In the shadow of Heaven
I can still remember how she groaned low in her throat. As the summer sun beat down, baking earth and bystanders alike, we stood together, she and I, at the edge of two fresh graves. “My babies…”
We met when we were both pregnant with our firstborns, she with her slim, bespectacled husband and I with my blue-eyed man. We hit it off, quickly finding common ground, and that’s how it began.
She gave birth to a daughter in November, and I followed a month later with a son. It was wonderful, having them nearby. With our churches both in a different community, we found a companionship there in the Maple Leaf City that warmed our hearts.
In the years that followed, she quickly gave birth to a son. We held steady with our one. Then came a second daughter for her, and, again, a month later, a second son for me. Then another girl (for her) with a pause in our *action,* and then a son for us. Another break, and then a second son, at last, for her.
In my mind today, snapshots cycle like Power Point slides. Saturday nights at their round, hardwood table, playing games. Pizza from Pizza Hut (a favorite for us all). Children everywhere, running, playing, fighting, laughing, crying, and shedding toys like a cat sheds its fur.
Her pleasantly lived-in family room. Coloring books, crayons, games, puzzles, and toys scattered in a pattern that said, “Children live here, and they are welcome.” Jungle Jam cassettes and Barney videos that matched our own repertoire.
Setting up tents together. Unloading tricycles. A Coleman stove on a picnic table. Her toddler girl with a head thrown back, mouth a perfect ‘O,’ shouting her fury to the sky when a boy (that’s mine) stole her trike. Lounge chairs circling a fire pit. Card games in a tent or at the table. Her husband saying, “All I have to do this weekend is keep my pop cold,” as he settled into his camp chair.
Games, new games, all the time. “We were out in Ohio, and they taught us a new game.” And there we’d go, a competition between the men and the women. (Girl power!)
Countless story hours at the library with our brood, and then lunch at McDonald’s afterwards. Swimming lessons at the public pool, just two moms and all their tadpoles. Furious splashing, wet braids, and sticking-up rooster tails.
Our two firstborn carpooling to school. Fights in the back seat that would go still when “Adventures in Odyssey” began.
Carrying in a meal when her last child was born, holding him in my arms, and hearing her say, “Remember the scare you had with your baby?” and me, nodding, recalling the pediatrician that had frightened me when she’d raised the specter of Downs. “It’s a reality for us.” This, with that calm acceptance that marked her heart and her life.
Then came a phone call one Monday morning in June. “Did you hear?” There’d been a terrible accident, and in one fatal moment, her two oldest children were gone.
In all the times that I saw and spoke with Edith afterwards, I never heard one word of complaint. Never saw a hint of bitterness. Never felt anything but that calm acceptance with which she’d always, somehow, lived her life. If she struggled, she kept it to herself and, I am sure, shared it with the One Who alone could lift the weight.
That was Edith.
When we left the Plain circles in which we first met, she never rejected, scolded, or condemned. She simply accepted me as I was and saw me as her friend. That was Edith.
When we met other young moms at the library who were vastly different from us, she befriended them without a hint of judgment. Our kids played, we talked together as mothers, and she counted us all as her friends. That was Edith.
When a rare disease hit, she met it, again with that calm acceptance. And even when her voice was affected, I never heard her complain. She simply spoke the best that she could, enjoying the laughter that her friends brought, and kept on going. That was Edith.
On Saturday, Edith died. I cannot articulate the devastation that her family is facing. There are days when it seems that life down here is far more hell than it is Heaven; days when it seems that hell is all that it shall ever be. But, thank God, it isn’t true.
Edith knew it. Her sure hope and confidence were solidly placed in Him, and she lived her life in the shadow of Heaven. Now, her faith has become sweet sight.
At the portals of Heaven, I can see her. A mother, running through the golden gates. She is welcomed first by the One Who gave up His life and paid her way. King Jesus enfolds her in His arms. “Well done!” He says, and His smile shines like the light of a thousand suns. Then, turning, He holds out His hand. “Here they are.” And in a voice that is fully restored, clear as purest crystal, she cries, “My babies! My babies.”