Their hands interlaced most of the service. The purple polish peaking as their fingers rubbed the tops of each other's hands. As the tissues crumbled from the tears. Their hearts. Already broken. As I glanced down my shoulder and gently kissed my eight-year-old's head, I felt her body collapse into mine and saw her eight year old cousin's do the same into my brother-in-law's. And I became all too aware that this summer before third grade has changed them.
Has changed us all.
I wasn't prepared to watch Caroline grieve so maturely. To sit so straight. For her tears to slowly drip from her eyelashes. Her huge, expressive eyes telling me the words of the pain she'd bottled up for the past three days. Real heartache that couldn't be shared by just drawing or writing or reflecting. It had to be wept.
I wasn't prepared for Lulu to be overcome with emotion as she heard I'll Fly Away for the first time in her life. Hymns not strangers to her parents but very much a new experience for her. Her face red and crinkled and wet and little body shaking in sorrow she didn't understand. She asks repeatedly for "Sweet Grace" (Amazing Grace) and will break out in random verses of each of these songs.
I wasn't prepared for them to want to sleep with each other. For a week after. The closeness of being together comforting their dreams.
We got through the business of death. The to do's. The decisions and plans and condolences and prayers and remembrances and celebrations and stories.
And now. We continue. We anticipate and brace ourselves for those moments she should be here - the holidays and birthdays and events and performances and games. But those aren't the moments, I don't think, where the sadness will take full effect. It's the random Tuesday when he picks up the phone to call his Mom and tell her something funny Lulu did the night before. Or typing in her name on a group text to send out the first day of school picture. Or eating someone else's broccoli casserole. Or meeting a new teacher who says she taught them. Or ten thousand and three other moments over our lifetime that we aren't prepared for.
That's when we'll be sad. That's when it'll be hard. Right now, it just is. And we're okay.