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Updated: Mar 5

“Farewell today

Travel on now

Be on your way”

I have wondered for a time now about the designers of Kleenex boxes. The goal of Kleenex is to help us when we have colds or to catch our tears, I know, but Kleenex artwork doesn’t usually appeal to me. The designs seem harsh and unsettling, hardly something that would provide much comfort, at least not to me. The new box on my kitchen counter is an exception, though. It’s beautiful. Simple, and beautiful, with white and gold wildflowers stretching skyward.

There’s a picture of Moses from when we first moved to the farm. He’s smiling, with an exuberance that lights up his whole being, sitting in a field of dandelions. He’s truly the embodiment of joy. I miss that version of Moses. He’s burdened, these days, by things that a third grade boy should not have to carry; he’s burdened by things that he can’t control, which is almost everything. I wish he could know how it felt to be free, to sit with the flowers and to just know that even when it’s hard, there’s still a lot of good.

“Go safely there

And never worry

Never care

Beyond this day”

She seemed so tiny and vulnerable. On my precious little granddaughter’s first visit to the farm, I tried to quiet the voices in my head as I dressed her. Wishing to stop the passage of time, I held her, a nearly weightless bundle just beginning her journey here. I know she will have to suffer. Difficult things will happen, and she will have to be brave. It’s the nature of being human. She will scrape her knee, she will feel heartache, she will someday see the depths of pain and loss. Tears will stain her beautiful face. And mine.

The unexpected celebratory news of another little one and the thoughts of two grand babies chasing each other in the dandelion patches made the hardest days easier. Two toddlers in bee suits, gathering eggs, and sitting on the kitchen counter, helping me knead the bread. The days turned to nights quickly, and before the candle had even been lit, the littlest baby was called home.

“Go well and go peacefully

We can’t keep your majesty

Be on your way”

I weep for that tiny baby who lost the chance to pick wildflowers on this earth, to gather eggs with his cousin, to ride on the back of Moses’ dirt bike, to be folded into the crazy love of our family. I weep for his brave parents, who have gracefully shared their pain so that we all might understand that maybe there is no understanding. I weep for my little granddaughter who will not know her cousin on this side of heaven.

My artist friend brought me a painting at Christmas time, when Dan and I became grandparents for the first time. I have kept it on the kitchen counter, right near the Kleenex. Her artwork is rich with texture, emotion, beauty, and mystery—a parallel, it might seem, to life itself. It makes me think, now more than ever, that beauty comes from the pain, the love, and the surprise gifts—tangible and otherwise—that we encounter along our way.

I was taken by my own depths of grief this week, armed, at least, with a beautiful box of Kleenex, which is nearly gone. We have an angel now who didn’t get the chance to stay. And we don’t know why.

I’ll see him, I know, in the wildflowers each year. I’ll hear him laughing with his cousin. I’ll hold him, too, as I try to quiet the demons, the rage, and all the other things we want to wish away. And wish, I will, as the dandelions fade.

“Make a hole in the sky for him

And raise your voices up

Lift your loving cups

To his long life

To his long life”

Lyrics from Natalie Merchant’s “King of May,” a tribute to her beat poet friend, and my tribute to my angel grand baby

Mother and Baby painting done on wood by the indomitable Patty Kirk

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