April 27, 2006
A Tragedy to Tell
It started with "the call." You know the call I'm talking about. It's when you can tell instantly that the person on the other end of the line has bad news. This time I could tell it was really bad news. It was the "someone has died" kind of news.
I put the caller on hold and went into a private room. There, I braced myself and asked, "What has happened?" The news was from my cousin. This is my cousin who was like a sister to me growing up. She's a bit younger than me and my twin. The three of us would pretend we were triplets as kids; many believed us. It was a fun game we played and added to our closeness. Although we now live five states away from each other and we're not as close as we used to be, I would still do anything to support my cousin.
So what I did early Monday morning was fly out to Indiana to be with her. You see, less than 24 hours before, my cousin lost her beloved daughter. She was sixteen and about to attend her first prom. Everyone loved her. Her nickname was Chas. She was rushing home a bit late for her curfew after playing cards at a friend's house. Chas had not been drinking, but it was late, she was rushed and she was driving down a dark, narrow country road. Chas came upon a narrow bridge. Her car slammed into the concrete abutment supporting the bridge and instantly burst into flames.
I know my cousin was comforted by the knowledge that her precious daughter died instantly and did not suffer. It had to be excruciating for her, however, that she was not able to see and say goodbye to her little girl's body. Just about 12 hours before her death, Chas had attended an event--a baseball game I believe--and someone had taken her picture there. I know my cousin is glad she has a photo of Chas that is so recent.
My twin sister and I stayed at my cousin's house. We talked and looked at photographs. We laughed and we cried. My sis and I tried to help out in any way we could around the house. I did loads of laundry. My cousin's husband asked if I would sort through Chas' clothes, which I did. I stayed in the room next to the bedroom that had belonged to Chas. Her big sister, home from college, was staying in that room. I ached to comfort her somehow as she sobbed and wailed in the next room into the night and next morning.
Most of us in my cousin's house managed to get a few hours of sleep. We awoke in the morning and dressed for the funeral. The funeral home was large, but not large enough to hold the crowds of people who came to say goodbye to Chas. It seemed her entire high school was in attendance. Everyone agreed Chas was the type of person who valued everyone and never belonged to any cliques. She was an inclusive--not exclusive--type of friend to everyone. During her memorial service, it was standing room only and people spilled out into the hallway.
There were gorgeous flowers galore and hundreds of photographs, including a lovely slide show of Chas and her friends and family. The gown, which had already been purchased for her prom, was on display. Also displayed were many high school and childhood mementos belonging to Chas. These moved everyone to tears, as did the heart-felt goodbyes and remembrances uttered during the service.
When my cousin spoke of her daughter, she read from a letter Chas had written to her mom sometime earlier. In the letter, Chas told the story of the little soul talking to God, preparing to be born here on earth. The little soul was a bit scared and asked God how she would learn the language and the customs and know what to do here on our blue planet. God reassured the little soul that she would have an angel assistant on earth to guide her and show her the way. The little soul asked who this angel was, how she would know her angel and what name it had. God said, "You do not need to know the name of your angel. You will simply call her Mommy."
I thought of this dear Mommy, my cousin, as I boarded an early-morning flight to come back home Wednesday. My eyes were red-rimmed and swollen and I looked like someone who hadn't slept much or well for two nights. Thankfully, the captain of the plane I was on for the first leg of my journey kept the lights off for the duration of the flight.
So I wept openly as I thought about the Mommy who carried and bore her child, nursed all the boo boos, guided her daughter and raised her to early womanhood. I can only imagine her shock, her loss and her grief at having to bury her own child. I know Chas--her beautiful, shining soul, her light-filled spirit--is in a wonderful place. I know her mother is in a painful and difficult place. I will send her all the healing vibes, thoughts and prayers I possibly can. Please send all you have as well.
Hang in there and remember to take good care of you
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