Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Moment of Faith

I'm pretty sure one never completely recovers from the death of a child. I'm not even sure if recovers is really the right word. Perhaps continues is the word I'm searching for. That seems like a better sentiment on what happens after a child is taken out of your life. It has been two years since eight year old Trevor's death. Trevor, a second-grade student of mine, was killed in a car accident that snowy day in late March of 2007. His aunt, who was 28 (the same age I was at the time of the accident) was killed in the same horrific crash.
I had been preparing for my normal Thursday morning choir when a disoriented looking man was trying to find someone to talk to in the front office. I asked him how I could help, and he proceeded to inform me that his son had been killed in an accident, and he wasn't quite sure what to do next. I asked him who his son was, and he tells me it's Trevor. Our Trevor. Eight year old Trevor. I was hit with a stunning numbness, methodically taking down his name, what details he had to offer, his contact information, things like that. After a quick embrace and what I'm sure was a weak attempt at words of comfort on my part, he left to attend to his family.

I was left alone in the school office - alone with the information that broke my heart. For what seemed to be an eternity, I stood in that empty office - unable to move or return to my waiting choir. I just stood there, knowing Trevor wouldn't be coming to school today. Or tomorrow. Knowing his classmates would never see him again. Not knowing quite what to do. Just crying.

As the office ladies began to file in, I told them what had just happened. I looked across the hall to my overflowing room of choir children - over 80 children, all around the age of 8 themselves, just wanting to sing. I couldn't just stand there staring - I had to go to them. I knew there would be crisis teams from the school district put into place throughout the day, and they would know what to say to the kids. I had to act as normal as possible. Everything they did made me cry that morning. I smiled and told them it was tears of joy, which for the most part, it was. They could do no wrong that day.

Trevor's grandmother contacted me, and asked if I would play the music for his and Kelly's funeral. I had done so many funerals in the past, yet most of them were for older adults. A child? I had only played for a child's funeral once before, and that had just about done me in. Yet, here was his grandmother - a woman who had just lost a daughter and a grandson - asking for help at the church service. My answer was an instant yes.

Allison (Trevor's second grade teacher) and I drove the 3 hours to Gunnison where the funeral was to be held. I remember driving around a corner, and having the town appear between the mountains. It was like being in another world altogether. I would not be exaggerating when saying the entire town showed up for that funeral. Trevor's relatives are key players in the town of Gunnison, and everyone there felt this loss. Allison and I entered the church, said our quick hellos to the family, and I headed to the piano. The pastor and I had worked out which hymns to play when. I'm not quite sure how, but I sang "It Is Well" during the unbelievably packed service, along with many other family-requested hymns. The presence of God in that gathering was overwhelming.

I have always been a person that is able to distinguish the difference between body and spirit. Meaning, I know that when a person dies, their spirit goes to Heaven, and what's left behind is their physical body. Trust me, that makes the funeral process much more bearable. That being said, I think the one thing that made the service a bit less painful was the fact that the caskets were the same size. Two white caskets of equal length. I know that might seem like a small detail, but there is nothing more aching than seeing a child's casket. I also keep this difference between body and spirit in mind when at the graveside. Without that difference, I would never had been able to drive away from Gunnison, and leave a child behind, buried in the frozen ground.

So many moments are etched in my memory of that day:
the slideshow of Trevor and his aunt, the physically and emotionally injured family members who were also in the crash sitting in the front pew of the church, watching some of my own second grade students placing roses on the caskets and saying goodbye, seeing kids just be kids at the luncheon, the conversations with a then-pregnant Allison that will forever bond me to her.

Trevor's grandmother sent me the most personal of thank you notes a week after the funeral. I had told her a story about Trevor was always popping up in my classroom window, and waving hello to me on his way to the gym. She mentioned how many times she had gone back to that story during the week, and how it had made her smile. She also said how much she was comforted by the music during the service, and how she would forever feel a connection to me. I know that the music at the service was both my way to grieve, and to celebrate the life of a little boy. It was my way of saying goodbye.

I think of Trevor often. I watch his classmates growing up without him. I think of the one year old son his aunt left behind. I also think of Easter. I'm certain this tragedy occurred during Easter to remind me of the power of the Resurrection. The death of a child would be unthinkable if it weren't for the thought that Trevor and his aunt were safe with God. This was one of the most intense, faith-forming moments of my life, and as Easter approaches, I can think of Trevor and smile.


Ann Herrell said...

Thank you for a lovely reminder of Trevor. You're right–you never get over the death of a child... as Christine Jojola said, you get THROUGH it. Without God's help, I don't know how anyone COULD get through such a difficult time. Thanks for that reminder.

SRSteveson said...

Two It doesn't seam possible. Trevor was in Patrick's class...he still asks about him, if he's in heaven. I assure him that he is. I can't remember who it was, but one of his class mates was asking me about the accident and asked if the aunt had died too. I had to tell her yes. She said that God must have done that so Trevor didn't have to go to heaven alone. Kids have an amazing way of rationalizing things. And on that note, I'm going to give my boy another kiss goodnight...

Allison said...

Brenda..thank you so much for this. I have thought A LOT about Trevor everyday since the accident, especially since my own family tragedy two months ago. I miss him a lot! You did such a great job that day of the funeral. Love ya

Razzle said...

Wow, tears. What a powerful moment that changed so many lives. Brenda, you have shared a very special story that makes me hug my daughter tight and appreciate life.