I'm not even sure where to begin today. Typing in the address for the blog is difficult enough, now to put my emotions into words feels like an impossible task. I should first say that through this tragic reality we have seen incredible kindness from our community. I have not cooked at all and my freezer is full of frozen items to be eaten next week. It's an incredible blessing when someone drops off dinner to Shawn and me, but currently people are dropping off dinner for my entire family, 16 people. A person I have never met started an account to raise money for our family to go on vacation, a friend offered to clean my house, my table is covered with flowers and the cards took hours to read through. We do not question whether we have the support of our community around us right now. We most definitely feel loved.
I guess I'll begin where I left off. On Wednesday morning after updating the blog, I went into Hope's room and sat on her floor. The tears that came turned into sobs and soon my mom and sister were next to me as I'm sure the sounds woke them up after very little sleep. I was numb, exhausted and overwhelmed. Shawn did not even attempt to get out of bed. Around lunch time Shawn's parents came to drop off Sadie and Shawn pulled himself out of bed and had a strength that was incredible. Having Sadie is so important for us right now, she gets us out of bed every morning. We pulled Sadie aside and told her that Hope was with Jesus. She was confused and to be honest, appeared more afraid of our tears than of our words. We decided to drop it and let her ask questions as they came to her mind and follow her lead.
It was probably 4 pm on Wednesday before we even began to consider Hope's funeral and how we wanted to celebrate her life with our friends and family. How do you even begin to plan a funeral for a 1 year old? I had googled funeral homes in Calgary but found the pages covered with pictures of old people and advertisements about pre-planning your funeral. It reminded me of how wrong it is to lose a child and I was unable to proceed. My sister in law jumped into action and called some funeral homes, started the process and made all the arrangements for a funeral home, a church to host the funeral and a caterer. I sat on the couch and watched her on the phone, unable to move.
On Thursday at noon, Shawn and I drove in silence to the funeral home. Anyone who knows me would be able to tell you that I like to eat when I'm hungry. I do not tolerate feeling hungry very well and will start to feel ill if I don't eat something. Usually a meeting at noon would be terrible for me as I would worry that I wouldn't be ready for lunch before and would be starving before it was over. On Thursday, I didn't care if I ever ate again. We sat down with a woman that took us through catalogues of caskets. They are horribly ugly for children and look like a minky 80's suitcase. We couldn't bear the thought of our precious daughter in something so ugly. We decided to put her in a nicer, much more expensive casket. The funeral home wasn't sure how long they needed the casket to be. In order to figure it out, I had to take the sleeper I had brought of Hope's and lay it out in the casket to see which one she would fit into. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever had to do and it will forever haunt me.
After going through a lot of logistical details for planning the funeral; locations, flowers, cremation, clothing and many other things, we had to pick out an urn. We'd decided to have Hope cremated. The idea of her body rotting in the ground was more disturbing than the idea of cremation for me. We hope to take Hope to some of our favourite places, places we were never able to show her during her life. They asked what we wanted the urn to say and the first thing that came to my mind was a quote by Francis of Assisi- "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words". We felt that it summed up the life of a 13 month old that never spoke, but truly made a difference in the kingdom of God.
That night we talked with family about what to do for her service. I remember a funeral I went to in 2002 for a young Godly man that was taken too soon. I remember seeing his wife worship Jesus and wondering how she had the strength to even sing. I wasn't sure I'd be able to get a word out, but I really felt that I wanted to try. God is still good and I wanted Him to know that I still loved Him, even though he took away someone I loved more than anything. We talked about speakers, programs and the multitude of details that go into planning a service like this. It was overwhelming to put something together so quickly. I can honestly say that I had very little to do with it. It was almost completely done by others and would not have come together without all of the help we received.
I also took that terrible trip to the mall, a trip to pick out clothes for my own child's funeral. I wasn't sure how I would do, but managed to find some clothes and avoid a complete breakdown. It was one of the first shopping trips that never involved glancing at price tags or checking the sale section first. I needed an outfit, I wanted to find something quickly and I didn't care what it cost, I just wanted to go home.
