Death and New Life: Mary Ann and Harper Grace

One magnolia fading after a full bloom, another magnolia opening to the day

One magnolia fading after a full bloom, another magnolia opening to the day

Yesterday at 3:30 a.m. a dear friend in Alabama passed away from complications following surgery. We were neighbors for several years and our children grew up together. We shared many meals and laughs, helped each other when needed and worshipped together. We’ve lived apart for maybe 18 years now, but we have stayed in touch. Her loss is deeply felt by my wife and me. Rest in Peace, Mary Ann.

Mary Ann leaves her husband, Keith, and three sons, all of whom are grown and married. She and Keith were married for well over forty years, and he now faces a loss that will reverberate through his life for years to come.

Then at 6:30 a.m. in Vermont, one of our nieces bore her third daughter, Harper Grace, and everyone is doing well. We probably won’t see Harper Grace until late fall or early winter. She joins her two sisters who are full of curiosity, hope and love, and her parents, Marc and Amy who are in middle life, devoted to work and family, and spending their own energy as if it were boundless. Welcome to our family and the world, Harper Grace.

These events, so close in time, cast shadows over one another, and we became confused. Were we happy or sad? As the day grew, without conscious decision, we found ourselves focusing more on Mary Ann’s life and passing, which will be celebrated in the next few days. We’ll travel to Auburn to see her family and other friends.

That focus is natural. We know Mary Ann well, and we can only wonder what kind of woman Harper Grace with become. Will she have a family and devote herself to them as her parents are now doing? Mary Ann stayed home with her three children until they were in school, then she worked to supplement her family’s income and extend her professional accomplishments. Will Harper Grace find a profession, like her parents and like Mary Ann? Will Harper Grace dedicate herself to serving people beyond her family, people with whom she lives and worships, which is something Mary Ann did her whole life. My wife and I will probably never know these answers about Harper Grace.

Despite our attention to Mary Ann, I feel buoyed in some strange way, as if these experiences add up. With Mary Ann, we celebrate a friendship and the accomplishments of a mature woman, and with Harper Grace we celebrate new life.

Mary Ann made the world bigger and better, and Harper Grace has every bit as much potential. Taken together, they help us see an expanding universe of love.