My friend, Erin, called me on Sunday evening to let me know that her niece, A., had passed away the night before. A. was 10 years old, and had died from complications of pneumonia. She was a special needs child, with many health issues over her short 10 years, including almost always being in a wheelchair. I didn't always get to see A., but when I did, she always had a beautiful smile on her face. She was so innocent to life, she saw joy in so much around her when any other person may have let that joy escape unnoticed. I was really surprised when Erin told me A. had died, it was just nothing I was expecting to hear.
Today was the wake for A., and despite the cold temps, I bundled myself up to get myself to the funeral home. I wanted to be there for Erin, who has no words to describe how she's feeling, and for A.'s family. I didn't realize exactly how difficult it would be to go to a wake for a child. I wrote a short memory of A. for the parents, and then went to view the hundreds of pictures that were put on 3 large pieces of cardboard. I immediately welled up with tears. A. was so loved by her family, and she touched the lives of so many who were lucky to come across her path. In so many pictures, A.'s signature smile lit up the photo. There were birthday pictures, Halloween pictures, many with her family and her cousins, and even some of the Buffalo Sabres hockey players (the one with their goalie, Ryan Miller, got me a bit jealous!). There was even a board of pictures provided by the special school she attended in Buffalo. She truly was a precious gem to so many people.
I walked with Erin and her daughter over to where the casket was located, and when I got near to say goodbye, I got teary-eyed again. A. looked like a little doll in that casket, peaceful and calm, as if she was just sleeping. It was overwhelming. Never in my life have I been to a wake for a child, and just seeing A. there made my heart break. I know that she is in a better place, and that she's running around free and able to do all the things she could never do here on earth, but none of it seems fair. Of course, there are many things in life that aren't fair, and I've experienced to many of them, but eventually I came to just accept them. Right now, my heart goes out to A.'s family and the people who were very close to her and loved her so much. They are the ones who really need some peace and strength at this time.