Day 5

Grief and Remembrance

from the Mourning and Dancing reading plan

Jeremiah 8:18, Psalm 42:1-11, Genesis 23:1-4, Genesis 23:19, Isaiah 25:8, Psalm 43:1-5, Isaiah 65:19-20

BY Kaitlin Wernet

My very first memory is the day I became a sister. As soon as the birth of my baby brother was announced, I kicked open the maternity ward doors with my red Keds, singing, “I’m a Little Teapot” at the top of my lungs. He was the tiniest, sweetest, greatest thing to happen to my two-and-a-half-year-old life.

A few years later, I’d be clever enough to replace the words in another favorite nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” with my own name and reality, singing,

Mary Kaitlin had a little brother,
Had a little brother, had a little brother.
Mary Kaitlin had a little brother
Who lived in her house too.

I taught the song to my classmates, who’d sing it as I paraded through the elementary school carpool line, hand in hand with my little lamb. Some days I still wake up with this tune stuck in my head, rolling over to realize, yet again, the song’s taunting truth: I had a little brother—past tense. He’s gone now.

In the days following my brother’s death, the influx of sympathy cards, corn casseroles, news stories, pastoral visits, written obituaries, and floral arrangements all sang in unison, stuck on the same line: “Had a little brother, had a little brother, had a little brother.”

Death had stolen my song.

During the funeral, I stood in the first church pew, ready to lace up my red Keds, kick open the sanctuary doors, and go claim my little brother. I decided it wasn’t too late for it to all be a big mistake. I was waiting for Grief to admit it had chosen the wrong family, for Tragedy to apologize, and for Sorrow to pack its bags. It all made more sense that way, because my brother was the kind of guy who’d blush at all this attention and giggle at the amount of formality. Or was he? I was already forgetting.

My thoughts are my most unreliable grief companion, with the capacity to be my sweetest advocate or my biggest traitor. Like having a sore muscle, I become afraid to make the next move, knowing that walking through memories has the power to heal, but it also has the power to hurt.

Inside the front door of our childhood home, there’s a piano, the bench cushion worn equally on both sides. Together, my brother and I had written our own rendition of “Heart and Soul”—he on the bass clef, me on the treble. I sit in the same spot now, alone, recalling all of my notes perfectly, the duet only heard in my head. I remember all of his notes too. And I’m reminded that I am still Mary Kaitlin, but I no longer have a little brother who lives in my house too. I feel like the psalmist, pounded by the waves:

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your billows have swept over me.
The Lord will send his faithful love by day;
his song will be with me in the night—
a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:7–8).

Death can steal our song, but it cannot stop us from singing. And while I hold onto the hope of heaven, I am relieved and comforted by remembering God’s faithfulness to me in all things, right now.

When I hear one of our old songs, sometimes I listen, and other times I don’t. But when I’m feeling brave, I begin to mouth the words of that childhood song about my little brother, and I’m reminded of the true root of my grief: love. And that’s something I’ll never forget.

Post Comments (151)

151 thoughts on "Grief and Remembrance"

  1. Ashley Hoffman says:

    Reminds me of the song “Hallelujah Even Here” by Lydia Laird: “Sometimes nothing left to give becomes the sweetest offering and sometimes choosing just to sing is the thing that changes everything.”

  2. Linneah Olsen says:

    Oh, my goodness. I am weeping this beautiful and so perfect for right now.

  3. Reina Sikabwe says:

    Man I’m sobbing, I have a little brother..I cant even imagine…
    He is the best gift of my life.
    Loved this

  4. Virginia Mhasvi says:

    I’m so glad to know that grief will be a thing of the past in the new heavens and new Earth. Sometimes I do wonder, will the Lord allow us to remember things past or pains? I feel like remembering would help us appreciate the infinite joy we will get to experience in eternity. Or will there be no remembrance? So that the joy we will be feeling and never get used to will be so powerfully strong that it would make it impossible to have even a thought of the pain of the past. I do wonder about that…
    Either way, I’m sure gazing into the face of our Lord will drown sorrows away forever from our memory. That will probably be the new reality!

  5. Tamara Doyle says:

    I love that line, “…the true root of my grief: love.” It reminded me that my moments of deepest grief have hurt so much because I have loved much. And I love that God can use even our grief to show us His love. I experienced a deep loss not long after knowing someone. If I hurt that much for someone I’ve loved and lost after so short a while, how much more so does the God who eternally foreknew and chose me, love me?

  6. Nedja Wallace says:

    Grief and the mind are trixy things. Losing my Gran last May has been such a walk in the valley. I miss her with each breathe and it’s almost been a year. Anxiety kicks up and I don’t want to leave the safety of my home. But I do. Because she was brave. And because Christ was brave. And they both know the feelings of grief. And because of the Cross, I can rejoice in knowing that I will see her again…I will see all of them again! To love and be loved—-it hurts but it’s worth it. Blessings of peace and comfort to all who are mourning. May we all remember to dance soon! ❤️

  7. Ellen Hull says:

    Sunday is the third anniversary of my dad’s death. I give thanks he is no longer trapped in the earthly body that failed him, but it’s so hard for those of us left behind.

  8. Alexxa Reed says:

    My husband and I just found out that we lost our pregnancy. Our very first baby.. Christmas Eve will always look a little different to me now. I hope it won’t always hold a sadness and grief. I know it won’t always hurt like it does right now, but today I mourn the loss of our baby.. knowing I will see him/her again someday.

    1. Erin Campbell says:

      I am here reading this passage today in your shoes. I’m so sorry for your loss. I know it’s not a club either of us wanted to be in. Our due date was Valentine’s Day. I’m thankful for Gods faithfulness in the midst of grief and loss.

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