Bride of Christ

Remembering Annalisa

This is Part 4 of a continuing series, Remembering Annalisa. Read Part 1: Bearer of Bad News, Part 2: Her Heart was Too Big, and Part 3: Beauty in the Storm. Annalisa Laudadio was my husband’s cousin. She was 15 years old when she died suddenly on April 20, 2016. This short story collection is my way of working through the shock and grief of losing a loved one. 

Part 4: Bride of Christ

The church welcomed its grieving strangers with open arms, smiles, and an abundance of home made dishes. It felt a little strange to me, like everything was all set for a wedding celebration, but at the end of an aisle there was a coffin instead of a beaming bride.

I retreated to the outside corners of the room, as I usually do, only drawn to the middle for the six different types of banana bread pudding generously donated by the humble Mississippians who called this church their home.

Dessert shouldn’t taste this good when grieving, I thought, feeling slightly guilty that I could find any sort of pleasure when I was supposed to be sad.

I avoided going into the sanctuary where Annalisa lay. She was there for those who did not have an opportunity to say goodbye at the wake. Caleb and I had not been able to attend, and we hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye. With his medical exams during the week, we were not able to get out to the church for the wake.

The rest of the family trickled in steadily, mimicking the raindrops produced by this massive darkening storm. I hugged them, awkwardly, unsure of what to say or how to welcome them. My typical greetings were too cheery for such an occasion.

At one point my sister in law insisted we get a family photo, because this was the first time in years all six of her siblings and parents were in the same place. My mother in law had just had her surgery for breast cancer a few days ago. With the combination of her cancer battle and Annalisa’s sudden passing, we were all reminded how fragile our lives were, how we should not take for granted these rare moments when we are all together.

When it was time to enter the sanctuary, Caleb led us to our seat toward the front, which was reserved for family. I felt out of place, like a fly on the wall that suddenly had a spotlight shone on it, tracking its every movement. My natural tendency to observe rather than participate is what I rely on in uncomfortable situations, and at that point I was remarkably aware that as one of the family, I had the direct sympathy of the rapidly overflowing church.

The casket was open, and when I asked Caleb if he wanted to see Anni, he whispered, “Not yet.” I shifted anxiously in my seat. Now that I was in the sanctuary, I was anxious to see her.

We sat in the same row as Caleb’s mother and father and some of his sisters. They held each other, his mother gripping his sister’s hand for dear life, sobs wracking through her body. I observed painfully, and I started to shiver a little.

Aunt Linda was up and about, managing the people and moving parts of the funeral. I felt protective of her and deeply uncomfortable. I just wanted her to sit down and grieve and let someone else deal with the logistics, but I didn’t know how to step in and help. It’s possible that managing the musicians and the speakers was her only way of maintaining a degree of control, a semblance of sanity.

This isn’t right, I thought. Aunt Linda shouldn’t be addressing these people at her daughter’s death. She should be doing this at her daughter’s wedding. I shook harder and started to feel the tears well up, but just like my ineptitude in grieving when I first learned of Anni’s death, I could not actually cry. Everyone around me was crying, and I was busy trying to be strong.

When the ceremony was about to begin, the funeral home director came and closed the casket gently. I started to worry — had we missed our chance to say goodbye?

I thumbed through the provided Bible nervously before the ceremony officially began and tried to process anything that would make me feel better about Anni’s sudden passing.

I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

– Isaiah 61:10

But nothing made me feel better. No amount of justification could help me rationalize why a seemingly healthy 15 year old girl was ripped away from her family without cause. Passages that previously held hope and joy rang out with the hollowness of my empty faith, and I cried.


This is Part 4 of a continuing series, Remembering Annalisa. Read Part 1: Bearer of Bad News, Part 2: Her Heart was Too Big, and Part 3: Beauty in the Storm. Annalisa Laudadio was my husband’s cousin. She was 15 years old when she died suddenly on April 20, 2016. This short story collection is my way of working through the shock and grief of losing a loved one.

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