Out of Province

Shared Moments, Finding the Spirit of Hope
by Carol C.
The following is a representative story from Carol's book:

Planning a funeral service for your 9-year-old is something none of us ever plan to experience. Linda may be our minister, but for this undertaking she was virtually our savior. She seemed to just "know" how to interpret our hopes and desires to make this a "kid friendly" event. Our motto was that if Lauren wouldn't have liked it or understood it, it didn't belong in the service. Linda, the mother of three girls herself, arrived at our home on a Sunday afternoon to plan the "Celebration Service" for Lauren. We were numb. She laid out the plans that included lots of children's hymns, select youth of the church to sing and the grand finale, Viva Forever, by the Spice Girls, was to be played. If you haven't had the opportunity, read the words to this song, do so. It gives a renewed sense of everlasting life. Additionally, we planned to supply markers and helium balloons for messages to be written and released. None of the food had any redeeming nutritional value. Lauren would have liked that! Somehow the ladies of our church just appeared with the food. To this day I have no idea how this happened. As our meeting with Linda concluded on this tear-stained, mind-numbing day, she asked if we'd like to have any passages read. In truth, neither Tony nor I were what you'd call biblically oriented at the best of times. In this, the worst of times, we drew a blank.

The day wore on. The family had all arrived from around the country. The doorbell rang constantly marking the arrival of fresh flowers, casseroles, fruit plates, breads, and veggie and sandwich platters. All were gratefully accepted. The house was buzzing. Anyone, who has ever been in this situation, knows that it is nigh on to impossible to sustain sanity in these moments. A peaceful retreat was all I could handle. I tried to breathe through the day moment by moment. In the late afternoon, I stole away to my bedroom. Here I closed my eyes and tried to make some sense of life. As I opened my eyes, Tony stood before me with a dumbstruck look on his face. He handed me a kid's diary and asked that I read through to the last page. It seemed that he had been drawn into Lauren's room. He knew he was looking for something, but had no idea what it was.

He'd looked in her closet and drawers. He'd shuffled through her numerous treasured collections. You know the type of thing, pennies, pretty rocks collected on family trips, baseball cards and so on. Nothing felt right. He was looking for something, something specific! But what? His attention turned to her beloved books. He scanned the bookshelf. There he noticed the diary. Neither of us had been aware that Lauren had kept a diary. The first few pages were written kid style, with words jammed together on the page. Misspelled words had been sloppily crossed out. She had dated each of her entries and added her age, which provided an interesting chronological snapshot of her life. As I read, I discovered numerous treasured entries about school projects, pets, doubts regarding continuing with piano lessons, a new love of soccer and such. It was her last entry, though, that took my breath away. As a bit of background, you need to know that my father had died 18 months before we lost Lauren. He was 82 when he died. As fate would have it he happened to leave us on my birthday, January 19th, in 1998. He had been just "the best" grandpa (and dad for that matter) ever. We all missed him. Here, neatly written on every other line with no spelling errors we found the following offering from Lauren:

"May 27th, 1999, 9 years.

I don't know why, but ever since my grandpa died I've been praying to God every night. I really miss my grandpa and I hope someday when I die I go to heaven, too. There is one letter that I wrote to my grandpa that never got sent. I'm sad. I wish that grandpa was still alive and got the letter and he wrote back saying he loved me, and he will always love me. When I die I want to be in heaven with grandpa, Mom (Carol Poduch), Dad (Tony Poduch), Maya, Mandy, Belle, Kim, Kiwi, and all of my belongings and last but not least, grandma.

Thank you, Lauren Poduch U!"

On the lighter side, as we read this, we laughed at our names in parenthesis, as though she had somehow wanted God to be crystal clear with respect to her parentage. Not taking any chances on the important stuff! Kim seemed to rank somewhere below our two family dogs (Belle and Maya) and Lauren's goldfish (Mandy). She did surpass the budgie (Kiwi) though, a fitting spot at a time in Lauren's life when jealousy of the big sister seemed inevitable.

More poignantly, this was the last thing Lauren ever wrote in her journal, six weeks before her death. Naturally, this became our reading at the service to celebrate her short life. Many mourners present that day laughed and cried as they listened to her words being read. We sat in wonderment, trying to ascertain where this prognostic entry had come from. Nightly prayers had never been a part of our family routine. What was it that made Lauren start to pray? Did she know in some recessed part of her being what was to befall her? As a family we had never discussed nor told Lauren that grandpa was in heaven. That just wasn't a part of our vernacular at the time. Why did she assume such? None of her other journal entries had ended with a "Thank You". Who, exactly, was she thanking?* All of her other entries were reporting and reflecting on the facts of her life. This entry dealt with a different topic altogether. Lauren appeared to be pondering her place in eternity at the ripe old age of nine. She was also thinking about God's role in her life and, it would seem, without much guidance from us, praying to him/her. Why did she do this? Most importantly she was thinking and writing of her own death. Imagine! How many nine-year-olds do you know who explore these topics in the privacy of their own thoughts?

I wonder if you are beginning to unravel the deep, special message we received from our nine-year-old via her diary. Answering the above questions is a personal journey. I leave it to each of you to ponder, in your hearts and minds, what your answers would be.

As for us, we know with our entire minds, bodies and souls, how to answer these questions. Lauren left us an amazing clue regarding her fate. She guided Tony to a piece of the puzzle that has brought our family and friends great peace. We love you honey, always and forever. I couldn't have said it better, Viva Forever.

*Footnote: Shortly after writing this article, I had a seemingly related experience. While reading "Ask Your Angels" authored by Alma Daniel, Timothy Wyllie, and Andrew Ramer, a passage caught my eye. These authors provide detailed instructions regarding how we can all reportedly experience angels in our daily lives. They note that when people are transcribing messages received directly from their angels, it is a common courtesy to end the passage by writing "Thank You". So did Lauren receive a message from her angels? In truth, I have absolutely no idea. I do know this though, as I contemplate where Lauren's "Thank You" came from, I find the Spirit of Hope.

Copyright 2007 Carol Poduch. All rights reserved
Not to be reproduced without written permission from the author

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