Ask RC: How are you doing on the anniversary of your daughter’s passing?
It is never a good thing when the phone rings in the middle of the night. Neither is it a good thing when my phone rings in the middle of class, especially when the call is from home. I took the call. There was, understandably, some uncertainty on the other end of the line. I tore out of the classroom and into my car. I called my parents as I drove, tears distorting my view. My mother couldn’t understand the words I struggled to say, “Shannon’s gone.”
The six mile drive likely took less than five minutes and I raced into the house. 911 was trying to explain CPR, but I could tell she had been dead for hours. I gathered the children together, hugging them. I explained that neither the child who had found her, nor those who had shared her room during the night had done anything wrong. Within minutes the police were there. They spoke with me and the children, and soon the ambulance arrived. Moments later her mortal remains were gone. Soon the police, after an encouraging word on the peace, strength and character of my children, left as well.
As my heart rate finally slowed I was left with jobs to do, and the sickening reality that I knew how to do them. I knew whom to call about the burial service. I knew where to send the obituary. I knew which phone calls had to be made, and how to put together a schedule of services. I knew also that I would be preaching at her memorial. There is a sad sameness to death. Managing that process is not a skill set anyone wants to have.
There are, however, differences as well. With Denise we had a slow march, and in the end, the expectation of the end. With Shannon there was the unexpected phone call. Because so many knew Denise they mourned with me. Because so few knew Shannon, few understand my mourning. When Denise passed, Shannon was there to check on me. In those in-between months I was careful to ask each of the children how they were managing. But I must confess I was given to retreating to my room, and there, to my sorrow. Shannon grew increasingly curious. With her unsteady gait she would make her way into my retreat, and just stand there, looking at me, smiling. I thought she was saying, “I sure would like to spend some time with you dad. Why don’t you put me on your lap?” Now I believe she was saying, “You’ll be glad if you put me on your lap.” And she was right. But there is no Shannon to comfort me in the loss of Shannon.
All her life I took special care of Shannon. All her life she took special care of me. I fed her her meals. She fed me my peace. I held her hand, keeping her body steady. She held my hand, keeping my soul steady. She looked up to me in trust. Now I look up to her in hope. She no longer steals into my room. But every Lord’s Day I am lifted up to her, to my bride, and to the One who in His grace brought us all together, and will bring us together again. So I weep not from emptiness, but from fullness. Jesus walked out of a tomb alive. That changes everything.