Friday nights commencement was a perfect example of that as we sat watching Maria's fellow classmates being awarded their diploma's. Our daughter wasn't there that evening because of her sudden loss in 2007, but her classmates and their families were. Until the Lord impressed upon me to honor Maria in this way my wife and son had no plans on going back for this commencement. It would be too painful. The scholarships I set up in Maria's name gave our family the opportunity to go back and re-establish some of those past relationships. When my wife called the school to see if she could get a copy of the open houses for some of Maria's classmates she was told that one of Maria's friends help create a full page add in the Legacy yearbook featuring her. She was so overwhelmed by this 'positive' news that she called me at work to share it with me.
The awful thing about grief are the places, people, and things we avoid because they bring up painful reminders of the one we love. Those, my friends, are the secondary losses of the grief.
The act of setting up the scholarships in Maria's memory helped us to be there that evening and hear Maria's 3rd grade teacher share a couple of heart warming stories about our little girl that touched so many lives before asking Maria's parents to come up to the front to join her. We were touched by the applause that rang out and for the yearbook we received. The act of setting up and honoring 2 students was an opportunity of having our son join us at the school that previously was a reminder of his own journey and gave him the opportunity to get re-acquainted with several of his classmate.
If there is a life lesson in this blog it is that God doesn't want us to avoid people, places or things when losses occur. He wants you to embrace your pain by leaning on to God's promises such as the one from Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
We got the list for our daughter's friends open houses and we look forward to attending those open houses and getting to know the families of these girls again and celebrating their next stage of life. The story of Maria's 50 yard dash. as told by her 3rd grade teacher that evening, illustrates in another way our love for these families:
I had the privilege of being Maria’s 3rd grade teacher. Since I have 2 artificial hips and sometimes walk a little more slowly, Maria and I played a “game” to see who could get different places during the day the fastest. Maria would giggle and say, “I’m gonna beat you!” Of course most of the time Maria beat me by a step or two, but once in a while I beat her. When the Spring of the year rolled around, her classmates encouraged Maria to run the 50 yard dash at the annual Track and Field day. They were aware of our “I can beat you” game and believed Maria could accomplish this task. She did. She entered the race with several other girls. All those students who were not running stood near the finish line, something that did not happen very often as students often go off with parents to watch their siblings. The girls all put their hearts into running the race, including Maria. As the girls crossed the finished line, an amazing thing happened. They turned around and joined Maria! As Maria crossed the finished line, with the other girls a step or two behind her and all her classmates and their parents cheering and applauding. She threw up her arms in victory and smiled and laughed, “I did it, I did it”. Maria has run the race AND kept her faith. This time, you truly did “beat” me to the finish line.
Connecting with past friendships is very much apart of the healing process. This is truly what God desires for our lives.