October 15, 2014


Five. Today our girl would be five years old. Almost impossible to believe. How did five years pass so slowly and so quickly at the same time? There are days that the ache for heaven is so strong and the wait seems like forever. And then there are times when the days fly by. Days when I see my college and high school kids, not really kids but adults, and I can't believe how fast time has gone by. 

October 15, 2009

There is one thing I know. I know that Anne Marie is perfectly whole and healthy in heaven. I know, as so many people have told me, that she is in a better place. I know this. I know it so deeply. And yet, I miss her. I ache to hold her. I want her here with our family. I want her sitting around the dinner table with us and reading bedtime stories at night. I want to take her to get birthday donuts and watch her blow out her five pink candles. I want to shop for dolls and dresses for her. I still struggle with God’s plan for us. Knowing it is best and yet it still hurts.  

I wonder what our lives would be like, if only she were here. And on every birthday I imagine what she would look like and what she would be doing. Anne Marie was born with dark, curly hair. She had more hair than any of our other kids when they were born and I knew right away that it would be curly. And I picture her now this way -- with long, dark, curly hair. I see her in her sister’s hand-me-down dresses and playing with their dolls that are now tucked safely in the attic. I picture her with Oliver, who is strong-willed and bossy. Anne Marie’s softness would balance out his roughness and I imagine that even though Oliver is bossy that she would somehow be able to put him in his place. 

Five. This would be a big year for her. She would be doing her kindergarten school work. I would be sitting on the couch with her and, as with her brothers and sisters before her, would be going through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We would be doing our Saxon math together and learning to write. This would also be the year of her first ballet performance. She would join her sister on stage for Sleeping Beauty. Mary Margaret’s last performance and Anne Marie’s first. And afterwards there would be bouquets of flowers and hundreds of pictures. She would be loved and adored, there is no question about that. There is the heartache in this world of things lost. And then there is the heartache of things that were only hoped for. There are so many things I had hoped for her. 

I have read several things over the years that talk about the presence of absence. This presence of her absence is so real to me. When we are all together at the dinner table I always know that someone is missing. When we are on vacation and the seven of us are crammed inside the car I know that we should be even more crowded. And I imagine her with us, sitting in the back between her sisters. When Oliver is playing I feel her absence and imagine her playing beside him. I imagine her with Jack Henry and Lincoln -- her two big brothers looking out for her. When I am shopping, one of the first things I always look at are girls’ clothes. It used to be the infant sizes, but now I look at the little girl clothes and dresses and picture Anne Marie and what she would look like. She is not here with us and yet the presence of her absence is so strong. 

I remember reading a book that described grief as coming in waves. Sometimes it comes gently like a gentle tide and other times it overcomes you like a giant ocean wave that completely covers you. It seems like this time of the year is when the big waves come. There are so many memories of Anne Marie and I struggle so much against God’s plan and wonder "if only." At times like this I also struggle with knowing how to pray. I struggle against my ungrateful and unbelieving heart and often the only prayer that comes is "Help me to trust you and help me to be grateful."

Today I will be grateful for Anne Marie. For her short life here and her eternal home in heaven. I will be grateful for her beautiful blue eyes that would gaze up at us and her little fingers that would grip ours so tightly. I will be grateful for the care of so many doctors and nurses in Dallas and that I was able to hold her before she died. I will be grateful for our children here with us and for our family. I will be grateful for God’s promises to us and trust that He will help me to believe. After the death of his second child, George Whitfield wrote: “To explain God’s providence by His promise, and not His promise by His providence, I find is the only way to get and keep our comforts.” I pray that He would help me to trust in His perfect providence for us. 

Happy birthday, Anne Marie! We love you and are celebrating you today and every day.

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