Life was incredibly grand for this young couple. They were renting their dream home, a gorgeous, old farmhouse nestled on acres and acres of rural bliss, complete with a lake, grape arbor, and more room than three and a half people could possibly use. Three and a half? Yes, this young couple had a child, a daughter, a beloved gift straight from the hand of God. And much to their surprise and delight, another child was on the way. They had most definitely found their Camelot.
This young couple was us, and the precious daughter was Elizabeth Ann. The name was carefully and prayerfully chosen. Elizabeth, in the Hebrew meaning pledged to God, and Ann, simply defined as grace, more than aptly defined the joy, thankfulness, and desires of her parents’ hearts. After years of prayers, disappointments, miscarriage, surgeries, and pain, God’s grace exploded upon our lives and gave us this precious angel. In humble response to the gift that was given us, we vowed to do our best to dedicate, to pledge, her back to God. We would do our best to ground this gift in the knowledge of the One Who had been so gracious to her parents.
Elizabeth was a sweet toddler. She loved her two stuffed doggies, never entertaining the thought of going anywhere without them. She loved to wander about the vast farm property, picking every purple pansy within a five mile radius…much to the chagrin of her posy-loving momma. Elizabeth loved passing the time on the old, handmade, wooden swing hanging from a maple tree in the front yard, casting long glances down the driveway, waiting for Daddy to return from work. This sweet, snuggle bunny loved nuzzling in her dad’s fur-collared coat on brisk, breezy evenings. But most of all, she loved playing mommy, carefully tending to her dollies and graciously serving them imaginary tea and snacks in her playroom. What a wonderful big sister she would be, and how fortunate her sibling would be to have her.
But on one cold, winter’s night, that perfect scenario would take a drastic turn. We were awakened that evening to a dreadful sound…the sound of an toddler with croup. Oh, that horrible, bark-like cough! But after sweating it out in a steamy bathroom for hours and making numerous calls to the pediatrician, we knew we were facing something far more deadly than a simple case of croup. Something was terribly awry here. I watched in helpless horror as that sweet angel gasped for air and finally lost consciousness. After a frantic ambulance ride to the nearest hospital, and a life flight to Pittsburgh, we knew that our lives had been brutally changed; our baby girl was slipping away into eternity.
I wish that I could state that through that bitter loss I maintained the stoic faith of Job, who, after the loss of his own ten children, humbly declared, “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” I can only stand in awe at the reverential attitude exhibited by King David, who, after witnessing the death of his young son, “arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself…and worshipped” his God. He worshipped! But there I was, broken, crushed, smothering in the ugly sea of bitterness, grief, anger, and confusion.
Thankfully, I serve a patient, loving, forgiving, and understanding God, an “high priest” Who “was in all points tempted like as we are.” He understood my grief more that I did and He refused to abandon His child. My Father walked that dark path with me, carrying me at times, patiently leading this unworthy object of His love back to a place of peacefulness, contentment, security, and yes…joy.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of my precious daughter’s entrance into her forever home, and I write today not only in her honor, but also in gratefulness to the God I serve. As she worships before His throne of glory today, I wish that I could convey to her how very much she is loved and missed, how God has used her brief life to teach and grow her momma, how she has left an indelible mark upon my heart, and how much sweeter Heaven seems to me as I rest in the secure promise that we shall meet again.
I Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
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