Remembering An Angel
There’s a saying I hope I never hear again, though I’m certain I won’t have such luck. It is, “God will never give us something we can’t handle.”
A few weeks ago, the four-year-old daughter of some of our closest friends unexpectedly passed away in a tragic accident. I won’t share a lot of details about it because it is all so personal and not my story to tell. I feel guilty writing anything about it at all at the risk that I might appropriate any sympathy or attention that should all go to this sweet family. But it has been a defining event in my life and in the life of my family, and I have a few thoughts I want to put down about it.
This sweet child was a dear friend to my children. It was heartbreaking to give them the horrible news of her death. Later in the evening of the day that I told them the news, I was tucking my ten-year-old daughter in bed and I asked her if there was anything she wanted to talk to me or ask me about. Through her tears she said, “Mom, she didn’t even get to do anything. She was so young. Why did this happen?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “It is just so sad. Sometimes this life is just hard. It’s just a hard test.”
We talked a little about the things we believe about where our friend is now. And I have to say, in times like this, you realize you know a lot less about it than you always thought you did. When someone older dies, I’m not saying it’s any easier, but maybe in the back of our minds we can sort of imagine that they’ll enjoy kicking back on a cloud and listening to some classical music sung in opera style by angels who are simultaneously doing missionary work. None of that sounds so great for a tiny child. In fact, the ridiculousness of all of that is really laid bare. I had to admit to myself I don’t really know much about the next life, even within the belief system I’ve had since I was a child. As I talked to Madeline about it I tried to focus on the idea of her being with people who love her, and that she could be with Jesus. That Heaven is being with people you love and who love you. I know I personally feel the best about it when I think of it that way.
“Mom,” she asked, “is it failing a test if I still feel sad about this?” I instantly regretted using the word “test” in regards to this situation. I tried to explain. “Oh, no honey! That you love people enough to be sad when they leave you, and that you feel sad for the people you love who are going though it, pretty much that’s acing the test,” I said. I told her about when Jesus’ friend died and he cried about it with his friends, even though he raised him from the dead right after that. His tears were a gift he gave his friends.
I have felt helpless to fix this Grand Canyon of horribleness for my dear friends. I’ve wished I could turn back time. I’ve wished I could raise the dead. Before this dear child died, when she was still at the hospital, I prayed and begged and even insisted that she be healed. I had no power to heal her. Those are things only Jesus can do. I don’t know why He wouldn’t that night.
In the end all I really have to offer are my tears. Does that mean that all of us who are still crying about this are not “handling it”? Are we failing the test?
I feel like I initially got it kind of wrong when I spit out to my daughter that life is a “hard test”. As if that’s just all it is. Like God is just throwing these zany, pesky little obstacles at us just for kicks somehow. I don’t always say the right thing. Something I’ve learned from all of this is that if you’re so worried you’ll say the wrong thing to someone that you avoid them, you should probably get over it because they still just need you to be there and offer support in whatever way you know how. I’ve heard some clumsy things said to my friends, I’ve said a few dumb things myself. They haven’t seemed to be hurt by it or offended. They are good, kind, faithful people. It’s better to err on the side of being there for them. But I want to try to do better.
Why do we rush to remind each other about how not sad we are supposed to be, thanks to our faith? Is it that maybe deep down it feels uncomfortable to watch someone experiencing grief so maybe we try to help them skip it or rush through it a little? Maybe we just genuinely want to take it away because we love them. If a bereaved friend expresses gratitude for the plan of salvation during this time of trial, then by all means, we should talk about it. But I want to try not to use it as a tool to sweep all the tears under some spiritual rug. 1 Corinthians 13:1 reads: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” When I’m tempted to magic away people’s pain with some doctrinal nugget, I think I’ll remind myself to dial back the cymbals a little and turn up the love.
I think stuff really does happen to us sometimes that we really can’t handle. Sometimes we never really recover from some losses. If it really is all just a big test, the test can’t be about bouncing back as quickly and painlessly as you can. It has to be about love.
We experience a life where people and things die. We experience injustice. Stuff doesn’t make sense. It seemingly just happens, sometimes without some obvious, grand lesson. We try to have gratitude for what we have, and to share with each other when someone doesn’t have something. We cry with each other when we hurt. We rejoice together when things go great. Love is all we really have to give, and the only thing we really take with us when we go.
Helping is the only way I’ve been able to feel a little better throughout this thing. In addition to the meager offering of my tears, I’ve set up a few other things to help my friends.
There is a GoFundMe account where you can help them deal with the crushing expenses associated with the attempt to save little Brooklyn’s life.
If you prefer Venmo, make a donation to BrooklynMemorial.
Finally, writing a song about Brooklyn has been a little bit of a healing thing for me. I wrote it for her family, and I’ve also hoped it might give comfort to others experiencing the loss of a child. Rest assured, all the proceeds will go to the Cherepovich family. Feel free to listen, leave a small donation to download it, and share the link with friends. The song is called, Remembering An Angel.
My 7-year-old boy really loves Brooklyn. He used to hold her hand and lead her around our house when we babysat her. He’d get out all the best toys and he’d sit and play with her. In his prayers now, he prays that we will always remember her. He drew a picture of her to stick on his bedroom door. I remember her with lots of love. Brooklyn’s favorite color was orange. She loved going out in her backyard to pick peaches and tomatoes. She loved helping in the kitchen. Her two sisters and her parents showered her with affection and they adore her. The short life she lived was filled with love and happiness. I’ll be remembering an angel for the rest of my life.