One night not long ago, I was reading a fairy-tale story to Madeline and Samantha at bedtime. The story closed with the conventional ending for fairy tales: “And they lived happily ever after. The End.”
As I closed the book, Madeline asked me, “Mom, are there any princess stories that don’t have someone who died in them?”
I thought that was an interesting question. We began to go down the list of princess stories we knew, trying to see if there was one. Snow White? No, her mother and father died. Cinderella? Both her parents died as well. Sleeping Beauty? Maleficent? (Yes, we counted the evil princesses, too.) We listed all the stories we could remember and couldn’t find a single one that didn’t include a death.
Samantha then pointed out, “We are just like those stories too, Mom! We had someone die in our family, just like they did! It was so sad. But we are still living happily ever after! Just like they did!”
Her statement truly struck a chord in my heart. I looked at my sweet, thoughtful little girls and asked, “Why do you think we have a happy ending?” And Madeline looked at me like I was a little slow and patiently answered, “Because we are a happy family.”
It’s true. As Mother’s Day approaches, and my heart turns to that little girl who made me a mother for the first time, I can smile as I remember that after all that we have been through, we are still a happy family. Emilie is and always will be part of our happy family. Her smiling face greets us in the family portraits on the wall. Some of her drawings are framed there too. But, more important, we have learned to talk about her with humor and with love, not forgetting the stories in which she is less than a perfect child. When we share stories of Emilie’s kindness and love, we can also laugh about how she was perpetually messy, a picky eater, how she sometimes fought with her sisters. No matter the story, speaking Emilie’s name brings light into our family.
We have been forever changed by Emilie’s death, but we are happy because of the way God led us through our trial. Our present happiness has an unpinning of confidence that, by the grace of God and through the sacrifices of our Savior, we are all still connected to each other in an eternal family that will never end. What greater Mother’s Day gift could there be?
This essay is excerpted from Alissa Parker’s new book An Unseen Angel: A Mother’s story of Faith, Hope, and Healing After Sandy Hook.