him.
As we stood with Margaret in front of her friends and their parents at her 6th grade dinner to read the "charge" we'd written for her, Tim and I wept. Not a gentle weeping, but choking sobs. I know that tears are cleansing and honest, but I wish so much we had been able to keep it together because this was supposed to be Margaret's evening. We intended to praise our beautiful, intelligent, spunky girl for all of her accomplishments in grade school, and launch her into the next stage of her life. We would share about her strength, her wit, her work ethic, her magnetic personality, and her huge potential for the future. We would tell her she could do all things through Christ who gives her the strength she needs (Phil 4:13). Of course all the parents understood our tears, but try to imagine being 11 years old, standing up in front of 40 people while your parents sob openly, and you just have to remain there, facing the crowd.
"I felt like an alien," she said on the way home. I think that may be the BEST, most accurate description of how I have felt as a griever, and I'm so proud of Margaret for putting her feelings into words.
In many ways grievers feel like aliens, trying to navigate a planet that is foreign to us. While we may have once thought we fit in, those days are clouded in our memories. Our new found understanding of what is important (eternity, love, relationships) and what is not (gifted programs, promotions, money, church politics) leave us feeling separate and on the margins.
We are reluctant prophets because we have neither the stamina or the inclination to stand on a street corner proclaiming our new revelations. We are tired. We are hurting. And what's the point of sharing anyway, when our knowledge has come at so high a price? When every person who lives will eventually learn these truths on his own, through the inevitable losses to come?
I think of Margaret, who did not have the luxury of learning about loss as an adult, or in a gradual, natural way. At an age where being even the slightest bit different is a burden, she feels different in a significant way. If I could, I would take that burden from her. I'd carry it in a sack with me, alongside my own grief and pain, until she reached adulthood. Until she'd had a chance to experience other losses-- of a pet, a friendship, love, of a dream or two. Then I'd let it out slowly so it could settle gently around her shoulders and not knock her to the ground.
And if I could read her "charge" to her again, I'd tell Margaret that she brings light with her everywhere she goes, and that light will never go out.