I woke up this morning with tears on my pillow. My face wet. My heart heavy with grief. All night my mind wrestled with the memories around the final weeks of Malia’s life. The struggle to find breath, the horrible coughing fits, the stillness of her sleeping beneath bright pink sheets on the hospital bed in her bedroom. I remember my pleading with God change from asking him to save her to asking him to please, oh God, just please take her home. The intensive depth of emotional, spiritual and even physical grief was more than I thought I could bear. That last week of her life, I rested on a mattress on the floor in her room. The room still smelled like paint. She had been asking to paint it for a long time, but it was just 2 weeks or so before that week of sleeping on the floor that we had finally gotten it done. To Malia’s specifications it was painted in pale blue walls with bright white clouds painted on the ceiling in shapes that made her smile, including a heart, a horse, a butterfly... A field of wildflowers was painted on the lower half of the room and a bright rainbow had been painted over her bed by her own hand, her friend Shelby by her side with a brush of her own. Laying on the floor the morning of December 7th, 2010 the sunlight had began filling the room, the faint paint smell lingered. Joe had come in the darkness just a couple hours before and lay next to me. We knew we were just waiting. We were exhausted. I hadn’t slept much at all in a couple of weeks. I didn’t want to close my eyes and miss the last breath she took, but they’d been open so long and that last night I had dozed from time to time, sneaking peeks at her every little bit and making sure she was still there. Then with Joe’s arm wrapped around me I had fallen into a deeper sleep than I had been in for a very long time when I woke with an abrupt start. I knew it the moment I opened my eyes. Her body was empty of her somehow. She still looked the same, but I knew she wasn’t. I crawled to her side and my heart knew even before my mind would acknowledge it, that when I laid my head on her chest that there was no more heart beating there. My first emotion was thankfulness. She was free. Her body was still warm. She had just gone home at that very moment when I woke. Did she wake me? Give me a kiss on her way to her true home? Or maybe the wing of an angel had brushed me on the way out. Maybe God had whispered in my ear. But I was thankful that I knew the moment she left. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day. I was walking in a fog. Beyond overwhelmed with grief and with exhaustion. Joe and I knelt together holding each other for awhile and then I woke my sister Alisa who was sleeping on the couch just on the other side of the wall from where Malia’s body lay on her bed. We each took some time with her then called our parents and made the call to the funeral home. We went to my moms and held our other two beautiful, confused and heartbroken girls. We went to the funeral home and picked out her pink coffin, her purple, pink and blue flower arrangements, and other things I’m sure.
4 years. It doesn’t seem possible. Grief is not a linear thing. I thought the first couple years would be hard- they were. Crazy hard. But then I expected things would get easier. They have- more or less. But this week.... God, I don’t know what has happened. Maybe I had some walls up protecting my heart that have finally come crumbling down. Maybe I need to swim like mad through these tears to find a new level of healing. Maybe I’m just not as strong as I wish I was. But I have been so fortunate to have family and friends who give me so much grace. To allow the tears after 4 years and accept them as easily as they did the week we said goodbye. That know there are no words to take the pain- even though I know they would take it in an instant if they could. I’m horrible at accepting comfort from others. Eye contact or physical touch from people who love me when I’m hurting dissolves the protective bubble I’ve so carefully constructed around myself. I hate to look weak. To feel beyond control. I’m a first born caretaker, who doesn’t do well having to be taken care of. I’m sorry if I’ve pulled away from any of you. I want you to know that each and every expression of support and love through the years has been absolutely needed and valued. We are blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people in our lives. Again, today I feel thankful. For earthly support, for heaven’s very presence of a God who loves us and who is rejoicing with Malia today. For us today is a day of profound sadness. For Malia it is a day of ultimate celebration. It’s the day she was born to heaven. It’s the day she met Jesus and experienced for the first time the fullness of the Glory of God. The day she danced with angels, and was hugged into heaven by our family and friends who are already there. I cannot wait for that day to come for me. Yet, God isn’t finished with me yet. Malia’s life served a purpose here, and mine is serving one too. So I will continue to breath even when each one hurts. I will find ways to bring God glory even in brokenness. I will do the best I can to find joy (and I do) wherever I am in life. Pain lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning. We miss you, Malia. Our joy makes the broken bearable because we are confident that you are eternally in the place you belong. But we will always miss you until we join you there.