Friday was a difficult day. We woke up with anxiety about seeing Hope. I wanted so badly to set eyes on her again, but feared I'd be disappointed with what I saw. We had held her for hours after she'd died, but she was only dead for a short time. I worried that she would look disgusting to me when I saw her in a casket and that I wouldn't be able to look at her. I worried that standing there next to her as each person we'd invited came by would drain me and I'd completely collapse from exhaustion. When we finally got into the car I felt like it took hours to get there. We impatiently asked the funeral director to hurry up and bring her to us as he set things up. As soon as they opened her casket, Shawn and I stepped forward and sobbed as we looked down at such a beautiful angel. She still looked just like our Hope and I wanted so desperately to pick her up. I could not get over the beauty I saw, even in a dead body. In many ways she was more beautiful in that moment than I'd ever seen her. I pulled a rose from the flowers on top of the casket and placed it in her tiny, lifeless hand.
We cried with many friends that night and introduced Hope to some for the very first time. I thought I would never leave her. Sadie reached her breaking point by 9:30 pm, as she was 2.5 hours past her bedtime and was begging us to take her home. Shawn and I tucked Hope in and closed the lid of her casket. We didn't like to the idea of someone else doing it for us. I left with the dread in my heart that the next day would be the last day of my life that I would lay eyes on my baby girl.
Saturday was not easy. I got ready for my own child's funeral, an absolutely horrible feeling. We drove to the church with a happy Sadie in the backseat without a clue of what was ahead. We walked into the room where Hope had been placed and Shawn and I opened her casket. For the next hour, I never left her side. I knew that others needed to say goodbye and that people wanted to see her, but I thought of no one other than myself at that time. I wanted to look at her and I couldn't imagine walking away from her in that moment. I looked at my watch multiple times with the dread of needing to say goodbye. Just before 1 pm I saw the funeral home staff looming near me. I looked up and they told me it was time. Shawn and I wept over our baby girl as he tucked her in for the last time ever. A gift that most parents have nightly for years with their children. Something that had been stollen from us much too early.
We walked down the aisle of the church behind Hope's casket. Something amazing happened as we walked through the crowd that had gathered to celebrate her life. We found some strength in the Lord and in our community. I had thought I would need a massive box of kleenex to survive that service, but I only used one. We found the strength to stand and celebrate our daughter's life. We do not deny that the pain is terrible and completely raw, but we acknowledge that God is good and we believe in His perfect will.
When planning her service, we had asked to have the message of Christ shared. The only value we can see in Hope's death is salvation. If someone hears about and believes in Jesus as a result of Hope's life and death, it is all worth it. To anyone that heard the message of Christ for the first time or the 50th time that felt that pull in your chest. We pray that you put your trust in Christ and believe in Him as your personal Saviour. The only comfort we find is knowing that we will spend eternity in Heaven with Hope. We pray that many join us in eternity because of the testimony that Hope's journey has been in your life. If you do, would you tell Shawn and I? We would be so encouraged to know that someone accepted Jesus for the first time and is now alive in Christ.
It is now 6 days since that horrible night in Edmonton that we held our lifeless daughter. Many people have asked how we are doing. That's a difficult question with a constantly changing answer. We have moments of joy; watching Sadie laugh and play with her cousins, but we have moments of deep pain as well. We are not sleeping well and avoid going to bed. We struggle to imagine returning to normal life and are trying to even grasp what that looks like for us. It's been so long since our life was "normal" that we do not even know where to begin.
We feel we need to get out of Calgary and Shawn is not ready to go back to work. We want to be somewhere we feel comfortable and have made a few plans. We will spend some time with my family in Radium for a few days, thanks to the kindness of some wonderful people. After that, Shawn and I will be leaving with Sadie next week to go to Maui for a week. We have friends that are away and have offered us their home and their vehicle. The flights were very reasonable and we felt it was the best place for us right now. We still plan to get away on an exciting vacation when our heads are clear enough to plan it, but for now are happy to go away.
I have been asked multiple times if I will continue to blog. I don't have a true answer, but as I feel like writing, I will. I'm not sure for how long, I assume that one day I'll be ready to finish this story and put an end to Mending Hearts and Bending Knees. When that will be, I have no idea. Please continue to pray for our family. I think we are most afraid of how we'll feel when the flowers stop arriving, the meals no longer come and we are left alone. I believe that is when the true pain will set in and we have no way of preparing for those days. In those moments, we pray that God continues to give us the strength we need.