On this the 5th anniversary of Kirstin’s passing, I wanted to mark the day by reflecting on one or another of the aspects of Kirstin’s life and so I sat slowly going through the photos of her taken from when she was a baby until shortly before her death when she was a young woman of 18. I became conscious for the first time of a pain that she carried so deeply and that I have only recently begun to appreciate. I guess that with every passing year, I am learning to recognise aspects of her that I was only somewhat dimly conscious of when I knew her in life. In as much as I could not look at and deal with teenagers in the same way as I had before I had the privilege of being her uncle, as a father, I now look back on my niece and her life not only as her uncle, but as a father of my own daughter, Amelia. Carmen and I love each other very much and though we fear the future inevitable earthly loss of the other, our fear for the wellbeing and life of Amelia is even more profound. As little as Amelia is, both Carmen and I now know what unconditional love is – both in the giving and the receiving. Perhaps by way of stark relief, it has made us more aware of the times when our conjugal love fails in this respect. I have grown to understand more fully why it is that only in the bearing and raising of children that marriage finds it full sacramental fulfilment because the spouses’ love is not self-directed anymore in the sterile and potentially stagnant pool of mutual narcissistic self-fulfilment, but the closed greenhouse of our sacramental married lives is broken open so that it might nourish the flourishing of our child. This child, the physical manifestation of our love as co-creators of the Author of Love who loved us so much that we and our children in their turn came into being. Unthinkingly, we become less selfish by the cute bundle who barges into our lives and leads us into reckless self-giving by the sheer power of exponential cuteness. When a child is accepted as a gift from God, this mutual exchange of unconditional love cannot but reveal the unconditional love of our Father God. If I am not as good a father to Amelia as I can be, I cannot begin to communicate the loss that I would suffer from not knowing her and I cannot bear to imagine the hurt it would cause little Amelia if she felt she was not loved unconditionally by her daddy.
I have a renewed sense of the acute pain that this absence must have caused Kirstin as her own father chose not to be a part of her life and what that loss must have meant to her as is testified by her anxious search for him as she grew into a young adult. But I am comforted by the knowledge that on achievement of the beatific vision, she is embraced by her heavenly Father and finally understands it’s full meaning for all eternity. Kirstin challenges me still in so many ways to be a better father. Her memory is therefore not just an ossified intellectual memorial but a life-giving legacy for her cousin Amelia (and others) in this and so many other ways.
May perpetual light shine upon her and may she rest in the peace of Christ.