A Letter to my Daughter…

On Her First Easter in Heaven

by Robyn Bles

Robyn Bles and her daughter, Milly, in October 2015.

Photo by Katie Lindgren Photography

Oh my darling girl,

I started this holy season utterly aching for you. It had been two months since you passed, and Ash Wednesday was just that, ashes and barren. As I prepared to lead Ash Wednesday services, I tried to believe the promise of this day; that we all return to this state. I tried to believe the promise found at the end of this Lenten journey; that we all experience resurrection. But your beautiful urn was the only thing I could see. Your once chubby hands that always reached for my face were what I longed for. Instead, I was only able to look inside that urn for the first time and face the reality of your ashes.

Yes, I know this sounds liturgically appropriate. Ash Wednesday is the reminder of our finitude.  I was all too aware of this fragility. As I thought of everything you endured in your too short life, all the surgeries, tests, hospitalizations and medical equipment, the tender vulnerability of the human body was all too real for me.

My sweet baby, because of your challenging life I understood Ash Wednesday in a whole new way. But my love, what I didn’t know was whether in six weeks time I would also be able to understand Easter.

I live my life by the rhythm of the church. We have a flow of story and work, prayer and praise that guides the meaning of our day and year. As a minister I have always loved the liturgical order. It gives us meaning and purpose to our lives. It is a beautiful metaphor for the marking of time; only now that metaphor had taken a literal turn and I wasn’t sure six weeks was enough time to turn my sorrow into an Eastertide “Hallelujah.”

Leonard Coen and his cold and broken “Hallelujah” was the closest thing I could imagine.

This liturgical ordering of my life was no longer a theological exercise or spiritual practice, but was something I felt with every fiber of my being. The metaphors and pageantry of high holy days were tossed out the window as the very molecules in my body were vibrating with every layer of this holy season. Death, despair, brokenness and new life. We had recently found out your little sister would be born right before your second birthday. And while I was grateful for this gift, the nausea of the first trimester only echoed the sick feeling I felt in my spirit over your absence.

When you passed my world shattered. People told me that it wouldn’t always be this way, but when you’re entombed in such sadness, you can’t see anything beyond it. My head knew it wouldn’t always be this way, but this isn’t something you think through; it’s something you feel, you live, you breathe and fearfully walk one step at a time through it all.

But my love, as the nausea subsided, and my sadness remained, something else began to happen. Some how light, and joy, and laughter began to shine through. The tomb of grief still surrounded me, but in these passing weeks, something else has begun to break through. As I held your ashes, and surveyed the broken pieces of my life, I began to hear the hum of a familiar tune.

“Morning has broken, like the first morning.

Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird.

Praise for the singing, Praise for the morning,

Praise for the springing fresh from the world.”

Well, my sweet Milly Bird, I am not one for serendipity or even mystical moments, but I thank you for this Holy Spirit moment. The Spirit did not make this a lighting upon the mountaintop moment, but instead was as quiet and gentle as you, my darling girl. This tune, most often sung upon Easter sunrise, tells me that not all brokenness is to be feared. The breaking in of sunlight, the start of not only a new day, but the beginning of an Easter blessing is truly something to be celebrated.

The nights are long and often cold and lonely, but as we sing this song every year; we’re reminded that they’re not the final chapter to our story.

My own season of grief shows me that God sits with us in the ashes and sorrow. And through those painful moments, even if we ourselves can’t feel it, others remind us that morning will come, the light will break forth, again, and we will all vibrate with the singing of the whole world. On Easter Sunday we celebrate that Christ rose, that Christ is rising today in our very lives, and that Christ will rise again.

These are magical days where time and place collapses upon themselves; all things stop and we’re together for even the briefest of moments with every Easter that ever was and will be. These are the times that remind us that no matter where we are, you will always be my baby and I will always be your mommy. These are times that shout to us we’re bound to one another in ways we can never fully understand or completely articulate, but instead as the sunlight warms our cool skin we feel the vibration of the Spirit that hums and sings throughout every aspect of God’s vast creation.

Because of you, my love, I am now awakened to the Easter moments throughout our lives. You have helped me to live something I knew in my head, but had yet to fully experience. I won’t go so far as to say I fully understand it, because I think that takes a lifetime. Milly, because of your birth, life, and death, I now know that Lent and Easter are not simply seasons or times on a calendar, but rather are every moment invitations to experience the transformation of Easter. And isn’t that what Christ wants for us? To be so moved by the experience of the birth, life, and even death of Christ that we too are transformed into the resurrection moment to become an Easter people?

In your birth, my sweets, not only was new life transitioned into this world, but you also transformed us into parents; something new and strange and wonderful. Isn’t that what we all hope for on Easter morning?

At the first sign that something might be wrong, that you might need surgery which launched us onto this painstaking journey of your life and loss, you helped me to realize that all I could do was pray to become the mother you needed me to be. All the nighttime cuddles, wiggling baths, and countless fear-gripping hospital bedside conversations transformed me into that prayer. You continue to help me be the mother you still need me to be. Isn’t that what Christ expects from all of us? That we find growth in our sorrows, and healing in our joys so we might continue to become all we were created to be?

Because of your life, the way you lovingly gathered people into your wiggling, scooting, tender world you transformed so many people, from so many places throughout the world, into a community who championed life, who celebrated victories, who prayed and worked for healing, and most of all, who felt the fullness of this gift of life – the pain of good Fridays, the waiting and hoping of holy Saturdays, and now, yes now into Easter Sundays of life. Isn’t that what Christ’s ministry is still trying to do with all of us?

And my love, even through my tears and depth of grief, I can even say through your death I know Easter will come. There were people standing alongside us throughout it all.  There were people echoing our sorrow of “why God?” And there still are people standing with us in this tomb, believing, praying, and trusting that our hope comes with the morning. Isn’t that the work and purpose of our life; to stand with one another, witnessing, working, and loving the world into something new and strange and wonderful?

So this year, as I miss you, my sweet baby. I will long for the resurrection that will come, for the time when we will be fully reunited; and oh what a Hallelujah that will be! As I survey my still barren surroundings, my halleluiah might not be boisterous, but it will certainly be there as we prepare for the arrival of your sister. We will tell her all about her big sister as we love and cherish her unique gift of life. And so with each passing day, we will begin to see the early, tender shoots springing fresh from the world

Leonard Coen might just be a prophet of our time; for yes, as morning breaks, it will be cold, and yes, we are broken, but that is how we get to the Hallelujah!

Happy Easter, my darling girl.

Love,

mommy

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