Yesterday, I picked Saoirse up from school a little early–it’d been Field and Fun Day, and there weren’t any classes happening, and there were people coming to our house in, oh, about 30 seconds before the grown-ups took off for the Springsteen show we were going to hear that night. I’d helped out in her classroom that morning, and got to watch her dance, and giggle as water balloons splashed at her feet, and race a classmate during a 50-yard dash (she came in fourth, in case you were wondering). It was a happy day. We were all…happy.
We walked out of the classroom, she and I, holding hands and talking about the rest of her day. Classes of the older students were still outside, cleaning up and stuffing the last of some ice-cream sandwiches in their mouths. A funeral had been held the day before on the same grounds, for the mother of three schoolmates. The church had been filled with scores of students in their uniforms, supporting their friends. Those same kids were laughing together now, and their mothers, the ones who’d been wearing black the day before and mourning the loss of one of their own, were bustling about in their running shoes and sweatshirts, loading folding chairs onto carts, picking up orange cones and signs from the parking lot, exhausted after a successful day. Saoirse and I watched as a single balloon appeared above the crowds, floating its way skyward, and quickly rose on the winds of the blustery day. Saoirse watched it for a moment, then looked up at me.
“I wonder if God catches them,” she said. I was taken aback for a second, then said that I think he must. And when she suggested that he saves the lost balloons and gives them to the angels on their birthdays, I agreed with her. Right then, it seemed all too easy to believe.