One of the home movies that we watched the other day was of Maggie's first communion. Of course I am biased, but she was stunning. She had curled her hair and was wearing a white dress with a white something or other in her hair as well. I wandered in and out of the room while Kim watched the video. At the end, the video recorded the kids who had made their first communion lining up to get their pictures taken.
The kids stood together and smiled. Father Gary came and joined them. He knelt at the end and put his arm around Maggie. Then he moved on and the kids started to disperse. Before they'd gotten far, Elena suddenly appeared to take a picture with the rest of them.
We had to run the tape back to see where she had come from. The kids were standing along a railing in front of the altar. Elena had been on the altar and had had to lie on her belly to climb under the bottom of the railing. The kids weren't dispersing to leave. They were making room for her to join them. She smiled as widely as the kids she was joining and everyone took more pictures. Even at Maggie's communion, the cameras had found Elena as well.
Elena was wearing a blue shirt with ruffles down the front and a pretty skirt that matched it. It took me by surprise to see the video of her running and playing in this outfit. This was the outfit she was buried in.
So many people have been watching Maggie carefully since Elena died. They want to make sure that she's ok. That's wonderful. I don't know for sure, but I think she's doing as well as anyone could in this situation. She doesn't avoid talking about Elena and she doesn't talk about her all the time. There are people who are worried about her because she wasn't very communicative about what had happened the week after Elena died. But Maggie is nine and she has always been private with her feelings.
How do I know she isn't avoiding the topic?
Well for one thing, she quietly asked us if she could pick out the clothes that Elena would be buried in. I find that amazing. She had decided that that was one way she could participate in the ceremony. If it hadn't been for Maggie, I don't know when we would have entered Elena's room and gone through her clothes. We found the outfit that Maggie requested. It was, of course, a great choice.
At the funeral home, Maggie decided she would rather not enter the room where Elena's body was laid out. I wasn't really big on the idea either. For four hours Kim and I stood not far from Elena's open casket and greeted the wonderful people who came to see us. The funeral home had set up a second room where Maggie sat with friends who came to visit. She talked with the people who came through. She was as appropriate as any nine year old would be in talking to people about her dead younger sister.
She rode from the funeral home to the church in the limo sitting between her two grandmothers. I had told her that when I got up to speak I would be talking to her and that I wanted her to try to listen and understand. Back in the limo on the way to the cemetery she said that she had understood most of it. We've been back to the cemetery with Maggie because she wanted to see where Elena was buried. She wanted to understand where the headstone would go.
On Elena's birthday, Maggie told me I should go to Elena's login on the NeoPets website. I didn't understand. Maggie and Elena had had these virtual pets on the NeoPets site. Since Elena had died, Maggie was still logging in to both her and her sister's pages so that she could continue to feed Elena's online pets and keep them alive. On Elena's birthday, there was a birthday message on her page.
My friend Chris' best friend died not too long ago. His friend Doc was a well loved Chemistry professor who helped personalize the first year experience for hundreds of students each year. He too died way too young. On Chris' birthday he got an electronic birthday card in his email from his dead friend.
Maggie is sending a message in the opposite direction. How's Maggie? As good as can be expected for now. But we're watching carefully.