A Celebration of Life…

She just started laughing.  It was such a beautiful sound that lifted your heart to the heavens.  I found her tickle spot, too…right under her chin (just like her mother).  Her eyes were these huge blue orbs that soaked up everything that she could.  When you looked into them, they melted your soul.  Every time I walked into the room and she heard my voice, she would clumsily turn her head to me and smile.  And whenever I would lay next to her, I would reach out my hand, and she would wrap her little fingers around mine.  She had such a strong grip.  These are the precious memories that will forever be etched in my mind.  These are the things I look forward to when I am with her again, walking with our Father.

The days that followed Mia’s home-going are all blended together.  It’s like driving through a morning fog where you can only see three feet in front of your face.  There were so many people who came in and out of the house.  If I hugged one person, I hugged 200.  And the food…I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well in my entire life!  Family came in, both mine and Lena’s.  Friends sent emails and Facebook messages.  They called if they couldn’t get here.  If I ran into them at the store…more hugs.  It literally took me twenty minutes to get out of the grocery store where I went in to get a bottle of Cinnabon coffee creamer- my favorite.  I am soooo thankful for the Body of Christ.

There is one overwhelming theme that I took from the entire week.  I alluded to it in my post from a few days ago.  God never left our side.  When you have a relationship with Him, you become much more sensitive to His presence.  He finds so many subtle ways to let you know that He’s there.  As a wanna-be writer, I usually carry a pad and pencil/pen with me wherever I go.  I knew I would forget some of these things, so I wrote them down.  I’d like to share them with you now…

The day after Mia went home, or graduated, as Cheryl Salem put it, Lena was really questioning why.  I didn’t have the answer, of course.  Only God knows that.  And I’m quite sure that He’ll share that with us when we see the two of them.  I told her as much before I went to JJ and Ron’s (American Family Radio’s morning show) Facebook page.  I wanted to reach out to JJ.  I knew he and his wife Melanie had suffered the loss of their five-year-old, Cooper, and they made a short documentary about it (you’ll see the primary earthly source of my strength at Flame-On).  As a former detective, I had shared this video with many grieving families.  I never thought that I would need it as a source of inspiration for myself one day.

They do a memory verse every week, and the one for the week that Mia passed away was Isaiah 56:8-

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

Just what I needed for Lena.

A couple of days later, my pastor and a close family friend who had also experienced the loss of a child (triplets in his case), went with me to the funeral home to help me make the arrangements.  Gregory (pastor) found a new, 2012, penny on the floor.  He gave it to me for luck.  Later that night, I simply threw my clothes in a heap in the corner of the closet before I went to bed.  I was exhausted.  When I awoke the next morning and picked up the pants, two pennies fell out.  Without looking, I put one in our change jar and the other I looked at.  The one in my hand was from 2011…the year of Mia’s birth, not death.

We are to celebrate her life, not mourn her loss.

I rode with Gregory to the funeral home that day.  On the way there, he shared a scripture with me.  He prefaced it by telling me he didn’t know what level of spiritual maturity you had to have to understand it because he was still working on it himself.  I remember thinking, “If you are still working on it (after how many years in the ministry???), how would I ever understand it?”  He told me that it says that we’re to cry when we are born and celebrate the day we die.  I told him I cried when my daughters were born, but then it struck me…we weren’t to cry tears of joy.  We should shed tears of sorrow that we were separated from our Heavenly Father.

On the day of Mia’s service, I asked Gregory to look up that verse for me.  I had known all week that I would be speaking…God gave me that from day two.  He told me that it was Ecclesiastes 7:1-

“…And the day you die is better than the day you are born.”

Another great family friend was on the road that day (he’s a truck driver), and he wouldn’t be back in time for the service.  He called to pray with me and told me that God told him to tell me that it says in the bible that we should cry when we are born and celebrate when we die.  He hadn’t spoken to Gregory.

We are to celebrate her life, not mourn her loss.

Rosary beads (I hadn’t had any since I was a kid and Catholic) given to me by another friend gave me the strength to speak at the service.  I held them in my hand the entire time.  Butterflies have appeared all around our house and yard.  We hadn’t noticed any there before.  My wife’s aunt found a perfect cross at the end of a pine tree while sitting under the car port.  Apparently, they’re not supposed to do that until around Easter.  When I looked, there were crosses in all the pine trees facing the house.

A picture of Mia (the one I used as the feature image in my last post)…my sister framed it and put the “Footprints” saying around the matte.  She gave it to me outside by her Explorer and was playing Oh How He Loves by the David Crowder Band.  It’s one my favorites, and it hit me then and there that we would play it for Mia.  I collapsed in a heap, falling into the car.  I sobbed uncontrollably and screamed out loud.  I clutched the picture to my chest and begged for my baby back.  My sisters wrapped their arms around me and prayed for His mercy.   The strength and peace prayer now had mercy added to it for good measure.  When the tears stopped falling, I now had the renewed energy that I would need for the rest of the week.  He turned my weakness into that strength.

