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"Jeannie"

In just four short months it will be the 2nd. anniversary of the death of my little niece, Jeannie Couture. Last year around the first anniversary I wrote this piece for my English Comp. class and this year I would like to share it with you on the net.

by Jeannie's Aunt

reprinted with permission

It was a beautiful day with signs of Spring just beginning to show. Being from the Midwest and a recent survivor of my first long New England winter, I was actually aware of the warmth of the sun, the small green buds forming on the trees and the sleepy flowers just waking from their long winter nap. Squirrels played in the yard while birds gathered pieces of debris and constructed nests for the imminent arrival of their offspring. Winter's deadness had passed; Spring brought new life.

I sat on my son's bedroom floor. My daughter, Andrea lay with her head in my lap, and my son, Justin sat on his bunkbed. These were the positions we took daily as I read a few chapters from the latest addition to our collection of books in the Boxcar Children series. We devoured these books by Gertrude Chandler Warner at the rate of one a week when we were lucky enough to find one of these treasures we had not yet read. They had helped us through the winter, and the characters were old friends to us. On this bright spring day, my children and I were engrossed in a story about Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny and the mystery in which they were entangled when the phone rang.

Months before, the dreary Winter had been brightened by another telephone call which brought the joyous news of the birth of my niece, Jeannie Elizabeth. Since she lived with her family on the West Coast and I with mine on the East Coast, many weeks passed before we had an opportunity to meet one another. When she finally came to visit, what a beauty she was! Everyone she met was greeted with sparkling eyes and a wonderful smile. By just three months of age she had already learned to ham it up for the camera, and although our visit was brief, it is one I treasure.

This call brought different news. My husband answered the telephone, and after a short conversation which I couldn't hear, he was standing silently in the doorway of Justin's room. After a few moments came words that seemed to be spoken in another language. "Jeannie died," he said. I was sure I had misunderstood. Surely I hadn't heard correctly. But yes, Jeannie was dead from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The day suddenly became dark. I looked at the spring flowers outside my window and thought how like Jeannie they were: beautiful and fragile, and gone too quickly.

My sister-in-law, Karen, had grown up in Boston, and she and her husband Rick, planed to return there after his Air National Guard tour was finished in San Diego so Jeannie's body was flown from California to Massachusetts to be buried. On the day of the funeral the weather could not have been more perfect. Spring was in full bloom; the sun was shinning. It was perfect in every way except that on this day we were placing a little baby in a small white casket among the spring flowers.

The priest said that Jeannie was now a beautiful flower in God's garden and that she would forever bloom there. I tried to find comfort in those words and the belief I held in my heart that Rick and Karen would see their little angel again one day in Heaven. But comfort was hard to find and Winter was still in me.

When it was my turn to exit the church, I took the hands of my two children and walked out into the bright sunshine. Looking down into their faces I was again aware of the beauty of spring around me.

Next month will be the first anniversary of Jeannie's death, and Rick and Karen have planned a memorial service in Boston. Spring has arrived again here in New England. It's running a little late this year, but I am sure that on that day the sunlight will be falling on flowers in bloom, and memories of Jeannie will outshine them all.

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