I just finished reading, “A Child of the King”, by Patricia Klinger Schrope, the mother of a new member of our church, Audrey Klinger. The short book beautifully tells the sad but ultimately inspiring story of the short life of Audrey’s two year older sister Tracy who died at the age of ten following a long and difficult struggle with cancer. The portrait presented of Tracy by her devoted mother describes a little girl who was so very full of life, love and courage, that despite the agony of her loss, reading the book one can not help but share in this mother’s extraordinary gratitude for the ten years she had Tracy with her on this earth.
The book concludes with on a note of triumphant conviction that Tracy indeed lives on in eternity, fully whole and every bit as alive as she once was when she inhabited this earth. Pat describes Tracy’s last moments: “You told me softly that you loved me. After awhile a huge smile lit your face. You said you felt you were in motion, rocking back. I misunderstood and thought you were describing a fainting sensation. ‘No, Mommy, it’s fun, like rocking on a ride back somewhere.’ There followed another unforgettable smile, then Doctor Couch said, “She’s gone, Pat. It’s all over.” (p. 81)
Pat describes what she first experienced as awful nightmares that came to her shortly after her daughter’s death, in which Tracy would return home, healthy and vivacious, playing with her little sister, doing cartwheels and laughing heartily. In the dreams Pat cannot accept what Tracy is telling her, and instead attempts to convince Tracy that she is dead.
Finally, a wise pastor challenged Pat to receive the message of the dream: “I got to know your Tracy pretty well in the hospital. And if I am correct, she will come to you as often as she has to, until you believe that she is not dead.”
A few evenings later Pat received a phone call from an old friend, Tracy’s beautician who lived far away. Without having read an obituary, the friend knew that Tracy had died, and she relayed a dream she had received in which Tracy had come to her, “running joyously and free in a pastoral setting,” showing off her luscious hair. During the years of her treatment, the frequent bouts of chemotherapy had taken a toll on her hair to Tracy’s great embarrassment. Pat concludes: “Our kind friend had called to tell me that you were indeed alive, ecstatically happy and modeling a glowing head of hair. The lesson: I had to stop telling you and myself that you were dead. I had to be still and listen to my daughter bearing witness that she was most assuredly alive. No more nightmares, no more nightmares.” (pp. 84 – 85)
The book concludes with a simply drawing left behind by Tracy of a winsome balloon, floating upwards, which Dr. Bernie Siegel interpreted as “Tracy taking herself to a higher place and starting again.”
I cannot imagine the depths of pain involved in losing a child. It is indeed reassuring to read Pat’s personal testimony to her own experience of the fact that “Love never ends;” that death is not an end but a wondrous beginning in our eternal love affair with God and one another.