To say I have a bad memory is just a statement of fact, but to say that I’m also ridiculously scatterbrained is a ridiculous understatement. If a squirrel and a Chihuahua had a love child that had been recently diagnosed with ADHD, that child would probably have a better attention span than I do. My ability to focus is hampered not only by my inability to remember things but also by a certain level of apathy that settled in shortly after Ella died. I’m trying to care more about the everyday things like decluttering the counters, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming the rugs and the like, but it’s hard. I’m less of a cleaning machine lately and more a pile mover/rearranger. I may not be able to focus long enough to clean a whole room, but I can stack the crap out of a pile of junk mail. In the grand scheme of things, though, it’s just hard to care about that stuff sometimes. It’s hard not to give in to the apathy that’s crept in and settled in. Why clean? She’s not here. Why bother? She’s gone.
But I have to care - or at the very least, try to care - because this life at home is the life I chose. This life as a wife and mother is my choice, and my choice comes with duties and obligations that require my focus and attention. Even if I fake it until I feel it, I have to care enough to at least get things done around the house and to properly take care of my family. I have to care enough about the duties I’ve chosen so as to prevent this home from being just a house. There may be piles of clutter, but doggone it to heck, those piles will be really neatly stacked!
Of all of my duties as a wife, I always believed that the most important one was to help my husband get into Heaven. I understand that Jesus already died on the cross for our sins. That’s not what I mean by helping my husband get into Heaven. I mean that I don’t want to be a hindrance, a near occasion of sin, or a stumbling block on his journey Home. I don’t want to be the one that hands him the apple, so to speak. [Some might believe that I’m helping him not necessarily to get to Heaven but to at least knock out some serious time earned in Purgatory! Whatever works, I say.]
The same can be said for my duty to my kids and for my obligation to guide them Home. I wish I could be more confident in that department, but honestly I feel like I fail them more than lift them up. I feel so immature in my own faith, especially after this past year when the difference between my faith in God and my trust in His will became abundantly clear. I feel like I’m leading more by bad example than anything else – don’t do, say, or act like mom does, and you’ll be a shoo-in for swift entry through the pearly gates!
I always believed that I should help my family on its journey toward Home, but I didn’t take that belief as seriously as I ought. Home was way, way over there in the future sometime when we’re all old and gray and ready. Home was a place I’d get to first to wait for my kids and their kids and their kids' kids. That’s how it was supposed to go.
But when your child dies, Heaven is no longer just a nice idea or something to be hoped for at some random moment in the distant future. When your child’s absence occupies so many of your random thoughts, you can’t help but turn those thoughts to where she is. When your child dies and you can’t remember things very well or focus on much of anything, you cling to the random things that do pop into your thoughts. You hold onto them and focus on them, though there’s a fine line between focus and perseveration, I think. When all you can do is focus on your baby who’s no longer with you, you cling to the random but persistent thoughts that won’t leave you be. You think about random but persistent thoughts like eight months, one week and a day.
Ella died when she was exactly eight months and one week old. She died eight months, one week and a day ago. Today marks the day that Ella has been in Heaven longer than she was here with me. I always said that Ella was my child but God’s first. She’s with Him forever, safe and whole in His arms, but it breaks my heart every single day that she is not here in my arms. At the same time, who am I to begrudge her Heaven?
Could I ever really begrudge her Heaven?
I’ve been thinking about this day since shortly after Ella died. I can’t explain why this day has occupied so many of my thoughts. I can’t explain the fear I felt that I might let this day slip by without remembering it. I actually got out of bed earlier this week to calculate exactly what date this day would fall on, and then I recalculated it that night and double checked my numbers the next morning. I didn’t want to let it pass without some sort of what…remembrance? acknowledgement?
Eight months, one week and a day. I never thought she’d meet Jesus before I did. I never thought she’d go Home first. I knew Ella had a very sick heart, and I knew her life, however long it would be, would include more suffering than many people realize. But I honestly never thought she wouldn’t pull through. I never thought she wouldn’t be here today. I never thought she wouldn’t be a main feature in all of my future. And I certainly never thought I’d outlive her.
I want all of my family to go to Heaven. I want them to live better lives than I have, to make better choices than I have, and to want eternal life with Jesus more than I have. I want Heaven to be real to them now. I want life in Heaven to be their goal, their final destination after their journeys are complete. I want them to want it because they want to be with Jesus forever in Heaven. I want them to want to see Ella again. I don’t want it to take a tragedy to make Heaven real for them, and though I have the attention span of a gnat nowadays, I don’t ever want to lose my own focus on my journey Home.
Eight months, one week and a day ago, my sweet little girl took up permanent, glorious residence in paradise. For better or for worse, my Ella, my sweet little saint, is the reason why Heaven is really real for me, and for the rest of my days, I’ll be counting on her intercession to get me through this life until I can see her again in the next.
St. Ella, pray for us!