A Collection of tears
My name is Erin, my husband Dan and I live in Utah. My story starts way back in childhood in the 70s when I was a little girl. My parents had a baby and his name was Brian. Brian died five days after his first birthday. At the time, we were all living in Arizona, in Tucson and that’s where Brian was buried. Not long after Brian passed away, we found ourselves in Idaho in a small town called Jerome. That’s where I grew up.
I remember the early days of my childhood, some of my earliest memories, for some reason, I really grieved the loss of Brian. I think I didn’t fully understand death and how that worked. In my mind, I had this perception that Brian was not only underneath the ground –the cold, hard ground– but he was all by himself. I actually used to cry myself to sleep at night, because I just, I thought about it a lot. It feels like almost every night, I would cry myself to sleep, just thinking about Brian and him being alone. So one night, I was alone in my bed and I just found myself crying for Brian, which was kind of a normal part of my routine at that stage in my life. I had kind of, all of a sudden, an overwhelming sense of peace come over me. In that instant, I became aware of the fact that Brian was actually in heaven with Jesus. It’s like I knew in my spirit, that Brian wasn’t alone and he wasn’t under the earth. He wasn’t under the ground, but he was actually a being with God in heaven. He was being taken care of and he was loved. He was looked after. I just knew it. I just knew in that moment he was not alone. My baby brother was not alone. He was in heaven, and heaven was a good place and that he was being taken care of, and that he wasn’t sad. He wasn’t alone, so I didn’t need to be sad for him anymore and I never cried for him again. Like, it just stopped right there. That was my first experience with God or a living God, or kind of any experience really, that I had had with God. But from that moment on, I knew there was God. I knew God was real and I knew that God saw me. So I carried that with me, my whole life.
Fast forward several decades, and it’s January of 2020. The pandemic hasn’t hit, so everything’s still kind of normal. So actually, this is early January 2020 and through a series of events, my husband was going to be out of town for a long weekend on a work obligation. I had several days off with not a whole lot to do. I figured out that Frontier Airlines flies to Arizona for $39 one way from Salt Lake to Arizona. So for some reason, I just decided that it would be a good idea for me to take myself on a little getaway by myself to Arizona, which fits my personality because I’m very introverted. The thought of spending four days completely by myself in the sun, in January, it’s perfect for me. So I find myself in Arizona. It wasn’t lost on me that Brian was there. So even though I didn’t mourn him or grieve for him really anymore, he’s always there. He’s always part of us.
Of course, I was mindful of the fact that I was in Arizona and Brian’s gravesite was there. Mind you, we had not visited his grave site. Again, we’re all living in Idaho, which is quite far away. The interesting thing about that is modern technology and Google can get you where you want to go in about 30 seconds. It was literally amazing to me. I typed in his name and his dates and in 30 seconds, I had the name of the cemetery where he was, the address of the cemetery, I had the plot, the row, just like that. So all I had to do was type that into my phone. I got in my rental car and shortly thereafter, I found myself at the cemetery. It’s called the South Lawn Cemetery, and it’s in Tucson. I just pulled up and started wandering through the cemetery. I didn’t, I purposely didn’t want to walk right up to where I thought it might be. I just wanted to wander around a little bit and be with God. The row numbers and the plot numbers, which I had pulled off the internet didn’t seem to coincide with what I was seeing, it seemed like all of the signs were faded, that the numbers were all faded, I couldn’t really actually tell where I was and the cemetery was huge. But I just started kind of wandering through talking to God. And I got to this section of the cemetery and it was all babies, it was all kids. And then I remembered a visit from my childhood and I knew that’s where he was. I knew I was in the right spot.
So I just, I just wander around a little bit more and then I found him. There was this little tiny grave site. I guess something about just coming upon that, it just made it so real, it kind of brought back some of the tears. But I’ve always known that he’s with Jesus and I’ve always understood that that grave site is just a symbol; it’s just a piece of stone. It’s just a marker that memorializes the life of this sweet baby boy, but it’s not him. He’s with Jesus. It’s just, it’s just a stone, and it’s just a marker. So I just sat with him, and I took some pictures and I prayed and I took some more pictures and I prayed some more. I just thanked Jesus for Brian’s little life of one year. I thanked Jesus that Brian was in heaven and that one day, I would get to meet him.
