This picture was taken at the strike of midnight as we welcomed a brand new year together. That night was filled with so much fun and hopes for the year ahead of us. We had no idea what 2016 actually had in store. Like I've said before, Ella presented no signs of anything being wrong. She was perfect one moment and gone the next.
I see her everywhere. Toy commercials. Movie previews. Simply walking by the candy aisle at the store brings her to mind as I see her favorite candies and have to pull myself away. This blog entry is emotional. If you're not okay with that, you may want to jump over to another site. However, we are willing to pull back the veil and let you see into our toughest moments in hopes that it may help those of you walking through your own struggles with grief. For others, it may offer insight and help you as you try to support friends and family. So, here goes....
We are aware that there are more people going through the loss of Ella than just the five people under our roof. She had friends at school who now have to look at her empty desk everyday. She had teachers who are trying to teach each day while grieving their own loss of a child they were investing in daily. She had a church family and those who saw her laughing and playing moments before she became unresponsive. She had cousins, aunts and uncles who loved her and are trying to come to grips with the reality of her not being at family gatherings any longer. Then there are her grandparents. I can't imagine what it's like to lose a grandchild. To mourn your own loss while watching your kids suffer the loss of a child. It must be more excruciating than I can fathom.
Each relationship Ella had was different. But, each was special. As Jody and I grieve as parents, even we grieve a different loss. We are both her parents, but I can't relate to what it's like for a mother to lose her daughter. Likewise, she can't understand what it's like for me to lose my sweet princess. Nor can we understand the dynamic of a brother and sisters who, in a moment, went from the "4 of us" to the "3 of us". In other words, we are all grieving the loss of Ella, but we grieve a different relationship.
I see her pictures and it still feels like she should be here. I hear a certain song and my heart begins to race as I struggle just to breathe. I want to be angry but I have no one to blame. Our family attended the Jack-O-Lantern Jubilee in North Augusta, SC last night and I missed her so much. These were the things she got so excited about. Family time, together, making memories. I saw all of her favorite foods there last night. I knew exactly what rides she would want to get on multiple times. Through it all, there is one thing that has been my biggest struggle to grasp; the finality of it all.
Forever is such a long time. It's SO final it makes me want to scream. I will never, ever, EVER see her again. Hold her again. Hear her voice again. The thought of that can be so consuming at times that it becomes more than I can begin to comprehend. So, I try not to think about her. Then I feel guilty for not thinking about her. It's a never-ending cycle, and at this point, it's my every waking moment.
As you read this, many may be thinking "as a believer, you know you will see her again one day." I agree. Yes. I believe I will see her again in Heaven. But you know what, some days Heaven seems so far away. And some days, I'm not okay with that. And sometimes, I don't want to hear anyone else tell me. Why? Because I'm not okay with not having her here.
For those of you who are where we are or have been at some point in your life, I know that YOU understand. As a believer, I have the comfort of the Holy Spirit and God's grace is sustaining me. As believers, we don't grieve as the world grieves. But as a believer, we still grieve. Grief is real. It is all-consuming. And it is devastating. Never try to tell someone how to grieve. Never try to make it better or okay, because it's not okay. It's just not. Simply love. Just love us and be there. You don't have to relate to me. You don't have to know what to say. It's okay. Just be there.
Our grief is so great because our blessing was so great. I had the most amazing family I could have ever imagined AND I knew it! God has blessed us in amazing ways, and Ella was one of the best blessings. So, our grief is going to match that blessing.
In the days, months and years to come, we will miss her. We will love her. We will grieve our loss. But we will honor the little girl God gave us and will live for her. A friend told me many years ago that he was given the advice to "honor your loss". We will honor our little girl, and we invite you to join us. We are in the process of dreaming up ways to do just that and will be sharing those with you at the appropriate time. Keep praying. Keep reading and sharing posts. Those are the ways you can support us best as we honor and live for Ella.