There are several dates that will always be imprinted on my heart when I think of Anne Marie. Of course there is her earthly birthday and her heavenly birthday, and then there is November 11.
I will never forget this day last year when the Lord did something extraordinary for her and for her parents. I thought that day would be her last. Our children and close friends had come to Dallas, my parents were there, my brother had come to be with us, and our pastor had come. Based on what we could see with our earthly eyes and the facts of her condition, we stood by her bed that morning with heavy hearts thinking that in all likelihood we only had hours left with her. After her baptismal service, our friends and family spoke to her and told her how much they loved her. I can almost remember the exact words Ginger said to her, “I love you, Anne Marie. Hunter and Haley love you. Everyone loves you so much.” The kids each took turns holding her hand, and her grandparents stroked her and told her how much they loved her too. The mood in her room that morning was heavy and very sad. And then everyone but Brandon and me went to wait in the waiting room while Anne Marie was taken off ECMO. Everyone waited and waited, fearing the worst. And then the Lord did a miracle for us. Even now just remembering and thinking about it, I sit here and cry and thank God for His goodness to us that day.
After Anne Marie died there were many times I would ask God, “Why? Why did you bring her so far only to take her home? Why would you do such a big miracle for her and then on a quiet Saturday when we weren’t expecting it would you call her home?” I still often wonder why, and yet I’ve tried to quit asking so many questions. I don’t know why. I don’t understand God’s timing or all of his purposes. The younger kids and I are studying Old Testament history, and over and over we read stories of things that God does that just don’t seem to make sense. "Three hundred people?" Gideon must have wondered. "You want me to fight the Midianites with an army of 300?" God’s ways are mysteries.
And I have faced the greatest mystery this past year. It has been the worst year of my life. I have felt sadness and grief beyond description. And yet I would say that I am more at peace and in love with God than I have ever been in my entire life. It’s a mystery how deep, aching grief can coexist with deep joy and gratitude.
I am grateful for the extraordinary works God did for us last November, and I continue to be grateful for the love He shows me each day. It is more than my undeserving heart ever imagined possible.
Here's the only picture I have of me with my three girls -- November 11, 2009:
Anne Marie after coming off ECMO: