It is well with my soul.

As we said our goodbyes to Aria’s body at the hospital, we prayed with the chaplain who had been counseling us during our time there. She wrote a beautiful blessing for her that honored her life perfectly. That prayer had a profound impact on us, because amid all of the heartache, our spirits were lifted. As we said “amen” and raised our heads, Brian and I looked at each other and knew that although we were embarking on the most difficult journey we would ever face, we would survive. It’s such a strange thing to be both utterly shattered, and also at peace. It’s not really something I can adequately describe in words.

Since then, there have been many moments when my tears were suddenly halted, and Horatio Spafford’s beautiful hymn, “It is Well with My Soul” would play in my head.

And those words are so true.

It’s hard to admit, because hopelessness wants me to believe that it’s impossible for my soul to thrive after loss. It tells me that Aria exists only in sadness, and that stepping into the light means leaving her behind.

But that isn’t true. Not one bit.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know or say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

That isn’t to say it still isn’t hard. It is. I’m not at the end of grief. This is a journey I will walk for the rest of my days. There are days when I am weary, and life seems nearly impossible. But there is always this nagging feeling that reminds me my soul is well, and soon I will be too.

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Can we talk about God real quick?

People often turn their backs on faith in times of despair. It’s natural. We tend to ask “If God is real, and says he loves us, why did he do this to me?” I have asked that question more times than I can count, and I will probably ask it again in the future. No one is immune to doubt. We all feel it at some point, and it’s part of being a Christian. God gives us free will, you can choose to believe just as much as you can choose not to. God is not a puppeteer. 

When we learned that our daughter’s chance of survival was incredibly slim when I was almost seven months pregnant, I felt so abandoned by God. How could he do this to me? How could he do this to my baby? She’s so innocent, she did nothing wrong! I cried out to God asking why he was punishing her. I was enraged. 

Then my husband, Brian asked me to pray with him. Excuse me? You want me to pray to the very God who is going to let my child die? I wanted to refuse but I saw the hope in Brian’s eyes and couldn’t say no. So we prayed. 

And my heart softened. 

Then Brian asked if we could meet with the chaplain at the Children’s Hospital. I dragged my feet, and made plenty of excuses. When we found out the chaplain wasn’t available right away, I told Brian it was probably best if we just went back to our hotel. But he pushed, he wanted to wait for her. Once again, that hope in his eyes was enough to shut me up. So we met with the chaplain. We talked about God, we talked about faith, and we prayed.

And my heart remembered the promises of the God I once loved. 

The bible says God is near the broken hearted. He grieves with us and feels our pain. He doesn’t want us to suffer, but that is the cost of living in an imperfect world that has been torn apart by sin. He has not abandoned us, and our faith will be redeemed.

At the biggest and most heartbreaking moment of our lives, we chose to have faith. We chose to trust in the Lord’s plan for our lives. So Brian and I began to pray, hard. We forced ourselves to sit in silence and wait for God to show us the way. We even stopped praying for him to save our daughter because we didn’t know if that was his will. We prayed that God would lead us down the path that we were meant to explore. If he was going to save her, we asked him to bring us through it. If God was going to send us into the valley and call our daughter home, we asked Him to be our guiding light. We continuously prayed for His will, and the Lord provided. 

I’m sure a few of you are wondering how I can say our prayers were answered when our daughter did not survive. That is because we didn’t pray for our own will. Every single ounce of my being wishes that my baby was still here. I will miss her for every moment of the rest of my life. Losing her ripped a massive hole in me, and I’m not sure that hole can ever be fully repaired. We wanted to be able to keep her and watch her grow. But the reality is that having her here is not the life God intended for her. She was just passing through this world, blessing our lives for a little while before making her grand entrance into heaven. God showed us that, and we have felt His healing presence throughout our grief. We asked Him to guide us, and He has. 

There is a song called “Blessings” by Laura Story and in it she sings:

What if your blessings come through rain drops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

This song resonates with me because it relates to our experience in multiple ways. Our daughter’s health problems were incredibly serious and complex. Even in the womb, the safest place for her, her little body was fighting. One doctor told us that if she did survive, we needed to be prepared to see her suffer. That was incredibly heartbreaking to hear but she was being honest and I’m thankful for that. God calling our daughter home prevented her from ever feeling pain. In her short but meaningful life, she knew only love. That is God’s mercy working in her life. He did save her, just not in the way we truly wanted Him to.

So I ask of you, if you find yourself at a crossroad in life, choose faith. God will not let you down, no matter how dire the situation may seem. Even the world’s biggest tragedies can bring hope. 

You can read our daughter, Aria’s full story here.

