As we tried our best to process the news that we may lose Ella, the world we knew seemed to be collapsing around us. No longer could we protect her. No longer could we fight for her. Our strength was gone and we had run out of words to pray. Every moment was consumed with "how do we save her?" Apart from the occasional post update to Facebook, we had closed ourselves off to the outside world to hold tightly to every second we had left with our daughter.
We remember stepping into the waiting room to see if there was anyone there waiting for an update. As we opened the door it hit us all at once; the room was packed wall-to-wall with people. Some were sitting quietly. Some were carrying on conversations. Several teenagers from our church student ministry were playing games with our kids and keeping them occupied. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love in that room. Yet, it wasn't about giving us a hug, or a card or a cake (although we love all of those things and will take them anytime they are offered), but it was simply being there. Each of these people just wanted to be there to show their support. Not to be seen. Not to be acknowledged. Just to simply support us. THAT is love at it's best, and it strengthened us in our weakest moments.
Our daughter, Abby, asked for prayer for Ella in an Instagram post and began the "Green Hearts" chain that quickly became a movement. Soon after, people began filling the waiting room with green balloons, green clothes and ribbons. Even the hospital staff all dressed in green to show our family support and to honor Ella. The fountain outside the hospital was lit in green lights at night. Whether or not that was a coincidence didn't matter. We claimed it as our own! Green balloon releases began happening across the area at football games, and a variety of local sports teams wore green ribbons in honor of our girl.
In case you weren't aware, Ella's favorite color was green and she loved hearts. I (Jeff) serve as Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church North Augusta. When those two things came together it was nothing short of amazing. It seemed everywhere you looked in North Augusta you found something green in a storefront window or tied to a street lamp. The above picture is just one of the many scenes in downtown North Augusta. Green hearts danced throughout flowerbeds in town and posts on Facebook showed local businesses honoring Ella in various ways. Even now, you can look up #forElla on Facebook and find numerous posts for our little girl.
Throughout this month, we will be featuring some of the individuals and businesses that have been so kind to our family. We KNOW that we will leave someone out, but we will do our best to acknowledge those of whom we are aware. If you know of an individual, group or business that has done something to honor Ella, please contact us on our CONTACT page. We receive those emails directly and would love to know about it. We obviously can't feature every submission, but we will do our best to say "thank you" to all we can. So, share your story with us.
For now, we want to say "Thank you" to YOU. As a reader of this blog, you are helping to keep us encouraged. Just knowing someone cares enough to take the time to read and stay connected to Ella's story helps us keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have big news coming up soon, as well. Stay close to the blog as we share our heart-felt appreciation, breaking news on Organ Donor information, and to learn how you can be involved in events to help bring awareness to your community. We are choosing to be thankful. We are thankful for 10 amazing years with Ella. We are thankful for a God that offers strength and grace through our darkest hours. We are thankful for a community that SHOWS what love looks like. And we are thankful for your help in being a part of telling Ella's story to the world.