Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Healing Power of Children

So, most of you know we aren’t really kid people. That’s not to say we don’t like a kid for a little while, or as little individuals. We can be zany and fun, but we find the whole endeavor rather tiring, even when we love the little tikes.

Which makes this experience even more powerful. I’ve written on this blog about my Aunt Rhonda, my Dad’s sister who passed away about a month ago. We were in Hungary when they took her off the ventilator, and she didn’t die until we were in Germany. We did our hardest grieving in Hungary, the sleeplessness of which only contributed to our exhaustion, but we were still fairly well in the midst of it when we arrived at Damian’s.

Of course the distraction was nice. But there was something else, something about Benjamin, that offered such a salve to our wounds. Here is this little guy, this little guy we came to love so much, so full of life, promise and future. So full of wonder, excitement and joy. Anticipation, tenderness and a lack of socialized inhibition. I had the immense privilege of being there the day they took Benjamin off the ventilator and he could breathe for the first time on his own. Here it was, seven years later, and they were taking Rhonda off the ventilator so that she could breathe her last. There was something profoundly poetic, melancholy for sure, but renewing as well, about being with him in such a way at such a time.

The day that I received word that Rhonda had passed away was Benjamin’s first day of school. They have this big ceremony on Saturday where the second graders do this rather extensive play, hand off flowers to the first graders, and the kids go off to class while the parents snap pictures, wipe tears, and hear from the principal. This is a private, Waldorf school, and they clearly know how to do new beginnings.

Something about Bejamin on stage, with his big square backpack, twice the size of his torso (all these German kids had the same shape of backpack too; you could see that they were quite the item of pride), getting his flower and torch and facing his future really touched my heart and reminded me that death doesn’t get the final word. That death begets life as much as life does death, and that the fidelity of God to us is a hope worth holding on to.

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