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Selecting and setting out clothes for Easter Mass is always a fun, albeit stressful, ritual for parents.
After all, is there anything cuter than a little boy in a bow tie, a chubby baby in a suit, or a young girl in a beautiful spring dress and fancy shoes?
This year, after my wife enticed our kids to try on outfits, and dusted off the one suit I own, she reached into her closet and pulled out a dress that seemed perfect for celebrating the Easter feast. It was a beautiful mix of greens and blues arranged in a bright floral pattern.
She held it close to her, turned to me and said, “Remember? This is the dress I wore for the funeral.”
We had decided not to wear black that day, since that Mass would be the only celebration for our infant son–no graduations or wedding or birthdays. Our only opportunity to dress up and celebrate him would be the day we buried him. A lifetime of celebration packed into one day, and black seemed too grim to honor his tiny life.
If she were to wear that dress for Easter, it would be the first time she’d put it on since that heartbreaking day 11 months ago.
Many opportunities to wear it had come and gone since that beautiful May afternoon that seemed so cold: family holiday get togethers, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a handful of date nights … yet none of those occasions led to her pulling out that dress.
As she clutched the dress in our bedroom the night before Easter, we shared a glance that communicated we were feeling the same pain, the same feeling of being pushed to tears, the same sense of darkness that continues to surround us.
For these 11 months since Luke was born and died, despite our deep faith that he is already enjoying our eternal homeland, our aching hearts have been longing for some sensible sign. Please God, could you just give us some proof to remind us that you’ve got him with you? Some token to show us how real heaven is? Some assurance that we’ll be reunited one day if we persevere to the end?
Sure, it’s not a proof we need per se; our faith is certain. But it’s a proof we long for. There’s a feeling that some sort of sign would bring a sense of peace and acceptance, and when you’re living in an all-encompassing darkness, you crave even a little bit of light so badly.
We’ve been praying for the sign of receiving flowers from an unexpected source.
Our Catholic tradition passes down many stories of bouquets, roses, and even the smell of flowers being used as a sign (think of everyone from Our Lady of Guadalupe to St Therese) and we figured it was a good and tangible way for God to allow our son to communicate with us, to help us feel, and not just know, that he is okay. For 11 months we have asked for this.
And for 11 months we have received absolutely nothing.
In the days following Easter, though, my prayers for flowers have trailed off as my mind keeps coming back to that dress.
That dress my wife decided to wear while we stood before his tiny casket in our local parish, that dress my wife decided to wear as we watched his tiny casket lower into the ground, that dress that has hung in my wife’s closet ever since.
That dress was the dress my wife pulled out of her closet to wear to the Mass where we celebrated the Resurrection of Our Lord, the feast where we sang in triumph at God’s defeat of death and the opening of the doors to eternal life.
That dress was the dress my wife decided to wear on a day where Heaven feels more close than any other day, where eternal life shines forth more brightly than any other day, where Jesus assures us that we will rise and be joined together with Him and all His beloved who have gone before us.
The glorious day where I couldn’t help but think of how my wife and I will one day be joined together again with our son, our little Luke, whom we haven’t seen since May, and yet envision holding and kissing on a daily basis.
We have been praying for a sign these last 11 months.
That dress has become our sign.
Resurrection and heaven and all that seemed like far-off cosmic events. Not anymore