I heard the distress in her voice as I jumped from the office chair and quickly walked to her room. I opened the door to find her sitting up in bed, silhouetted in the darkened room by the nightlight behind her. She was crying.
“Kitty Keyboard, Mama,” she sobbed.
I pulled her close and rocked her back and forth.
Kitty Keyboard was the name of a toy keyboard we’d had since Beary was about four, around the time she became really interested in music. I got it at Target and it was a green and purple cat face; the keys were the teeth of its very happy grin. Kitty Keyboard filled our house with a lot of music. A LOT. Among the features were the ability to change the sound to banjo or bells or organ, and it had some pre-recorded songs included, as well as a microphone so Little Bear could sing along to her favorite tunes. I picked out Itsy-Bitsy Spider on Kitty Keyboard, and the theme song to Dora the Explorer. My girl would watch closely while I picked out a tune, then she’d take the keyboard and play it back perfectly. She soon began picking out tunes on her own, and creating her own songs. Kitty Keyboard gave us a lot of musical fun.
As my girl got older, she accumulated more musical instruments, and began taking piano lessons, but she still loved to hang out with Kitty Keyboard and make music in her playroom.
But then one day, Beary brought me Kitty Keyboard. “Mama,” she said, “I think Kitty Keyboard needs new batteries.” So I dug around and finally found four AA batteries, opened up Kitty Keyboard, placed the batteries, and handed it back to my daughter.
But it didn’t work.
Kitty Keyboard still didn’t play music.
I took the batteries out, got a pack of all-new batteries, just in case the ones I’d pilfered from the DVD remote weren’t stellar, but Kitty Keyboard still didn’t play.
Panic flashed in my girl’s eyes. “Mama! Why won’t she play? Fix it, Mama, you’ve got to fix it!”
But I couldn’t.
She held Kitty Keyboard up for a final photo, then we lovingly removed a cute kitten face button and cut the microphone loose to keep as mementos. We put her in the bin to be picked up on trash day, and my girl seemed mostly okay with the way things were unfolding.
She heard me haul the trash bin and the recycle bin out to the curb. The loss of Kitty Keyboard became a lot more real at that moment. But it wasn’t until she was in the cool darkness of her room, alone with her thoughts, that reality sank in. Kitty Keyboard was really going away.
So she called out to me.
I sat on her bed, stroking her hair back from tear-stained cheeks. I’m so tired of explaining loss to my girl, to myself. I’m so tired of things changing. I want Kevin to be healthy and here. I want toys to keep working. I want things that are perfect to stay that way.
But I can’t always get what I want.
“Baby,” I soothed, “remember we talked about how Kitty Keyboard had to go? We can’t keep broken toys, no matter how much we loved them. You’ve still got the kitty face button and the microphone” – I reached over to her dresser and got the items for her – “and we have that beautiful picture of you holding her. She has to go, sweetie, but you get to keep these things and a special place in your memory, right? Some things we keep and some things we have to let go of.”
She nodded, starting to find her calm. Then, matter-of-factly, “I guess she’s starting her third life, Mama. The first life was in the store, the second life was with me, and we don’t know what the third life is.”
“No, we don’t,” I agreed, “but I’m glad she got to be with us for her second life.”
“I think that was her best life, ‘cause it was with me,” she stated with eight-year-old confidence.
She squeezed my neck. I kissed her nose, then tucked her in again.
Wow, God, I thought. That’s hitting really close to home.
Because I’ve been so guilty of this. Of thinking, Kevin would be with me if he could. And we live in a world where books and movies offer up the same romantic notion over and over: the beloved deceased tries to come back, or tries to communicate with the one left living. I know – I just KNOW – I tell myself, that if there were any way possible, Kevin would come back to me.
I like to think the best part of his life was with me.
But that’s not true.
He’s living the best part of his life now, forever, with God.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
I sat in church a few Sundays ago and the choir sang a song I’d never heard, called Unto the Lamb. And when the soloist came to these words, tears streamed down my face.
And all of the angels cry Holy
All the saints cry Holy
All creation cries Holy
Holy is the Lamb
Because Kevin is there, in heaven, a saint healed before God, crying “Holy” – and I am here, on earth, shattered before God, trying so hard to cry “Holy”. At that moment, I was so lonely and so sad, but I felt as close to Kevin as I’ve felt since he died. I felt we were worshipping Him together, like we’d done so many times before. God’s plan was never for our life on earth, as good as it was, to be the best part. The best part of our life will be in heaven, with Him forever. This world is broken, full of hurting people. Kevin was one of those people. But he made it. He made it through cancer and chemo and the agony of knowing he was leaving us behind. I’m so glad, so honored, that I got to be part of his life here. We were good together, and it was a very good life. I miss having him close, sharing everything. I miss seeing the love on his face for our little girl. I miss him and what we had together, loving each other in this broken world. None of that is gone. He’s still close, forever in my heart. He still loves our Little Bear, and is in her more and more every day.
But now he’s made it to a place prepared for him, where there is no more night, no more pain, no more tears. He made it to his next life – and, as hard as it is for me to say, it’s a good one. And someday, when my work for God here on earth is done, it will be my eternal life, too.
It’s the best one.