I titled this Stark Saturday, but it’s not an Iron Man story. I wish it were, but it’s not.
Saturdays are interesting days for us. They’re quieter, and we’re not racing around to a million different places or walking across the Iowa State campus. Peaceful, restful days mixed in with a bunch of different things, right? That’s how weekends work.
At the same time, they are very stark. I have time to sit and process what’s been going on. Every Saturday, usually right before football, my wife Becky and I go to visit Doria’s grave in the cemetery. Being honest here, I never knew that our cemetery had a children’s section, but it does. We take that first turn and drive down to the children’s section. Our grave marker is still on the way, so right now we just stand by a little stark piece of land, talk some, hug, and cry some. We look around and imagine all of the kids (way too many) playing together. Across the ‘aisle’ from us is a stark piece of reality, a marker from a family we never want to be.
I don’t know their names, and I wouldn’t embarrass them here if I did, but I so don’t want to be them. They went back-to-back. I look across and see that they have two markers side-by-side, one son and one daughter. Each one was born alive and lived about 12 days. They have a cross set up, and really neat markers. Prior to this, I think I just would have prayed something like “Lord, please comfort that family,” if I thought anything of it at all. Now, every week, He hears “Lord, please comfort that family, and please don’t let us be them. One is enough.” I know me. I’m going to look every time, but every time I have to brace for impact.
While we’re there, we plan out decorations. Neither one of us is really into decorating, so it’s fun to hear us talk about what kind of standing hook (or whatever they’re called) we want to mark Doria’s grave with, and what kind of flowers we’d put in there. Decorating really never has been our thing. We’re waiting to see it with the marker before we really get going, so Doria’s patch of ground is still stark and bare for now.
Speaking of stark realities, and you might want to avert your eyes at this point, it always reminds me of Doria’s funeral day. August 23rd. The students I work with were in lecture while Becky and I made our private visit to the funeral home to spend that last time with Doria and her casket. We never opened it, but we didn’t have to. We knew what was going on.
As a preparation freak, I made sure that we spent some time talking about what we were going to see. We talked about what we felt. It sounded as good as can be. It turns out, to no one’s surprise, that you really can’t prepare yourself to walk into a room and see a box holding your daughter’s body. So we broke down, somehow casually and peacefully, while we tried to run Adams Funeral Home out of tissue. We brought our own, but we figured we’d save the good stuff. It had been six days since we got the news of Doria’s death, but seeing that box put this thing we already knew into a stark perspective. If you ever wondered what a baby casket could look like, here is Doria’s:
If it wasn’t a burial box for our child, it would really be cute. They offered us the choice to keep the bear or bury it with Doria. We kept the bear. We didn’t have enough yet.
I mentioned enough starkness. I should go the other direction. While we don’t have our marker there yet, it’s on the way. We’ve seen a lot of grace that we never expected in all of this. Part of that included a series of phone calls about a grave marker. I first thought it was offered to us “at cost,” and that led to a great, awkward moment on the telephone after setting things up and looking at a picture sent through e-mail:
Me: “So, is this the part where I ask what this cost?”
Other: Pause. Could feel this really nice man trying to figure out what exactly I don’t understand about all of this. “Don’t worry about it?”
Me: “Umm, OK. I understood it was at cost. Sounds like you’re saying something bigger?”
Other: “It’s all taken care of. Someone is providing it.”
Me: “Oh, um, OK. That’s amazing (or something less coherent–that happens a lot with this stuff).”
So, I think it’s within a couple of weeks that we’ll see our beautiful little pink marker:
The other day, I looked up prices on those things. I have an idea what it cost, and it boggles my mind. The person who donated this has managed to elude my efforts to thank him. He can’t escape forever. He will be thanked, eye to eye! 🙂
In a way, our stark Saturday is really just another day. It just has less busyness to it, and more time for reflection. Then some reading and some football. Nothing gets you ready for football like this. Or something. So, basically, like every other day, regular life and grieving mix together in this thing we call normal.
Our Stark Saturdays always take us back home in a couple of ways. Not to an enormous Stark Tower, but to our apartment, which is nice enough. And then a reminder that really helps us from Proverbs 18:10==The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe.
It’s a good, brief reminder that there’s a solid refuge for us. The pain that comes before entering doesn’t just get erased. That would be awesome, but it’s all too real. Still, there’s a real refuge for us. It isn’t flashy or fancy, it’s just simply there any time.
Thanks for reading. Monday, Doria makes an impact! But now, off to Stark Saturday!