We all gathered under a beautiful tree, its branches reaching over the large deck that encircled it. White chairs sat in neat rows, filled with people who loved her and loved her parents. A set of tables lined one side of the deck, covered with bulletin boards, handmade quilts and a baptism certificate. The pictures that were pasted to the bulletin boards were gorgeous. They spelled out the six days that Alice was on the planet. The six days that her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles got to love her, and kiss her, and tell her how much she was loved.
And then she was gone.
Her grandpa said it best, as he spoke his truth at her memorial service. He started his speech with "It's not fair". How right he was. He was so right, and so in tune with what every person sitting under that tree was feeling that his three words made new tears stream down my face.
How can it ever be fair that a little person as perfect as Alice not get to live a full, long life? How is it fair that she was born into a large, loving family who would have spoiled her rotten?
Her daddy is a co-worker of mine. I'd never met her mama until that day, under the tree. But what I know about them is enough to make me want to scream "IT'S NOT FAIR" into the wind.
He's the director of children's programming at the large rec center where I work. He's the perfect person for the job. He's retained just enough of his kid side to fit in well with the little people who stream through our doors, but he's grown up enough to do the boring stuff like schedule programs, create camps and juggle a million activities at once. He's a shining light in our building, always willing to drop what he's doing to help anyone who needs it. More than once he's gotten me out of a computer jam, when I'm sure he had better things to do. He is the king of safety and co-teaches our CPR classes every six months.
He would be a perfect dad. He was ready to be a perfect dad. He'd planned to take off the whole month of December so he could stay home and throw himself into raising his little girl. He painted her nursery the exact color her mama wanted and in his free time dreamed about which Indie band she'd play in.
From what I hear about her mama, there is no doubt baby Alice picked perfect parents. Her mama works in the social services, helping troubled teens find their way. Nothing Alice would have done in her teen years would have rattled her mama. No matter which Indie band she joined.
But Alice didn't stay long. Her little light joined the world on September 20th. She spent several days hooked up to machines while the people who loved her gathered around her incubator and prayed desperate prayers.
And then the tubes were removed and the incubator opened. Her mama and daddy got to lift her out of the warm box and hold her in their arms. They got to dress her up the tiny clothes they'd received from many baby showers. They got to whisper their love for her into her tiny ears. She was passed from grandparent to grandparent, so everyone could have a chance to feel her light before she left.
And the pictures were taken. Pictures that lined one side of the deck that surrounded the tree. The tree of life sheltered those of us who were remembering a special little life. A life that enriched her parents hearts more than they could have ever imagined, and then broke their hearts deeper than they knew was possible.
She was surrounded by love, but she didn't get to stay long. Just long enough to say hello and goodbye to the amazing parents she picked to bring her into the world.
I know there is a reason for every life and every death. But after walking away from that service to celebrate her tiny life, I couldn't stop crying. No matter how much you try to reason away why she left so young, it never adds up. I always come back to
It isn't fair.