Saturday, February 12, 2011

One Year

This coming Tuesday, February 15, marks the 1 year point. One year ago our little girl departed the confines of this earth to live in eternity with Jesus; to live in a world with no pain or tears. We hate the fact that she isn't with us any more, yet treasure the fact that she knows her Savior intimately now.

So much has happened in the last year that it's impossible to put it all into words. So many different emotions. So much pain. So much grief. So much healing. So much joy. So much...

Our lives are changed forever. We're part of an elite club now, a club no one ever desires to join, yet one that's full of the deepest pain and some of the deepest riches known.

So what are my reflections at one year???

God remains good, faithful and sovereign.  I've used those words over and over, yet they ring as true today as they did on February 14, 2009.

We grieve the loss of our daughter each and every day.  One year does not make us grieve her loss any more or less. It's still the new normal that we live under every day. The pain eases and the tears become farther apart, yet we are acutely aware of the fact that a major part of us will always be missing.

My specific grief at the one year mark tends to center more around the event rather than the loss. Lately I have been having many flashbacks to the trauma of that day, and the days immediately following. These are very difficult and painful memories that are permanently ingrained on me.

I praise God for my wife. April is the most amazing woman on this earth and I am so grateful to be married to her and to have her to walk with down this rough road. I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am for the strength of our marriage and God's hand on us as a couple in this last year.

God has His hands on Peter's life. A year ago many people took our son on as their specific prayer project. I praise God for how He's carried Peter through this year. Peter has no memories that we know of from the trauma of the day. He remembers her, talks about her often, even prays for her. He still considers her part of the family and many nights kisses her picture goodnight. We ask him regularly where his sis is, and his response is a quick, "She's in heaven with Jesus." There are many times that April and I are sad and it's obvious to him. He will soften his voice and the conversation goes something like this:
Peter: "Daddy, are you sad?"
Me: "Yes Peter."
Peter: "Daddy, you crying? You miss Sis?" 
Me: "Yes Peter"
Peter: "I miss Sis too."
We prayed throughout the pregnancy with Elyse that she and Peter would have a special life-long bond. We truly believe God answered those prayers and continues to answer them to this day. He will always have a special place in his heart for her.

I'm utterly dependent on God.  Throughout this year it's become painfully apparent that I just can't survive outside of His strength. His power is truly made perfect in my weakness. Before Elyse left us, I was able to get by on my own strength a lot of the time. While in word I testified of my need for Christ everyday, I don't know that my heart really sensed it. Today I can say with all integrity that without Him I am nothing. I desperately need Him!

There are some great practical ways to grieve loss.
1. Advice we got shortly after Elyse died was to "be kind to yourselves." Translated: Don't feel like you need to live up to anyone's expectations. Don't feel like you need to please anyone. Be honest in your grief.
2. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise.  In the days and weeks after she was gone, we walked almost every day, if not every other. It became a lifeblood for us. We were able to enjoy fresh air, get perspective, talk and cry together, yell at God if need be, and just burn off frustration. This ultimately resulted in both of us running a Half Marathon last June in San Diego.
3. Sleep... but not too much. Grief exhausts you and we learned that quickly. Sleep was so necessary to get us from one day to the next.
4. Don't stop functioning. We had to keep getting up every day and moving forward. We still had a son to raise and couldn't give up on him. We both look back at Peter as being a crucial part of our healing in the last year. He kept us unified and focused on the need to be functional parents raising him in a functional home.
5. Counseling is a very good thing. Three different sessions with a professional counselor were invaluable in keeping us moving in the right direction. And it wasn't bad for our marriage either. ;)

There is so much more I could say, but let me sum things up by saying that God is good. He is faithful. He is strong. He is sovereign. And nothing I can say or do and nothing that happens to me will change that truth.

For the one year anniversary, we'll be spending Sunday afternoon with April's amazing family and then will be heading to the coast for 3 days with some great friends who have helped carry us through this year.

And to all of you that have continued to follow us, encourage us and lift us up before the Lord, we are humbled and simply say thank you. You have carried the paralytic, dug through the roof and placed him in the presence of Jesus to be healed.

"And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy spirit, whom He has given us." -- Romans 5:5


Ryan Guard said...

Thanks for sharing this Cliff. I have the date on my calendar to remember to pray for you guys. Love you guys.

Unknown said...

Cliff, Thank you for sharing. We continue to pray for your family. Our hope is in Heaven, so excited for the reunion!

anjuli paschall said...

praying for your family this week. praying for God's comfort to be evident and strong.

Monika said...

Wow, Cliff! I had no knowledge of this sorrow and don't know any of the details, but I trust God will carry you through this week especially, and also in the weeks and years to come.

Kara said...

we love you guys, thanks for sharing, we pray for you.

Zach said...

Love you bro, I can't wait to see you this summer.

Sara said...

Cliff- you can articulate all of this amazingly well. I have seen God's faithfulness in you and April's life this year. So glad we serve a BIG God. Standing in hope with you guys-but still missing my niece so much. Love you guys and our special time on Sunday was great.