As I was sitting there with Brian, I noticed something really strange that caught my attention. Normally, in cemeteries, everything is geometrically spaced apart and there’s appropriate distance between the grave sites. There’s all these even rows, but there was a grave site right next to Brian. They were so close together, hardly any space between them and there was a fresh bouquet of flowers on that grave site. That grave site belonged to a little girl named Virginia, who had died and the 1950s, when she was two years old. So I was just astounded that here was a little toddler, a little two year old girl who died in the 1950s and somebody, somebody was still visiting her and still putting fresh flowers on her grave. It was in that moment that I just got this idea that maybe that sweet, kind, loving person who was putting flowers on Virginia’s grave site, might be willing to keep an eye on my baby brother’s grave site as well. After all, they were so close, they were only inches apart.
So with this idea, I just, I ran back to my little rental car, and I just scrounged for a piece of paper and a pen because I had this idea that I was going to leave a note for this unknown person that was taking care of Virginia’s grave site. So I found that and I went back and I just scribbled out this little note. So I said something to the effect of, My name is Erin, this is my baby brother. We live really far away. Would you mind just occasionally keeping an eye on his little grave site when you come to check on Virginia? And then I left my email because I thought it’d be too weird to leave my phone number or whatever. So I just left an email address and I folded up this note really teeny tiny, into like a one inch little square and I stuffed it down into the base of the flower arrangement. Then I just said a little prayer for Brian and then I said a little prayer for this baby girl, Virginia and for her family members that still came and visited her. Then I left and kind of went on my way. Believe it or not, I actually kind of forgot what I had done and I think it’s because it was such a long shot. And I knew the odds of someone actually finding that note, were minuscule. In fact, I assumed that the people who did maintenance at the cemetery just went through every week or so and threw out all the old flowers in the garbage or whatever. So I just forgot about it.
Weeks and weeks went by, it was about five weeks that went by, and I got an email. In the body of the email it said, “Tucson,” and in the subject line is said, “gravesite,” just those two words. There was no name, there was no, “Hey, we found your note.” Nothing. Just those two words. But I thought, that’s gotta be it. That’s got to be something. So I immediately emailed back and I said, “Did you find my note at the cemetery?” Within a day, I did get a response and it was from a man named Ken, who is about my age. Ken explained to me that his Auntie who is in her 80s found my note. She was very excited to get the note, and that she wanted to communicate with me. However, the sprinklers had smeared the note, and they couldn’t even really make out the email address that well. So he was being kind of cryptic, because he wasn’t sure if that was me, or that was a real email. So as soon as I emailed him back, he did tell me, “Yes, we found your email. My Auntie’s name is Lupe. She found your note and she would love to hear from you. So here is her address.” And this is kind of cute. He said, “She’s in her mid 80s and she ‘doesn’t do computers.’”
I immediately sat down and I wrote her an old school letter. I just told her more about who I was and I told her about Brian. I just told her about the events that led me to the cemetery on that day. I actually had a little picture of Brian, I included that in the note and I mailed it to her. She wrote me back about a week or two later, and it was so sweet, because she had enclosed a picture of the baby girl, Virginia, in her letter to me. She explained to me that she had left that bouquet of flowers for Virginia, just one or two days before I got there. So she and I just began this pen pal friendship. Every month she goes to Brian’s grave site and now she leaves matching floral arrangements on Brian and Virginia’s grave site. It’s so cute. They always have little Easter bunnies, or little flower arrangements that are matching, or something really cute that kids would love. She said that from now on, Brian was a part of their family and that his gravesite would always be taken care of.
It’s just, it’s so sweet and so beautiful, and just touches my heart, the way that God redeems our pain and our tears from decades ago. In a way that we cannot even imagine. I don’t even think I knew that I needed redemption and healing of that pain; that that was a place in my heart that God needed to heal, until four decades later when He actually healed it through this sweet woman, Lupe. And just this commitment that Brian will always be looked after, not only his soul in heaven, but the symbol of his life here on Earth. His little, his little grave site. It’s such a beautiful testimony of how God sees, so that the tears of a little girl in her bed crying, have been completely redeemed and restored. Psalm 56:8 says that “The Lord keeps track of all my sorrows. He’s collected my tears in His bottle.” And He really did collect those tears I cried as a little girl and He found this unique amazing way of restoring that pain.