Helping a Child through Death of a Loved One
I watched her face turn in an instant. Rain was pouring heavy outside and about to enter her sweet, young heart.
In one moment she was changed— from a carefree girl whose life had never been shaken— to one who has experienced life’s largest blow.
Within one sentence from my husband’s mouth to her tender ears, death became real. Close. Personal. Here.
He’s a physician. He is trained on how to give bad news. He’s seen it over and over. This time it was our daughter getting the shocking news….
“Mrs. Hencher died today,” he said.
She grabbed her face with her hands, letting out a loud, heaving quick gasp. Covering her eyes. Processing. Immediately tears rolled and out came immediate rebellion…
“Noooo! No! No!….,” she said through her aching face.
The sentences after didn’t matter. They were not heard, explained or counted. Her mind went whirling and spinned out of control in the way a child’s can.
Her face heated up, along with her whole body heaving and sobbing. As though by some sort of need for escape, she ran for the garage and grabbed her bike.
There was no time for helmets. For shoes. Just riding…..in the rain, the drops to joined her tears. We didn’t stop her. No one can contain grief. Only the person experiencing it understands the way it works through their body and soul. For her, she needed to ride in the rain wildy without words or sentences or other people.
Minutes later she came back…. with more wounds…..
She had fallen to the street below with its gravel and toughness. Her unprotected toes gave way from being wet and unguarded. Blood and skin were all we could see on her tender feet.
“I fell. My toes! My feet!” she screamed as I carried her to my bathroom. The dirt and blood mixed to form unrecognizable injuries. We washed them. Tenderly, then irrigated them to get the hard, imbedded rock.
The crying, the sobbing, the moans of a young girl whose heart and body were feeling all of what this life can give us in a few awful moments. Physical pain accompanied by spiritual cries of “Why? Why?”
As we cleaned her feet and wiped her face, holding her, sharing in her sorrow, I realized that God was holding her, not us. He was working through her pure little heart, helping her, soothing her.
We were just there to wash her feet.
To be some simple sign of God’s love. He would do the rest.
Even Peter, the rock, didn’t understand why Jesus was washing his feet. Jesus was about to die. His disciples were going to go through the agony of losing a dear brother, the Lord. As confusing as it was for them, so too was it for Grace.
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:14-16
Beverly Hencher was her teacher, her mentor and a beautiful example of Christ’s love in a child’s life. She always encouraged Grace to sing and play piano and use those gifts for God’s glory. Bev symbolically washed the feet of hundreds of students and parents over 39 years at St. Charles Borremeo Catholic School.
Quoting Mother Teresa, “Do small things with great love” the bracelet says that Bev gave shortly before she died.
The local newspaper even quoted Grace…
"‘She’s a very proper and elegant lady,’ Grace Helgemo, a current sixth-grader in her class said. ‘She wore very fancy stuff to school.’ Just as misdeeds did not go unnoticed, Grace said that Hencher was also there to affirm students’ gifts or help them through struggles.’"
Grace was small. God is great.
Love somehow showed up on that day, even when pain tried to win.