We shared our grief with our church family here in Dulce yesterday during our Sunday service. It was good in ways most people couldn't imagine. Why? Because almost everyone I spoke with had tragically lost a child or grandchild. My church family shared my grief in ways that the vast majority of Americans cannot. Those listed above are few and far between. We can be thankful for that, but it makes losing a child or grandchild even more difficult because there are so few with whom to share the grief.
But here, on the Jicarilla Apache Nation, losing a child or grandchild is not so rare. That is a sad situation, one large part of the grief of this Nation. I will not begin to assign causes as to why more children (young and adult) pass away here, but I can tell you about the faith that holds our church members together through this grief.
One woman told me of her father's response when her teenaged brother was killed in an accident. Her father said, "God gives, and God takes away." This man was able to celebrate the short life of his son because he saw that life as a gift to him, even if it ended sooner than the father would have chosen.
Another woman told me of her daughter's death. She said that without her faith that God would comfort her in her grief, the grief would have killed her. She said that praying through her grief upheld her, and knowing others were praying for her brought her through the times when she couldn't even pray.
On a different occasion, following the recent death of an adult child, a person told me that their dying child had asked God to forgive their sins and accept them as God's own. This brought much peace to the grieving parent.
Our family's grieving over Raelyn has only begun, but to these I cling: 1) Raelyn is with God. She is free of pain and fear; she is perfect in every way; and she is God's child. 2) Raelyn's life was a gift to us all. She was a delightful, smart, funny, sweet, and loving toddler. I have many wonderful memories to carry with me wherever I go.
3) Prayer is essential to our healing. Our 8-yr-old is processing by drawing and writing, talking, and praying about Raelyn and our family. Our first response when we are overwhelmed by the sadness of losing her is to pray together. To hold hands and to name every person who is grieving, including ourselves.
Rest In Peace, Baby Girl. And God, comfort those of us left here on Earth without her.