The Memory of Children

I was sitting on the grass, amidst the children, after the tree planting ceremony. Amidst the children who should have been Gabriel's friends, in his Sunday School class, who would have baby sat him in the years to come. Amidst families with children of their own, some who have experienced the inexplicableness of tragedy, and some who have not.

Skylar looked up at me with her terribly wise 3 year old face and she said "Where is Gabriel?". Her brother was on my lap, I had declined to hold him earlier, but someone else just handed him to me a few minutes later. His mother, who understood why I wasn't holding him, had looked at me with this look of terrible sorrow when he was plunked in my lap. I was marvelling in his solidness - how large and plump and content he was, how unlike my tiny, frail son, with translucent skin and hair so fine I could not feel it.

So, there was Skylar, waiting for an answer. And my throat had completely closed up. I had no words to say. I could tell Skylar that he was in heaven, but truly, if she asked why, I couldn't answer. I don't know. He's there, I'm here, and that's the way it is.

Skylar's mum looked at her. She dropped her head down, so that her face was in front of Skylar's. And she said "Gabriel is with Jesus in heaven." I looked up at Skylar, and said "Would you like to see his picture?" I had thought that I would go and get his album, to show her what he had looked at, how tiny he had been. I imagined that I could compare him to the doll she carried, he was about that size. I hoped there would be no difficult questions. I hoped that she wouldn't be frightened of a baby who was so unlike her solid and strong brother.

And she looked at me, and she said "I saw his picture earlier. I remember him".

And I thought yes, yes the memory of children. Gabriel, never seen, but remembered as the baby in heaven.