The 12th Day of Christmas, my True God gave to me, an Epiphany.
I am going to attempt to balance two days into one. You see today is Epiphany, the day in which we celebrate God’s light through the gift and love of Jesus Christ. Yesterday was the 12th Day of Christmas and as has been my pattern, I need to write about what my True God gave to me yesterday.
Through these twelve days, you’ve seen me write about my friend Lynn and her precious daughter, Alyssa, who passed away on Monday from Osteosarcoma at the young age of 10. Yesterday was her Celebration of Life. I drove to Charlottesville anticipating what the service would be, how Lynn, Jeff and Lexie would do, and how many people would be in attendance. I don’t know why. Well, yes I do. It was a service for a 10-year-old girl and those shouldn’t even be happening. My first pastoral care call as an ordained minister was to the house of a family whose eight-year-old daughter died in a terrible swimming pool accident. Witnessing a family grieve over the loss of their child, doesn’t get any easier and it shouldn’t be happening.
Alyssa’s favorite color was blue. When I arrived at Belmont Baptist Church, the sky was filled with the golden blue and sweeping brushes of white. I knew then and there that Alyssa was present, watching over her family and dancing her heart around her family and friends.
When Lynn, Jeff and Lexie walked into the church at 1:00 they walked into a sanctuary filled to the masses with people that love them dearly. Many they have known for years and many they met through the battle of Alyssa’s cancer. The church was packed from the pulpit to the balcony with folks that had this one precious connection. Even the perfect stranger could sense the love surrounding the Divers yesterday. It was a beautiful sight to see and feel.
I won’t get into everything that happened in the service but there were three moments that took my breath away. There were more actually, but three that I will speak about. I have to share them with you because I believe these moments were the gifts that God sent, not just to me, but to everyone who witnessed them.
The first was the courage and strength of Alyssa’s mother Lynn. She is a fellow chaplain, preacher, and minister, all rolled into one beautiful soul. But at this time she was a mother, who was saying goodbye to her baby girl. It was through the example of her daughter’s fight that gave Lynn the courage to get up and read a most beautiful tribute to her and the love they share. She read A Cradling Song, a piece that was adapted to fit Alyssa’s life. How in the world a mother can read that piece is beyond my understanding, however Lynn did so with grace, love, spirit and that strength I mentioned in a previous post, a strength that is beyond human understanding. She was beautiful. Lynn taught me about a mother’s love.
The second moment came directly after Lynn was done and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. This time, the moment came from their sweet and vibrant daughter Lexie, who when mom stepped down from the pulpit ran up to her mommy and gave her the most gracious and beautiful hug you could imagine. Lynn picked her up and Lexie held her mom ever so tightly, all the way to their seat. Daddy was there to kiss them both. Lexie, being her mother’s daughter, ran to comfort Lynn and express how proud she was of Mommy for sharing her words and love. Lexie taught me what it means to comfort someone you love.
The third moment, should come as no surprise from anyone who knows me, came from all the children in the sanctuary. At one point in the service, the children were called up to the front to share in some song and dance with Uncle Timmy. As they were coming down the aisles, I could see the looks on their grieving faces. They weren’t sure exactly what to do. It had been pretty quiet up to this point; people reflecting, crying and holding each other as we all thought about Alyssa. But this was a time for them; a time to celebrate and share what Alyssa taught the children. With Lexie’s leadership, they danced, sang and leaped to the highest peak in Heaven so they could reach up to Alyssa. They were laughing and hugging. They were free and daring. They were joyful and celebrating all that Alyssa taught them. She taught them to dance, to leap, and to live. These children gave a powerful message yesterday, one that can only be taught by children, through their love for Alyssa.
How does yesterday relate to Epiphany? This week has been a dark week for anyone who has been touched by Alyssa’s life, and more importantly for her family. However in the midst of the darkness, there was a light shining to give them hope, courage and strength to get through this time. Some of the light came from the community that has been surrounding them since the beginning. They were there yesterday and will be there for whenever the Divers need. The brightest point of yesterday’s light came from Alyssa. Her life is an Epiphany for all who witnessed her strength, courage and determination over the last two years. She was the brightest star in Heaven yesterday.
I hope and pray that Lynn and her family felt God’s presence in the midst of all the pain, the anger, and the grief. I hope they felt God’s presence through the people and events that shaped yesterday’s service. Until the numbness begins to wear off and they can start to take the steps to get back to a life of “normalcy,” if that is even possible, I hope they can see the light in the darkness. That may be the only thing that will get them through the next weeks and months ahead as they journey down this road of grief. The Wise Men traveled down their road guided by the Light of Christ and the Epiphany of God’s precious gift when they arrived. Maybe today’s Epiphany celebration can be the gift of these last days of Christmastide for the Divers too. Lynn, Jeff, Lexie and their entire family can travel down this road and when they look up, they will see the brightest light in their world, a sweet blue-eyed girl named Alyssa who will watch over them every step and leap along the way.
May it be so.