The last time I saw Anna was when I gave her to Chris and I watched as he gave her to our nurse Alice. Alice walked over to me and said gently, “So your arms will not be empty” and she placed a small, pink, stuffed hippo in my hands. It was from my dear friend Sue, and we had determined it would be Anna’s favorite. I watched Alice walk away, and I held onto Chris as I watched my sweet baby girl disappear.
I doubt there will ever be a day when I can recall this memory and not feel stabbing pain and insatiable longing. Everything in me now wants to jump out of the bed, run down the hall, grab her back and have just five more minutes, a few more words, one more kiss…
So much regret and yet, could I have ever been ready to let go, to say goodbye permanently to my sweet little Anna?
Last night I clutched hippo as I fell asleep and woke up with her pressed against me. I thought of Alice’s words, “So your arms will not be empty.” The truth is, my arms are not empty, my heart is not empty, my life is not empty. But when it comes to February 25th, to Anna’s birthday, my heart is broken all over again. There is no other way to say it, I desperately miss and love my daughter and time has not diminished this reality. Last night as I was staring at my favorite picture of her…Chris and I both said how much she looked like Elijah. I began to wonder about how she would’ve looked, her smile, her personality- things I can never know.
Chris was already gone when I woke up this morning. I lay there alone, hugging hippo, and I prayed desperately, “Jesus rescue me. Give me the hope which comes from your promises. Open my eyes and show me your truth today.” What happened next was a pure gift from heaven, an answer to my prayer to “see.”
My mind recalled the memory of the last time I saw Anna, but instead of watching Chris hand her to Alice, he was handing her to Jesus. And instead of Alice placing hippo in my hands, Jesus gave me my treasure box, the one which holds Anna’s ashes. I watched as I opened the box, expecting to see a smaller box, but instead papers began to fly out, hundreds, thousands and I watched as they fell on the floor, forming a path and I knew that path ended at the threshold of heaven.
This moment, this image, encapsulates “beauty for ashes”…literally. I will never run out of things to write about. I will never stop having beautiful experiences with Jesus as it relates to my girl and my grief. Today I am resting in the promise that these ashes I am forced to live with will never stop multiplying beauty in my life. I am committed to sharing these pages, to laying a path we can walk together as we journey toward our ultimate redemption.
I cannot wait to hold her again. I cannot wait for my tears to be wiped away by Jesus. I cannot wait to watch Chris holding his sweet girl. But today…we celebrate without her. Today we drench the house in pink, eat cupcakes, release balloons and do our best to love the one we long for.
To those of you have sent cards, emails, flowers, gifts, prayers, scripture and comfort…we are so very thankful. We are so blessed by the abundance of love that cushions our February fall.
And to Anna…
I cherish you sweet one. In all of the pain and longing, there is immeasurable joy. I know where you are and who you are with! You, my sweet girl, exist. You are alive, so far from gone, so far from still. And you are experiencing the fullness and freedom that we were all created for. Oh what that must be like! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Loving, grieving, and being transformed because of you has been my greatest privilege and blessing in this life. I cannot wait to step off this earthly path and to run and grab you into my arms, to pick up where we left off and to experience forever with you. Happy ninth birthday my sweet Anna girl…I love you, I love you, I love you…