Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Mourning -- Just a Piece of Paper

It's just a piece of paper.  It really shouldn't bother me so much.

I keep it in a fireproof storage box, along with our marriage license, our passports, our social security cards, a few two-dollar bills (just in case they're worth a fortune some day), and a variety of other important papers.

I rarely open that storage box, and when I do, I try to just grab what I need real quick, lock it back up, and put it away.  When Bethany went to FCA camp a few weeks ago, I had to dig through it to find her shot record.  Thankfully, it was close to the top, so I found it easily.  Of course, Hannah's shot record was in there, too, right underneath Bethany's.  Why do I still keep that when I most certainly will never need it again?  Just because I can't throw it away ... It's just that simple.

Then, the other day, Brad asked me to pull out the title to our 2000 Chevy Blazer.  That poor little Blazer has just about had it, and we are hopefully going to be trading it in on a somewhat newer model pick-up truck sometime soon.  Ugh.  I knew that was going to take a little more digging in that storage box.  What if I saw that certain piece of paper that I so didn't want to see?  I swallowed hard, steeled myself, and dug through the papers until I found that title.  Whew!  No sign of that dreaded paper.  I must have it buried really deep ... maybe at the very bottom.  I didn't check, though, because I really don't want to know where it is.  I was just glad I didn't have to see it that day.

So what is this piece of paper that causes such an angst-filled reaction in me?  It's Hannah's death certificate.

Yuck.  I don't even like typing those words.  It doesn't feel like a sentence including those words should exist.  How could there even be a death certificate with my 17-year-old daughter's name on it?

I remember that as we made Hannah's funeral arrangements, the funeral director asked us how many copies of the death certificate we would like.  And I foggily remember asking her, "How many do we need?", instead of screaming "None!", like I really wanted to.  She kindly explained that for older people who had lots of investments, bank accounts, insurance policies, etc., multiple copies of the death certificate were needed so they could be sent to all these different banks and institutions.  For children and teenagers, usually one was sufficient.  "Well, I guess we'll take one, then," I remember saying.

And I remember looking at the death certificate when we got it.  It had the cause of death, the date of death, the time of death, the place of death, the doctor's signature, etc., all clearly spelled out.  And I hated it immediately.  It just made everything sound so legal, so permanent, so real.  I locked it away in that storage box and I've never looked at it again.

Because, in fact, that death certificate is a sadly incomplete record of what really happened on the afternoon of February 26, 2009.  Yes, it records Hannah's physical death and all of its awful details ... but that's all.  It makes no mention of the fact that at the very moment of Hannah's earthly death, she was also born into an incredible spiritual life.  In fact, maybe I could deal with that paper better if I thought of it as a birth certificate ... because isn't that really what it is?  

When I started writing this post this afternoon, I really didn't know where it was going to go.  I knew I wanted to write about that hated death certificate, just because it's been on my mind ever since I opened that box last week to find the Blazer title.  I almost decided not to write this post, because I was afraid it would be too negative.  Oftentimes, like Ann Voskamp has said, I don't really know what I think until I sit down to write it.  Leave it to God to direct me, even as I was writing this post, to the hope that can exist even in something as despised as my daughter's death certificate.  Or, as I'm going to start calling it, Hannah's new birth certificate!  Yes, I believe I like that better.


Lauren Lambert said...

I had those same feelings of 'wow this is real'. Aidens went straight to the safety deposit box because I knew it would be one of those things that I didn't want to see again unless absolutely necessary. Thank you got sharing! God is good all the time!

The Sullivan Four said...

You are welcome, Lauren ... I am so looking forward to meeting you in January. I get the feeling we think a lot alike!