Last year at this time, I was deep in the grieving process. First, in October, my husband’s grandfather and a dear family friend passed on. No sooner had we begun to take a breath from those deaths, we learned of the tragic loss of a 9-year-old girl at our school in December, and in January, a friend of mine lost one of her infant twins. And finally, a few weeks prior, on Christmas Eve, my blogging friend, Emilie Lemmons, left this world and her dear husband and two young children due to a rare soft-tissue sarcoma.
Those deaths all changed me. In the year since, I feel closer to God and more deeply committed to my family. I moved through a cancer scare of my own, and then began hearing reports of other dear ones receiving the diagnoses I had escaped. Currently, there are three precious people in my life, all around my age, all parents of young children, waiting for a miracle that will bring them more time with their children and spouses and families. The cycles of life and death continue and are no less easy to bear. Even so, my faith has been enlivened through these losses. My understanding of why we are here — to draw nearer to our Creator — has been firmed up. That doesn’t make these pronouncements of terminal illness any more comprehensible, but it helps me see more clearly how we’re all traveling toward the same end. It reminds me that in our quest to search for the big miracle, we cannot forget to notice all the little ones along the way.
I’ve been especially reflective this month on the death of Emilie Lemmons. It was absolutely devastating to learn, last Christmas Eve, that she’d left us. Her whole blogging community let out an almost audible, collective gasp when we read her last post written by her husband, Steve. And I’ve wanted to offer some kind of memorial blog post to Emilie as the anniversary of her death approaches. This past year, I’ve kept a link to her blog, lemmondrops, on my Peace Garden Mama I blog list, hoping others would have a chance to read her life-giving words. I also wanted to share a post I wrote a year ago that expressed my grieving from the periphery (see below). The photo below is one Emilie gave me permission to use — a candid shot of her and the boys relaxing together on the bed shortly after she received news her cancer likely would be terminal.
In her dying, Emilie left the gift of friendship. Over the year, I have gotten to know several of her good friends, and have connected with a new friend here in town who followed Emilie’s blog and grieved with me when she died. We’ve become closer because of Emilie. It’s a very selfish result of Emilie’s premature death that I have been gifted with these new relationships, but I’d also like to believe Emilie has fostered some of this herself. I believe in the communion of saints. I very much believe she’s still among us and bringing us together in ways that would have been impossible before. And I am very grateful.
One limitation of the blogging world has become very clear in the wake of Emilie’s death. Other than a few fleeting updates, I really have not been able to learn too much about how her family is faring. They deserve their privacy and I respect that. I will continue to pray for their safe-keeping. But I will always wonder, and hope that they went on to flourish despite their great loss. It would be great someday to see a photo of her grown sons, strapping and handsome and thriving. That is an image of hope I hold in my heart.
This week, my friend Marie and I will gather to celebrate Emilie’s life in person. I look forward to our time together toasting to this wonderful fellow writer and mother.
Emilie, and all those who have passed on this year, you are precious to me. Thanks for the life you gave so that I might see more clearly.
What have those who have passed on taught you?