Her body rests nearby. My home, what would have been her home, is the closest one to her resting spot. The ground in which she is buried is holy ground. Sanctified, a stone sits; upon it is engraved her name, a date, a descriptive, a verse from St. John, a cross, a harp, and a rose. Rocks from various regions of God’s country (the American West), shells from Lake Michigan and the Pacific, a statue of His mother, a figurine of Briar Rose, and a multitude of flowers watch over her grave.
A shrine, this is hallowed ground. I touch the stone everyday. “Hail Mary, full of grace. . .”
Her soul is as alive as her body is dead, as the stone is cold. She dances, you know. She dances with the Lord, she dances with His Mother, she dances with His angels, she dances with her grandfather and all those who came before her. Her great grandmother even greets her every morning with sugar-free candy, a hug, and a Germanic “gella.”
I’ve seen my Cecilia Rose–in imagination and in prayer–many times. She would be two years old this morning, had she lived in this world. God had other plans for her.
What age is a dancing spirit in heaven? I have no idea. In my mind and in my soul, though, she appears as a 6 or 7 year old.
She’s delightfully beautiful. Mischievous, to be sure. She’s come up and tagged me on the back, laughed, and run away. She’s hid behind the hem of God’s robes and smiled at me, confidently. She’s glanced at me, faerie like, from behind and in between flowers blessedly left behind by a previous owner of our property.
I’ve also seen in her the intensity of my oldest son, Nathaniel; I’ve seen in her the warm smile and caring of my oldest daughter, Gretchen; I’ve seen in her the playful and mysterious look in the eyes of my daughter, Maria Grace; I’ve seen in her the open emotions in the running welcome of my son, Harry; I’ve seen in her the piercing joy in the giggle of my youngest son, John; and I’ve seen in her the unrelenting grace in the strength of my wife, Dedra.
Every vision, every touch, every thought of her is a gift beyond measure. Every glimpse of her in the life of one of my living children and in my wife is an insight into what is eternally true.
And yet, despite all of this, and the confidence I have that she resides in her heavenly home and with her heavenly Father, the anguish continues, the intellect questions, and the faith wanders, sometimes near, sometimes far.
How does one cope with the death of a daughter? How does one accept that God asks us to bring a soul into the world, only to take her before she can breathe her first breath, only to be strangled by the very thing that gave her life for nine months?
Dear God, why would you do this? Dear God, why would you have my wife bring into this world the child she carried within her for nine months only to keep her for Yourself? Dear God, you are taking care of my daughter, right? Right?
Though I do not fully understand–nor pretend to–Your reasons, You promise to bring all things to right order, to right all wrongs, to heal all ills. Dear God, I pray Cecilia Rose has not been left behind. I trust You keep her safe, I trust You love her, I trust You let her dance, I trust You let her sit on the velour-panted legs of my grandmother. (Grandmother, I trust you share your sugar-free candy with my little not-left-behind one. Grandpa, I trust you walk with this blue-eyed one, hand in hand, named after your sister, as I assume you know, who also left this world at an age too young. By the way, I miss you two as well.)
Yes, the doubts still linger, the pain still stabs. . . . but each comes and goes less frequently than before. When they come, they come just as strong as they’ve always come; they hurt as much as they’ve always hurt. But the coming is less, the hope is greater.
No, on this, the second feast of my little saint, Cecilia Rose, I will trust You. For, have I mentioned? I’ve seen her. She’s delightfully beautiful. Mischievous, to be sure. And, have I mentioned? She dances.
Someday, I pray, she will dance with me.