From One Sister to Another

Sienna has been begging me for weeks to do a lemonade stand. Being the mother I am, I was hesitant, because that sounded like a whole lot of work to me. Mixing powdered Country Time in a pitcher and adding ice, then refilling when it got empty, plus doing some kind of mediation in case it got rowdy or Sienna tried to charge $20 per cup, plus keeping one eye on the three littler minions who would doubtless insist on going outside for the whole thing, plus keeping the dog somewhat calm on her leash or else hearing her incessant barking through the windows? That does not sound like a way I ever want to spend a Saturday. So I put her off, hopefully forever.

Two days after Olivia and Emma Lewis died, their dad Sean posted a status update on facebook. It was about how all three girls, whose favorite movie was Frozen, had been looking forward to watching the movie on DVD on a road trip this summer. Instead, Sean and Becca bought the DVD for Vivian to watch as they made the journey to bury Olivia and Emma. When they showed it to her, Vivian went to her room, shut the door, and told her sisters, with an excited giggle, that they had gotten the movie and were going to watch it in the car the next day. She came back out with the biggest smile on her face and told her parents that “my sisters will watch it with me too, but we can’t see them.”

I didn’t make it through the story without crying. I’m the social media person in our marriage, which means I’m the one who keeps up with our old friends from UD. I haven’t made it through very many updates this past week without crying. We didn’t know Sean and Becca that well, but we knew them, they were in our circles of friends, and in any case they’re truly good people so we respect them, and they’re UDers, so they’re family and we love them. They’re too close for me to try and extract some lesson from this tragedy, the way I tend to with tragedies from a distance. This is just terrible, senseless, so awful, and so permanent. Becca is my friend, and two of her daughters are dead. Every time I think about it, I want to rip my heart to shreds on her behalf. Not that that would do any good, but God. God. What would do any good? What would help? And God, why?

That’s a rhetorical question, obviously. UD taught me enough to not question tragedy and suffering in our world, mostly because we had to read a ton of philosophy and theology on the subject that I never understood. My take on suffering is that I don’t get it, but it exists, and I choose to trust and have faith in spite of it. That’s made more difficult during times like this, when I alternate between wanting to scratch Eve’s miserable eyes out of her miserable face for eating that damn apple, and thanking God for the beauty of the communion of saints, the consolation of unity in the Catholic Church.

And then there’s Sienna, who watched me tell the Ogre with her hawk eyes. She catches every secret meant for adult ears, every shift in tone and mood, every subtle nuance. She’s like a little living mood ring, except when my mood turns black hers turns black too, reflecting it all back at me. She listened quietly this time, which is basically unheard of, and a few hours later she quietly drew me aside and asked again if we could have a lemonade stand. But this time, she said that she wanted to use the money we made to buy a gift for Vivian, “since I’m a sister, and her sisters aren’t here to give her presents anymore.”

So we did. I figured that if I was going to to do this, and do it for an actually good cause, I should do it all the way. So I squeezed all the lemons by hand (and holy crap, I wish someone had told me how many lemons it takes to make lemonade ahead of time), made chocolate chip and sugar cookies, and we had a lemonade-and-cookie stand for three hours on Sunday afternoon.

The neighborhood kids pitched in to help with overwhelming enthusiasm, particularly our next-door-neighbor in this picture, who spent at least two hours playing don’t-dump-out-the-lemonade-or-eat-that-cookie with Lincoln. The response of the good people of Ave Maria was overwhelming as well…many people made trips out of their way to swing by and paid much more than the cookies and lemonade were worth. Overall, we made enough to buy Vivian exactly what we wanted to buy her…a charm bracelet with two snowflake charms.

Another friend posted this on my facebook wall yesterday:

We sang for the funeral yesterday. It was so beautiful. There were 11 priests concelebrating, and the one who gave the homily spoke directly to Vivian, their 4 year old sister. He talked about the movie “Up” and how the old man’s journey to Paradise Falls reflects our journey to our true home of paradise with Jesus.

It seems to me that these are the great gifts of Catholicism, the great beauty of our unity. It’s times like this when I remember that Catholic means universal, and why. I do not know how Sean and Becca and Vivian will keep going, or how they will find a way to bring joy back into their home, but I hope that small acts of beauty, like Sienna’s lemonade stand and this priest’s homily, will at least be consistent enough to keep them from feeling like they are going to fall between the cracks of grief.

Thank you for your prayers thus far, and please, in the weeks and months and years to come, continue to pray for the Lewis family, for Sean and Becca and little Vivian.

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