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore.¬†

It had been a week and a day since Aria left this world. We were watching the Seahawks game with Brian’s family, trying to be a little more normal. I was pretty silent and glued to my phone during the game. I kept flipping through the pictures we had taken of Aria wondering how we had gotten here. My heart was bleeding and the shock was beginning to wear off. It was somewhere around halftime that I finally believed and understood that Aria wasn’t coming back, and I was quickly losing my ability to stay calm. So as we got in the car to head to my parent’s house, I began to feel my temperature rise as the tears started forming in my eyes. I looked out the window and watched the pouring rain drench the earth around us. It was an incredibly depressing scene. As I sat there in a puddle of tears I thought, it would be really wonderful if Aria could send me a rainbow right now. Later, I learned that Brian was thinking the exact same thing.

This is the part where I promise you that I’m not making any of this up. I wouldn’t believe it either if it didn’t happen to me, but it did. 

You see, just as we turned the corner, the rain stopped. A moment before the skies were completely gray, and the rain had been pouring down with no end in sight. Suddenly, there was nothing. The skies cleared and the sun instantly beamed through the trees, lighting up the sky and igniting my soul. And there it was, dead center in the sky. A rainbow. It was brilliant, vibrant and I felt it’s message loud and clear. I looked at Brian and we both laughed in disbelief. There she was, our baby girl, coloring the sky and bringing my spirit back to life. 

There have been a few other moments since that day where I’ve felt her presence. I love that she sends me occasional reminders that I am never alone. Those are the things that keep me going. Without them, I wouldn’t have the strength to crawl out of bed each morning. 

And this is where I tell you that I believe with my whole heart that death is not the end. If it were, these things would just feel like coincidences but they don’t. A coincidence is when your husband accidentally puts on the exact same color shirt as you. Those things don’t renew your spirit and give you peace. The only way I can explain it is that these miracles are glimpses of heaven, and the eternal life that we will share with Aria one day. 

Joy After Loss

After Aria passed, we were faced with the impossible task of letting go of her body. I feared this moment more than I feared her dying. How could I let go of Aria knowing I would never hold my daughter in my arms again? The thought of it was completely devastating, but we knew it had to be done. We had to let go. 

So we turned on her song (My Little Girl by Jack Johnson) and began to say our goodbyes. I rocked her to the soft music as tears drenched my cheeks. I studied every inch of her, promising not to forget a single part. As I held her close and took in her sweet scent, I tried not to remember that this would be the last time.

When I handed her to Brian, he completely melted around her. He told her she was beautiful and although he kept repeating “I love you”, he didn’t need to say anything. I could feel his love for Aria deep within my bones. His fatherly love soared beyond the clouds and broke through heaven’s gates as he cuddled her in his arms. 

The chaplain who counseled and prayed with us during our journey at CHOP then entered my room. Together, we prayed over her. We thanked God for blessing us with such an incredible gift, and for allowing us to be a part of her life. We asked God to tell her all about the parents who so desperately wished she could have stayed. We prayed for peace and understanding. 

We set Aria into the small bassinet by my hospital bed and called the nurses station to tell them we were ready. The nurse entered, and gently draped a white blanket over her. As she wheeled her out of the room, we felt Aria’s presence slowly stepping out as well. 

Suddenly, Brian and I were overcome by an emotion we weren’t expecting. We felt joy. By letting go, we felt Aria entering heaven and feeling God’s warm embrace. I pictured her smiling and all the angels rejoicing that this beautiful child was now among them. Aria was now in a place far better than we could have ever created for her on earth, and we felt thankful for that.

I was looking through a journal I had used while pregnant with Aria and came across this part.   

“I want this baby to grow up loving God.” It may not have been the way we planned it, nor the way we wanted things to be, but my dreams came true. Aria will know God for every moment of her life. It overwhelms me to imagine how special her relationship with Christ must be. It’s something I can’t begin to fathom while I’m still on earth. 

It is in these truths that I find joy. I am only able to move forward peacefully knowing that Aria is alive and well in God’s kingdom. In heaven, she is completely uninhibited by the complications that made it impossible for her to sustain life on earth. Aria is free. As parents, we could not ask for more. 

Heaven 

I used to put very little thought into what heaven is like. I figured I would find out one day, but until then I’ll just worry about life on earth. Now that my beautiful daughter has taken her place in the Lord’s kingdom, I find myself constantly wondering what it’s like up there. I know it’s far better than anything we could give her on earth. I know Aria feels immeasurable amounts of love and peace. But it’s the little things I wonder about. What is life like for those in heaven? Does she still get up each morning like we do on earth? Does she get to watch over us constantly? As strange as it sounds, I wish there were visiting hours in heaven. A few moments a day where we could come see where their Aria spends her time, and what she does during the day. If only for ten minutes, I would love to see how she’s doing.