Trust in Him.  He has everything under control and will not let us fall.

The final confirmation came when I thought I at last had some time to be alone with my Father to meditate on what I should say at chapel.  I hadn’t had the opportunity the entire week because I was busy trying to be the rock for the rest of my family.  I went to go for a walk in the woods just to talk around 8:30am.  The morning was cool, and the sun had just crested the tops of the trees.  I could see it reflecting off of the gossamer webs in the bushes and leaves.  There were freshly sprouting blossoms and blooms everywhere.  It was beautifully green and full of life.  I thought to myself, “This is what it’s supposed to be about.  The celebration of life.”  Then they descended upon me like a great wave.  A swarm of mosquitoes met me halfway on the trail and began to dig in.  I turned and walked quickly out of the woods, sporting four bites to the back of my head, one on my cheek and two on my legs.  When I got up on the porch, my sister asked me why I was back so soon.  I told her that I guess God wanted me to know that He had everything under control.  He would give me what to say when I got there.

Trust in Him.  He has everything under control and will not let us fall.

The service was the most beautiful that I have ever attended, even though it was for my daughter.  Another friend of ours, Pastor Matt Rutland, was the first to speak.  I can’t tell you what he said (forgive me, Brother).  I can’t tell you what Pastor Gregory said either.  He also spoke.  I couldn’t even tell you what I said.  It was just so surreal.  Our praise and worship leader, John Glosson, sang for us…Oh How He Loves and Amazing Grace- My Chains Are Gone by Chris Tomlin.  One of my wife’s best friends sat next to her when I got up to speak.  She told me when John started singing that it was okay for me to stand.  I told her I was fine.  Then I realized that everyone was waiting for a cue from me.  I stood, closed my eyes and lifted my hands to heaven.  I could feel all of the people in the packed chapel stand, turning what started as a funeral service into a praise and worship session.  For good measure, John blended How Great is Our God with the Amazing Grace.  I was later told that there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

When he finished playing, it was time for the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.  I arose and walked to where Mia lay at the front of the chapel.  I wrapped my arms lovingly around her pink, velvet-lined casket and gently picked her up.  I turned and walked down the aisle of the chapel.  I didn’t look at anyone, just straight ahead, tears streaming down my face as they fall right now while I’m typing.  I carried her to the hearse and lay her inside…awaiting the short trip to her final earthly resting place.

I carried her, but it was then that He carried me.

For Mia…

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33 responses to “A Celebration of Life…

  1. You are my idle. Since the day i was born until the day i pass i have and will continue to look up to you. You are my inspiration. I am truly amazed by your strength the Lord has given you. I couldn’t be more proud. A song comes to mind. Lead me. The Lord will lead you and you will lead your family. In times of trials and struggles this too shall pass. I am here for you whenver you may need anything at all, even a punching bag! I love you with all of my every ounce of being.
    Strength and peace,
    Your little sister, through blood, Christ, and faith,
    Jennifer

    • Thank you so much, Jen. I know the song very well and sing it often. I, too, am very proud of my little sister and where you are considering all we have gone through in our lives. I love you so very much for being there for me and my family. Be safe and be blessed…

      Oh, and it’s “idol” 😀

  2. You’ve got quite a family there, Guy! We talk about the ripples caused by Mia’s passing and what you and your family have been going through. More importantly, the way you’ve reached out to people, and the way they’ve reached toward you. You’ll never know how many people your story, your inspiration and your faith have influenced; how many families hug their kids a little closer and thank God for the time they have. It’s true that God took Mia home too soon. But how many more people will she get to meet one day, side-by-side with her father and Father, that may not have had the second (third, fourth) chance without the wake up call that her passing has brought . . . brought to us all. Love and blessings my friend!

    • God has really been good to me and mine, Kent. I can’t thank you enough for your friendship that we’ve developed through our blogs. We most definitely are connected in some Godly way. I also appreciate the continued prayers and encouragement. To give you an idea as to how connected we are, my next post that God has given me is about making beauty from the ashes…and ultimately ends up with scripture about how we should sow seed in the midst or our trials. Hopefully He’ll give me the time to post soon. Blessings to you and your family as well my Brother.

    • Thank you so much, Teri. Believe me, there are days that I don’t even want to get out of bed. Writing this blog is my therapy. What started out as something that God put on my heart to do has become so much more. On those days, I just put one foot on the ground and take one step after another. I talk to my Father, and He never lets me down. Can’t say I don’t cry a lot or that the pain goes away. It just becomes a little more tolerable…after all, He knows the exact pain I’m going through considering He lost a Son. Blessings to you and your family.

