In which we cry out to God.
I'm shocked, yet again, at how quickly things change.
One moment we're eating dinner Sunday evening in a little cafe in an equally little beach town in Brittany, trying our best to keep our American children from behaving like, well, American children....and the next we're walking on the pier when Adam's phone rings again.
I will never forget that moment.
I was walking a little ahead with the baby, watching Pax as he ran ahead, wild with exuberance about being at the beach. Then Adam was yelling at me to come take Blythe...I thought he was frustrated by her refusal to walk, but as I went back and took hold of her he urgently said "look at me. Look at me!" and when I did, he mouthed "Bad. REALLY BAD."
Oh, his face....! He was crying, and I knew instantly someone had died. My first thought honestly was that it was my father-in-law...he's 68. It's the "logical" choice. Except death isn't logical....
I remember moaning, unthinkingly going on my knees and grabbing the kids to me; telling them we needed to pray, right then, and beginning to pray out loud for my inlaws. After a minute I looked to catch Adam's eyes. I'll never forget the grief, the devastation, the anguish I saw there. "Who??" I mouthed.
"Celine." "She's dead...!!"
I think I would have collapsed with grief then if I hadn't already been on the ground, holding my two oldest. Tears came hot and suddenly. I remember moaning Oh, God, no! ...why??
Celine (my sister-in-law) suffered from seizers from the time she was about 2. It was a struggle for her, making her at times afraid to try something new for fear that she'd have a seizure; it was an anguish to my mother-in-law, as it would be for any mother watching their child hurt. As Adam got more into his premed classes, we became fairly certain-although she was never formally diagnosed-that she had epilepsy. In the end, complications (horrible ones) from a seizure Sunday morning (April 28th, 2013) caused her death....and it's all so much like a terribly eerie case of deja vu. Almost eleven years ago, on June 29th, my sister died tragically young just weeks after she had started PA school. This time, it's his sister-only 19 years old- who is gone so tragically. And Adam starts PA school in June.
My heart aches. What else can I say? It's awful, yet still so unreal. She is suddenly, tragically gone..we walked to the beach, which was thankfully abandoned. We talked a little, cried a little, wandered around stunned a little...I called my parents and, in tears, told them the news. Adam gave one huge yell of grief. And then we just held each other and watched our three kids playing happily in the sand, the sun slowly sinking behind them, unaware of how suddenly all of our lives had changed.
We'd only arrived Sunday afternoon to the little fishing village filled with quaint, white washed cottages, blue shutters, and cobbled streets. It's the town where Adam and Jerome spent summers with their French grandparents, growing up; and it's one of Adam's favorite places on earth. I fell in love with it too. I have always loved the Northern California coast, and after the bustle of Paris, the northern-California-esk coast is much more our style. I can't help but feel it's part of the reason we were there when we found out-if we had to be in France when she died, that place, at least, is healing. Paris-for all its' culture and beautiful architecture-is not a healing place for us. The kids were thrilled to be here. And now we are in limbo.
We want to be with our Durango family right now. That goes without saying... but between technical issues with the cell phone we have here and language issues with the airline's customer service, it took a day and a half and a trip back to Paris to get flights ironed out. We'll be flying out of Paris Thursday around noon, getting in to Denver Thursday evening. A lot of people have been wondering what progress had been made on our getting back Stateside, so there you go.
I can see the struggle on my husband's face....the sadness, how unreal it all is at times here. The desire to be with his parents, the grief that she's gone; our inability to do much of anything, it seems, right now. I know how he aches inside...and I know how hard it will hit him when we finally make it back to Durango. How hard it will hit both of us, most likely- to see his folks; to stay in the house where she grew up and lived her whole life. To find her truly gone. I wish I could take the hurt away from him, somehow. I know I can't. But I also know that, if he lets himself be comforted by our Holy Father, this baptism of grief will refine him as a grain of sand is refined in an oyster-layer after layer, tear by tear, until it becomes a Pearl.
I found one yesterday morning, in a tidepool. An oyster, that is. Unopened. It's silly, but I brought it home. Hoping maybe there will be a pearl inside it. Pearls stand for tears, they say...both joyful and sorrowful. Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes with the morning. It's just that sometimes, the night lasts longer than you ever thought it would.
A picture of Celine flashed into my head last night, as I stood on the beach just minutes after hearing the news. I saw her in heaven, still herself but so much more herself-whole, straight, peaceful, shining with joy and health. Which of course is the truth. She was laughing, the smile that was seen when she was truly happy here on earth spread wide on her face. Her hair streamed out behind her, still long and dark but now lit from the back by a Light. She was talking to several people, bright and dressed in white-their backs were to me so I couldn't see their faces. But there was Joy there. And Peace. And Wholeness.
There's a lot I don't know right now. What God will work from these ashes; how life will change now-I don't say how it can go on, because I've walked this road before and it does go on. And there is joy and silliness even now at times in the distraction of our kiddos. We're waiting until we get Stateside to tell them-trying to get through the flights first. Pax knows something is up, but not what. I don't know how my children will react to all this-they loved their Aunt C.C. very much. And she loved all her nieces and nephews very much, too. I felt the fear start to creep in a little as night drew closer the first couple of nights-and with God's help I fought it off. There wasn't much sleep for me yet; how could there be? But instead of the thoughts I was dreading there was music. Praises to God were running through my head all night long. I do what I can to help my husband's heart and know it will never be enough; but I also know we're not alone. And I know our God heals.
I know He works all things together for His glory. And I know that when we are weak, He is strong. I can feel His strength more and more, today, as friends around the world are praying for us-thank you, dear friends. Please keep lifting us all up. Adam's parents in their devastation, Jerome and Tiff there on the front lines, us with a marathon of flights and jetlag and another road trip to get to them. Thank you for your words, your prayers, your love. We love you, too.