I still haven’t found that chap-stick. The one that Phoebe ran off with just a few weeks before her passing. Knowing Phoebe, she probably tucked it inside a little coin purse she had, or in with her nail-polish stash. All of those things still sit on the shelves in her closet. I visit them from time to time, holding her little shoes and thumbing the wear-patterns on the soles of them or looking through her pink backpack that held all of her everyday treasures: My Little Pony Band-Aids, a flip-open mirror, the last few Beads of Courage she earned at the clinic.
A couple of days after the 2 year anniversary of her death, I painted her room. The other bereaved parents said I would know when I was ready, and they were right. I had dreaded it; just the thought of it made my stomach churn for 2 years. And then one day, I needed to do it. It became urgent almost, and I made plans to move two of the boys into her room. We listed her bedroom set on Craigslist and discussed what our response would be if someone were to ask why we were getting rid of it. “Our daughter doesn’t need it anymore.” was decided on, and it was true. A few days later when the buyers came to load it on to their trailer, I watched from the kitchen window but didn’t cry. “Just props.” I said under my breath, recalling a sermon I heard years ago about God’s intention for our material possessions. Just props that enable us to serve Him better. The thought that Phoebe had “outgrown” her furniture comforted me somehow.
She goes on, but moth and rust will eventually destroy her props. They will not last. She is the treasure stored in heaven, the furniture can go. It is not her.
These were the thoughts that enabled me to let go. Eternal perspective is fundamental in these moments. It informs every thought I have about my history with Phoebe, and my future with her. I can not imagine the extent of my undoing without a biblical framework for this pain, without an understanding of the nature and character of God.
Shortly after that trailer drove away, I set to work painting. Making space for the boys to spread out a bit, giving Thatcher a room without pink curtains and yellow walls. The brush strokes do not erase her, they simply create room for life as it is here, now. She is safe, and whole, and held, and she goes on…and that is my hope for my life.