  3. I’m sorry, I somehow missed your last post, and when I saw how long this one was — forgive me — but I almost skipped it until the Lord said, “Read it.” And now I know why. The Lord wants you to know that the butterflies are a great sign of encouragement from Him. They mean Hope for the future.
    God Will Bless Your Family Richly!

    • D,

      I must confess I was a little worried about the length of the post (and almost put a please read in spite of the length), but then I told myself that I just needed to trust Him to handle it. Apparently I was right :). Thank you for sharing His thoughts with me. When I looked up butterfly references in the Bible, I couldn’t find any. There were, however, several scriptures that tied into the metamorphosis of the butterfly. I’ve since found out that they are a symbol for resurrection. Kinda fitting considering Easter is right around the corner. Thanks so much for taking the time to read. God bless…

  4. Guy,

    Just wanted to let you know that you,Lena and your girls have been in my thoughts and prayers. I remember how my heart was ripped out when the officer lost his daughter in the movie Courageous…I can’t imagine what you,Lena and your girls are going through. BUT…God’s strength in you is amazing. That fact that you can write the things you have is evidence of God’s amazing strength and faithfulness, not to mention your willingness to lead your family to the one true strength.

    I know that Mia’s life and your willingness to trust God through all of this pain will glorify God and cause people to turn to him for strength in their own lives.

    I’m here if you and your family need anything at all. Anything.

    Scott

    • Thank you, MJ. I’m so glad that you’re moved by what God is doing in our lives. That makes the pain a little easier to deal with.

  5. A “masterpiece”! Sooooo beautiful….. Just like Mia!!! Thank you, Guy, for sharing so transparently and lovingly. God is using you mightily. Yes, His ways are not our ways, but we know that HE IS FAITHFUL!

  6. Truely a blessing reading your testimony. Reminded me of when my great nephew went home. His mother my neice gave him the same kind of service also, it was such a up lifting service. I left with a great feeling in my heart and knowning that Jacob was in a better place. He was a child of god him self and was not afraid to tell anyone he was a child of god. Jacob has touched alot of people in his life and in death and still is even after three years of going home. You know how children are to look up to adults well with me, iIt’s the other way around I look up to Jacob. He has tought me so much in his death and my walk with god. I truly miss him so much, but I know he will be their to meet me with my mom when I go home. Him and his mother Heather has thought me so much in my walk with god and I’m still learning today. Thank you so much for sharing your testimony.

    • Thank you for the kind words and sharing your story, Candy. That’s the one thing I think that I’m most thankful for…that Mia was spared all of the trials of our earthly life. May God continue to bless you and keep you close in your walk with Him. Be blessed…

  7. I am enriched for having read your story(ies). Your faith in the midst of your suffering is a grace filled life. I’m sorry for the loss of your beautiful butterfly. But I am lifted by the joy you find in her time with you, and the time you know you will have with her again. God bless you all. And thank you for sharing your family.

    • Thanks so much, Colleen. I woke up singing about His grace this morning, and He’s truly giving me that and more. Blessings to you and your family.

      • Guy…you are one of my many blessings. I find them every where. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  8. The words you write are beautiful and the strength you show is amazing. You are in our continued prayers

    • Thanks so much, Jenna. It’s ALL from Him…I wouldn’t even be able to stand let alone write anything without Him carrying me. Bless you and your family :).

  9. You are always on my mind and as I said before, “I am not there, but I am there.” Continue to be a pilar of strength that your family needs and know for a certainty, I love you my son.

  10. I don’t know you and have never met you but I seen this reposted on facebook and have been reading it, you truely know how to touch the reader through your writing! I am so sorry for your loss!

    • Thank you, Jessica. I’m just the pen, though. God is the author. Without Him in my life, I wouldn’t even turn on a computer much less pour out my heart and soul on one. I’m so very glad that you’re moved by what He gives me to write. Blessings to you and your family…

  11. Ecclesiastes 7:1 “…And the day you die is better than the day you are born.”
    This helped me tonight, still dealing with my mom’s sudden passing. Thank you for sharing this verse. This is a beautiful post about a beautiful little girl who now resides with her Savior. So sorry for your loss.

    • Thank you for the thoughts, Jane. When my pastor shared it with me, I really hadn’t given any thought about what it means to leave Heaven to come here and live our lives. I especially didn’t think about living it separated from Him. And now, I can’t imagine life without Him. I’ll say a prayer for you as you remember your mother…she, like Mia, is in our future, not our past. Now it’s up to us to do EVERYTHING we can to ensure that we get there to see them one day. Blessings to you…

      • Thank you so much. I love that you say she is in our future, not our past. It’s a beautiful way of looking at it and so true. Thank you for your prayers. I will continue to hold you and your family up as well.

      • I wish I could take the credit for “She’s in our future,” but I can’t. Cheryl Salem actually gave that to me in an email (though I don’t think she has a trademark on it or anything :)). I just like the thought of that, so I think I’ll continue to use it. Have a very blessed day!

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