It’s been ten months since that terrible day that changed our lives forever. Ten months since the story of our lives took an unexpected turn. This month has been a difficult one, it’s been a year since Helen’s story really began. A year ago, we learned of her cleft lip and palate, along with her two-vessel cord. Neither of these are life-threatening. In fact, as far as everyone knew, our little girl was perfectly healthy.  As grateful as we were, we were overwhelmed, anxious, scared, and sad for all that lay ahead. That’s when our trauma really began.

So now, we are in a new season of grief. The remembering season. Last year plays like a movie in my mind, the memories so vivid, that longing so strong.  We are keenly aware of how the world keeps spinning and people’s lives keep changing, while ours (still) feels like a train that abruptly stopped between destinations because the station blew up (that’s how it feels at least); stuck in the middle of the tracks, unsure of where it’s going and when we’ll get there.

And while I’m unsure of what lies ahead for us, I am certain of a few things.

God is good.

God is with us.

His people are astounding– I’m talking about you. Yes, you.

You have prayed for us, brought us meals, sent cards, flowers, and gifts. You’ve shared thoughtful words. You’ve picked up the phone when we’ve called, sometimes dropping what you were doing just to listen or meet a need. You’ve cleaned our house and played with our daughter. You’ve driven us to appointments and taken us out to dinner. You’ve let go of expectations. You’ve given us grace when we couldn’t give it to ourselves. You’ve made us laugh and you’ve sat with us when we’ve needed to cry. You’ve been willing to sit in the muck with us and helped us climb out.

There simply aren’t enough words to express our gratitude and there are so many of you to thank that the task of expressing our thankfulness feels impossible. But here it goes.

To all of you who have sent us cards or flowers, thank you for taking a moment to think of us and pray for us. Thank you for sending us a tangible reminder of your support. Don’t ever underestimate the power of a card. They touched us and uplifted us. The knowledge of being prayed over will carry you when you can barely stand.

To all who brought us food, thank you, thank you, thank you!! We wouldn’t have eaten if it weren’t for you. You loved us and cared for us when we couldn’t care for ourselves. The comfort of a home-cooked meal is unmatched.

To all those that gave financially, thank you for sharing your resources so we had one less thing to worry about. For those that gave to Operation Smile, Young Life, or another organization, the joy it brings us to know that a child or family is getting the care they need, in honor of Helen, is immense. Thank you.

To our Rockbridge Church family, the way you rallied behind us brings me to tears. The images I’ve envisioned in my mind of you working together to organize and plan Helen’s service is a beautiful picture of the body of Christ. Your service in caring for us will forever stand as a testament to the value of the local church. You are a picture of what God calls us to as a community. To Matt and Megan, how blessed we are to call you not only, our spiritual leaders but our neighbors and friends. You entered into the messiness and stood there. Thank you for leading us and our church. Thank you for all the ways you share your life with us, from borrowing ladders to sharing meals (and eggs). 

To our small group, you’re another beautiful picture of the body of Christ. Thank you for your continued support and consistent prayer. I will always remember the evenings we shared in prayer for Helen’s life, our heartache, and for one another. The season we walked through together in all our lives was a special one. These moments are etched in my mind as glimpses of heaven– communion with God and His people.

To our AB people, you love our daughter like she’s your own. You jump at the chance to take care of her so we can go to counseling, doctors’ appointments, date nights, or just have a moment to breathe. You’ve cared for her from the beginning and she loves you even more than we do. We’re so grateful that we’ve never had to worry about Anna Beth or ourselves while we were taking care of Helen, even before she died. I can’t imagine walking this road without it. Thank you for using your gifts to care for us.

To Buddy and Jill,  your generosity is what God calls us to. You shared your gifts and resources, without question, in order to care for us. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made and all the work you did so we could have memories of our girl. We are forever grateful for the gifts you gave us in celebrating and remembering Helen.

To our camp family, you’ve prayed with us and served us. From the very beginning, we felt your presence as you grieved with us and walked alongside us. You truly are servants of the Lord. You served us without question in order to honor Helen. God was glorified because of your dedication to Him. To the Food Service team, you are dear to us. You’ve covered shifts for Tim and worked without hesitancy. You’ve given us the space that we’ve needed. The way you care for each other is sacrificial and beautiful. I’m honored to call you friends. I’m so incredibly thankful for your understanding, compassion, and patience. Your commitments to Jesus, the mission, and each other shine bright.  This year has been a full load and you’ve carried it with grace. We’re blessed to live life with you.

To our best friends, you pick up the phone, you get in the car, you send gifts, you make pancakes, you clean the house,  and bring ice cream. You listen, you laugh, you cry, you sit in the silence. You pray and you grieve. You remember. Our hearts are your hearts. Our grief is your grief. Your deep, soul-sister friendship is one of the greatest gifts of my life. Thank you for being you and being available and present. We love you. 

To our families, you bear so much that goes unseen. You’ve seen anger and frustration. You’ve been the recipients of bad attitudes and impatience. You probably have the hardest job, navigating your own grief, while trying to navigate us as well. We see you and we’re thankful for the ways you care for us and love us at our worst. You made decisions we didn’t want to make, you cleaned the house, did laundry, painted shelves, traveled long distances for short visits, went grocery shopping, and cared for us (and continue to do so). Thank you for not giving up and not forgetting. Thank you for your unconditional love, especially when we’ve been less than lovable.

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