I sent a recap of the way we celebrated and remembered what would have been my 2nd daughter, Dasah’s 5th birthday (November 13th) to my mom and she sent the following text:
“Love how you celebrate and how Jaden and Briella are learning this is what hope literally looks like.”
I hadn’t thought of our days of celebration and remembrance that way. I hadn’t thought of how the small ways we remember and honor the lives of their big sisters’- birthday after birthday, holiday after holiday and all the small ways in between is a way that they may learn to hope.
So I reflected on Dasah’s 5th birthday differently a couple months ago, wondering how all the ways we celebrate her life may be teaching my living children of the wonders of the eternal hope we have.
I thought of how I may be teaching my now 18 month old daughter to hope when she “helped” me make a sign celebrating her big sisters heavenly birthday. How the mere fact that we can celebrate life today is because we know death is not the end. Our celebration is not just a remembering and looking back but a constant looking forward with hope to the day when we will see her big sister again and all the tears will be wiped away.
We go to the girls’ gravesite nearly every birthday and this time, my 3 year old son says in the car on the way;
“I’m so excited to go to Sophie and Dasah’s gravesite”.
“Excuse me what!?” I say with a perplexed face towards Kevin as we drive.
“Why are you excited Jaden?” I ask slowly.
“Because there are so many toys” he says as if he can hardly wait to get there to see them all.
These toys he speaks of are on the gravesites of all the little babies that surround the gravesite of Sophie and Dasah. These toys are the ones we try to tell our son to not play with every time we go, to just look not touch (which he abides by… mostly) but still he is so excited to see them. Instead of correcting him and telling him the gravesite is not a playground, we let him sit in the innocence and beauty of the gravesite bringing him joy not sadness yet.
This time it is my son that is teaching me and reminding me in his childlike way that the grave is not the end. And his running around the headstones as if they are just a big obstacle course reminds me that there is still life when staring at a grave. Like Jaden dancing on these gravesites, it’s a picture to me that our daughters are not actually there but alive and well perhaps dancing and running through their own heavenly obstacle course. I don’t know, but I’m confident their life with Christ now is so much better than I could imagine.
I wonder if we are teaching them to hope when they see my tears and my son asks; “Mommy, you miss Dasah?” as he looks at me with a curious tilt of his head. And the growing lump in my throat spills over with his tender question as I choke out the words through tears “yes, I miss her very much.”
Do these moments teach them how we live in the inbetween of the here and the not yet? That the laughter we had in the morning can co-exist with the tears that fall in the moments throughout the day where the grief is thick and I must mourn even as I hope.
Do they begin to see that hoping for the day where all is made new does not ignore today where our current reality holds grief and pain?
Over time, will the expression of our grief help them see that we are not made for this, that this is not how it will end, that it will point our hearts as a family over and over and over again to the longing for our true home?
Will it help them as it helps me to fix my gaze on eternity when I’m caught up in living for things that are temporal?
At the end of the day we sat down to watch the video of Dasah. Briella and Jaden sat between Kevin and I, unusually quiet and fixated on the video of their big sister that they have never met but seemed to hold some place in their heart already.
Are they learning to hope when we watch their stories and remember all God has done somehow discovering in these stories that our God is the same today as He was five years ago and will be the same tomorrow?
Are they learning of His goodness, that we can trust His promises, that He makes all things new even when all around seems dark?
And when we light the candles and sing “Happy Birthday” do they somehow know that life still exists for Dasah? And in the same breath as we long for her life to exist in our physical presence there is a joy in knowing that she is alive with Jesus and this is a piece of what enables us to celebrate while we wait to be with her.
As my kids are getting older, asking questions, learning about their big sisters I hadn’t thought of how the rituals we have created as a family may be a piece of them learning how to live in hope, how being hope filled amid our grief is played out in real time.
So I’m praying now as the years go by that their big sisters would teach them how to hope in Christ just as they continue to teach Kevin and I. What a gift their lives continue to be to us. But oh how I miss what my sweet 5 year old Dasah and my 6 year old Sophie would be like today. Hope and grief, joy and pain, they constantly collide this side of heaven.