An Ending and A Beginning
I am coming to the end of the reflections of the life and death of Rukhsanah Israel. I am sure I have much more to share. However, I think this reflection is ending. I have never written about her. I have talked about her many times, most of the time in snippets.
I am told that when I do talk about this and many other painful things in my life that I speak of them as if I am telling a story of someone I hardly know. They tell me that I am missing the emotion of the story. It isn’t that I don’t feel it, it is that I just am so good at compartmentalizing things. And of course, I am Norwegian and we are known for this.
Today is the anniversary of the funeral. Funerals are supposed to bring closure. I am not sure that we had closure or that we ever will. However, while funerals are a looking back, they are also a looking forward.
My church home was a wonderful place. We were small and like family. Barely two years before these same people had banded together to marry Bethany and her husband. Before that, they had showered her with baby presents. Before that, they prayed for her through her very difficult teen years. They rejoiced with me and cried with me many a time. They also loved and prayed.
I heard from one of the Deacons that the Pastor was having a difficult time with the funeral – his own emotions were difficult. I know the whole church was grieving as we were. We were so close.
I wish I had the program from the funeral. I went to the Christian Bookstore to buy a bulletin cover. I found one for dedication with a baby that quoted from I Samuel 1:27-28
For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.
They do not make bulletin covers for baby funerals.
She was dressed in a Winnie the Pooh outfit. So small that even the child’s white coffin seemed large. The older children were returned to us just minutes before the funeral. We were all there, natural family, church family, some friends. I walked up to the coffin and thought should I still pray for her resurrection? I didn’t.
When we started I sang a special song, Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us. Original poems written by Bethany and Rukhsanah were read by Sofia and Rukhsanah. Rukhsanah nearly collapsed as she returned to her seat. I remember Bethany's poem kept repeating Sanah Pana, her name of endearment. I managed to keep it together the whole time. I have this persona of strength.
I don’t recall the hymn my daughter had chosen. I think it is “It is Well with My Soul.” What I do remember though is that we sang this chorus at the request of my daughter -
Bethany had learned that song from Psalty when she was a child. Now what was planted was coming back to give us all strength.
We committed her to the ground in the bitter cold. We went back to the church and fellowshipped. While we had no closure, there is always healing around the table of fellowship with your family, natural and spiritual. For the first time, during that fellowship, I saw a glimpse of my daughter emerge. To this day, I love seeing Bethany smile. That day, to see the beginning of a smile, was enough.