412. It was within days of Hope's death that Shawn informed me she had lived for 412 days. I smiled to myself as I had calculated it as well. I soon discovered my mom had done the same. For some reason, we all needed to know how many days we'd been able to hold her in our arms. Today is our 412th day without Hope. I have now lived as many days without her, as I was blessed to live with her.
For 412 days I would sit alone in the living room in the middle of the night and write my updates. When sleep wouldn't come and my heart was heavy, I wrote. Now 412 days later, sleep feels far away tonight and it only seemed right to begin writing my final entry.
Right now in the city of Calgary, a family is longing to know that their 5 year old son is safe. I find the entire story and situation very disturbing. It has caused me to lose sleep and over-think a lot of my own life. Tonight as I tried to fall asleep I thought of them again and the absolute torture they currently feel. Sadie came and gently touched my arm after a bad dream. I lifted her into the bed and curled in behind her. I held my little girl and prayed for her safety, for wisdom, as her mom, and for the evil of this world to stay far away from her. I also realized in that moment that for 412 days, I have never worried about Hope's safety. Never wondered if she was in pain, feared that she was unhappy or questioned how to care for her. She is my one child that will always be safe. She is the only one I won't pray protection over late into the night as the years go on. She is safe forever.
Losing a child still feels wrong, unfair and difficult to understand. That is unlikely to ever change. I am able to feel the comfort of knowing she's in heaven and safe in the arms of Jesus. That feels right, more than fair and yet still so difficult to understand.
Many people have questioned my desire to stop writing. To be completely honest, I don't feel right writing about Sadie and Stella as they grow up. It was different with Hope, we were calling an army of people to pray for her and there was a great reward for writing. If I told people what was happening, they could pray. I believe we needed that support and that Hope benefited from the knees that were bent around the world. As for Sadie and Stella, I don't want to make that choice for them. I don't want every birthday, Christmas and special event in their lives to be available to anyone that desires to take a look. I find Facebook to be public enough with those we choose to accept and want to limit their exposure. I do feel badly that many people have come to deeply care for our family and will feel like we've "dropped" them and for that I apologize. We so appreciated you joining us on our journey with Hope and we valued your commitment to pray. Please know how deeply grateful we feel that you cared.
As for our little family of 4…
We will always feel one person short. Every time I use the words, family photo, a part of me cringes. I find it difficult to think about the fact that Sadie will more than likely forget most of her time with Hope. I'm sure she'll remember the stories we repeat and recognize the photos she sees often, but memories she made at 2 years of age will slowly fade. I'm sad to know that Stella has a sister she's never met. I wonder if she'll ever feel left out. I often wonder how it will feel when I replace a photo of Hope in our home with someone or something else. She will always remain, but may not dominate the walls forever. 412 days later, I can see so many of the beautiful things that God created through the ashes. It doesn't make it all less painful, but it certainly makes it easier to accept. I can truly say that I still believe God is good, loves me deeply and longs for the day that we can all be forever safe in his arms. On that day, our family will no longer be one person short, our hearts will no longer be broken and our minds will finally understand.
Each person that came on this journey with us, played a part in helping me see purpose for our pain. Hope's reach was great, her impact profound and I am able to know that from the responses her story has received. Thank you for caring, thank you for loving us and thank you most of all for choosing to love a little girl that we all knew could one day be taken from us and leave us brokenhearted.
412 days without Hope have passed, I'm not sure how many more will, but each day that passes makes me a little bit older and a little bit closer to Heaven. A place always sweet, but made sweeter to me by her presence. I can only hope that each person who followed her story came to understand their own need for Jesus and will be there with me one day. I remember sitting at the Ronald McDonald House one night and writing, that if one person came to Christ through Hope's life and death, it would have purpose. I still feel that way and pray that anyone who hasn't accepted Christ, but desires to, would make that decision today and give purpose to her pain.