Frail my heart apart

I went to the funeral of a three year old today.

That’s a sentence no one should type or utter.

It’s been a fragile week for me in any case, a fierce blend of hormones and administrative frustration and aloneness, and I haven’t been very good at finding my courageous, strong self. I was dipped into courage today.

I’ve posted before about following the journey of Stella, the grand-daughter of my colleague/client, whose mothers have written so intensely and gracefully about a story that shouldn’t have to have words. Stella turned three and a half about 10 days ago, and she died last Tuesday.

I read that she’d died on the blog, and I cried in Finch’s arms, and then we lit a candle in the window in Austin, on our last night there together.


“Stella liked pigs… She had curly hair and she was three.”

That was part of the tribute to Stella her cousin and best friend Gracie made for today, read by one of her moms as Gracie clung to her shoulder.

May I suggest to you
May I suggest this is the best part of your life
May I suggest this time is blessed for you/this time is blessed and shining almost blinding bright
just turn your head and you’ll begin to see the thousand reasons that were just beyond your sight
the reasons why I suggest to you this is the best part of your life

Stella came from a remarkable family and community. Stella made a remarkable family and community. The frame for all of this sorrow that shines through: in grief, we find the connection that lets us love the most, lets us love the most softly, fiercely, connectedly. That without sadness, we don’t find the space to greedily savour what we are given.

No one should have to learn this lesson. But selfishly, I’m so grateful that Stella’s two remarkable moms, that her family, were able to articulate this through their sadness, and to share it. To let us witness their horrific journey, and to extend our humanity in that witnessing.

Mishi talked about her hard fought lesson with Stella that she had to parent the child she had — the willful, fierce, vibrant child she had — instead of the child she imagined she should have. How she had to learn to parent by listening to Stella. Learned only in that moment of epic loss how to listen when Stella wanted to stop and watch and chase the birds instead of marching off to the library. How to find those moments of the best part of your life, embedded in life sorrow and loss.

Life is savoring and sorrow and loss. I’m going to Arizona this weekend, and will mark the one year anniversary of the death of my dear friend and mentor, who taught me to look for grace, to savour. Stella and her family live grace. It’s a lesson I have to keep learning. It’s the lesson of this life for me. I’m the person who can be witness to this grace, yearn for it, then come home and burst into frustrated tears at my partner because he can’t see me clearly enough from across the ocean, can’t feel what I need.

It’s my lesson, this grace and savouring.

Three weeks ago, I went on a strange little journey around the province with my friend Lee, her friend K, and Lee’s mother Ruth’s ashes. There was no formal memorial for Ruth when she died last June, so we decided to take them to Lake Huron to scatter them at sunset.

It turned into a pilgrimage, with a detour to the house that Lee’s parents built and she grew up in but hadn’t been to in three decades.

(10.13 – 287)

The woman who lives there was a little wary as her five year old, a fierce little boy with stitches over his right eye, trudged with determination after Lee as she told him about the forts she and her brother had built in the woods behind the house, before the hidden mushroom farm that caught fire more than once.

There was no sunset that night, there was only a very rainy Lake Huron, off season resort town, lake that was also mine as a child.

(10.14 – 288)

Ruth turned out to be a bit trapped in her urn, the sprinkling of ashes not possible unless we were willing to let all of them go into the wind. And Lee wanted to save some for her brother. So we showed Ruth the grey lake, and Lee told us many stories of who she was, and we toasted her with wine and the waves and our focused presence. With inebriated Scrabble and laughter and gratitude and joy.

Today, Mishi and Aimee and their family distributed little medallions, little stars that say Stella. The officiant asked us to take them to places in the world Stella will never go to, and to take photos and post stories on a website.

(11.1 – 307)

I’ll take mine to the kids in Uganda, talk to them about the death of a tiny fierce girl, and about the love of her family, about savoring. About grace. About looking into the stars and seeing love.

this is a song comes from the west to you
comes from the west
comes from the slowly setting sun
this is a song with a request of you
to see how very short these endless days will run
and when they’re gone and when the dark descends
oh we’d give anything for one more hour of light


6 thoughts on “Frail my heart apart

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