We hugged family and found our seats. Terry Bley led us well, as he opened up in prayer and gave attention to sweet Karis's life. I went up and read the Scriptures that had been the most meaningful to us during this time. (1 Peter 1:6-7; Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 62:2;
My cousin, Michael, led us in a song that has carried us through that first week of finding out the diagnosis. "Cast My Cares" Kory then went up and read the letter both him and I wrote to Karis. Many tears were shed. Our hearts for and journey with Karis were captured in the letter. We sang "Though You Slay Me" a song that was felt heavily May 20th, the day we delievered her lifeless body. Terry then shared a message of encouragement. He talked about how God loves children and how children challenege our faith. After he spoke, Michael led us in the song Sovereign Over Us and during that song Kory, Avery and I went up and released three pink balloons. We then went and prayed up by the casket. Sovereign Over Us, was a song that we felt captured our hearts as move forward on this journye. As dark as the path feels, we know our God is Sovereign over us. After that we all sang "It is Well", accapella as a family (note to self, our family cannot sing acapella again!) As we sang it is well, I sang it to the Lord, telling him that all this heartache, all this pain, it is not easy, it is not wanted, but it is well with my soul because he is with us. We closed the service as everyone came around us and surrounded us in prayer.
The whole service captured our journey thus far. The songs we sang, the scriptures we read and the letter we wrote to Karis expressed our dance of grief and joy. Sometimes the dance was full of sorrow and darkness and other times it was hopeful and healing. Regardless, as I stared at the petite pine box with roses draped over it I realized the dance would not end at the end of this service. We would continue dancing. Grief and joy would continue to intertwine in our lives. They would continue to exist together, not one without the other.
The entire service I stared at the pine box. Forcefully pushing away the thought and reality that my daughter lay inside. Was she comfortable? Was her blanket laid over just right? Was her head on the pillow? All these thoughts came to my mother's mind, yet quickly I dismissed them, knowing it didn't matter. She was not inside, just her body was. As a mother, staring at the casket with your child inside, you feel as though you are not allowed to do the only thing you know how to do. We are made to comfort our children. It's in our bones and our blood to want to hold, caress, kiss, stroke, comfort, and love them. In the midst of such pain, how was I not allowed to do those things? My mind couldn't comprehend that she was gone. Never to have a first birthday, never to snuggle and read to, never to tickle and giggle, never to ride a bike and eat an ice cream cone. Never to stroke her hair and sing to her. Never to know her. How could this be? I don't think our human mind has or will ever have the ability to understand. Or to understand what had began that morning..... my milk came in. I sat their sore and swollen, leaking out what should have been hers. Even my own physical body didn't know how to respond to this. My own physical self didn't understand death. Of course it would create milk, that is what is supposed to happen when a baby is born. It made sense to have milk ready, it did not make sense to stare at my child in a pine box.
"This is not how it's supposed to be!" I screamed at God to myself, unaware to what was happening during the funeral around me.
He whispered back something I will always hold onto. "I know."
God knows this isn't how it's supposed to be. He never planned it this way. He never intended it to be this way. This is sin's fault, not his. God never meant babies to die in their mommies bellies. What a horrible thing, he hates it just as much as I do.
It's funny how things that aren't even quite logical comfort you during grief. As we tried to make the decision of where to bury Karis I knew I wanted her to be right here in this cemetery. The reason being is because I wanted her to be with her Grandma Theda and Grandpa Bob Dawes. I wanted her to be buried right beside them so they could hold her while they lay peacefully, so that she would be comforted by family. Now I know that none of their spirits reside there in the ground, but the fact that their physical bodies were side by side brought comfort. What brings more comfort than all is knowing that their perfect, whole bodies are side by side in heaven as well, knowing they belong to each other. All of those that have gone before are with Karis now, and that brings more comfort than a mother can express.
As the service came to a close, I whipsered to God "thank you." Thank you for a family that has stood beside myself, Kory and Avery, not afraid of the darkness that threatened to destroy us. I embraced the intimacy of the service with just my immediate family members there. I felt a sense of relief, that we had honored her life well. There is pressure as a mom, and as family members to honor your loved one well even though they aren't there to see it. A pressure to give them what they deserve in their moments after death as we celebrate their life. I was so thankful I felt at peace with honoring her. At the end of the service we passed out a pink rose to each person present. This rose has great meaning:
As we've walked this journey we've come across many people who have walked before us on this road. One couple in particular told us of a symbol God gave them to remember their sweet daughter by. I prayed God would give us something similar.
The night we induced labor, my sister-in-law Kels, shared with me a moment God spoke to her. Kyle and Kels were at Notre Dame visiting the Grotto. This is a place where you come to light a candle and pray for someone or yourself. As they left they noticed a statue of Mary. She was kneeling before God with her hands open as if she was offering something up to him in surrender. Someone had a placed a little pink rose in her hand. Kels bent forward to smell the rose, that was small, delicate and looked as if it was dying, yet the fragrance was beautiful. With tears in her eyes, she told me she went home and looked up the meaning of a pink rose and it meant "grace."
God could not have been more clear to us that day, through my sister-in-law, that Karis Faith is our little pink rose. She is grace, and she is being offered up to the Lord. I pictured my self as Mary, bending down holding Karis up to him. I pictured myself doing this at the funeral, and doing it everyday from this point on. The dance will continue. Grief and joy will surely be our companions from this day forward. But even as the pink rose was dying and delicate, what a sweet fragrance it's little life offered. Karis, your life has been a beautiful fragrance to us and to the world.
"Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God....a life giving perfume." 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
I kissed her casket goodbye. My lips pressed against the fresh pine and the harder I pushed my lips, I thought, maybe somehow it could get to the top of her little forehead. My sister-in-law Kristin had hand knit her the most precious blanket that lay with her inside that casket. It was a soft pure white blanket with pastel pink and green woven in. It was a Karis size blanket. She also knit Avery an identical blanket so that she could always have with her what lay with her sister.
After the funeral we spent time with extended family over lunch, great conversation, and the pool on a hot day. As I observed those I loved around me having fun, splashing in the water, and talking I wished Karis could have known her family. I wish she could of known her cousins and aunts and uncles. I wish we could of known her.
We got home, and got ready for bed. I couldn't quite wrap my head around the events that took place that day. But I laid my head on the pillow knowing that all I know is that I need to trust God, and that is all I will know and be sure of for awhile. Tonight, both my girls laid with a white and pink blanket over them, one breathing earthly air, and one breathing heavenly air. Oh, to have them both here, under the same blanket.
As my thoughts gave way to dreams, I remembered the lyrics from the song "I Will Carry You" of a mom who had lost her daughter,
"There were photographs I wanted to take
Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes
Who could love you like this?...."
And God responds..
"I've shown her photographs of time begininng
Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes
Who could love her like this?"
Thank you God for loving sweet Karis, and tucking her in tonight.
Our little pink rose.