For some people, the holidays are not characterized by the idyllic peace and joy of a Currier and Ives Christmas card or a Hallmark movie. For those who are struggling with grief, this time of year can be anything but jolly.
Sometimes life defies explanation.
How can a heart be filled with joy and sorrow at the same time?
How can twelve years seem like an eternity, but wasn’t it just yesterday?
How can a simple photograph bring tears to a smiling face?
How can unfathomable blessing give rise to unconquerable pain?
Zach Sobiech died this past Monday, May 20. He was eighteen years old.
I didn’t know Zach. In fact, I never even knew about Zach … until today.
Webster defines “serendipity” as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. I like to think of serendipity simply as “an unexpected blessing”.
I lost my daughter Ashley to cancer in 2001. She was fourteen years old. I have learned many things about loss and grief in the eleven years since her death. One of those unexpected lessons is that there is blessing in loss.
Back in January, I attended the funeral of a man named Bob. I did not know Bob, and in fact had never even met him. Some of his relatives, however, are very dear friends of mine. So I drove the hour that it took to get to the church where the funeral was held.
Featured Photograph for the week of July 8, 2012.
This photo was taken as a group of motorcycle police officers led a funeral procession for a fallen soldier.
TRUST IN GOD
Ashley turned fourteen in April 2001. She had spent the previous four years of her life battling cancer and all the demons that come with it, including the cruel side effects of the very medicines and treatments that were designed to save her life. Even three years after her final chemotherapy treatment, there were still some very frustrating long-term side effects that she had to deal with every day.
Through it all, she seldom complained. She had developed a courage that would serve any warrior well; a determination that would see the fiercest athlete through the most difficult challenge; and an indomitable spirit that exemplified the motto, “Never give up”.
Because of these qualities, and because of the thousands of people who came to follow Ashley’s story through my Internet and e-mail updates, Ashley became an inspiration to people all over the world. People found the courage to face their own life struggles because of the inspiration they gained from Ashley’s story.
It’s hard to believe it has been eight years: November 24, 2001. Sometimes it seems as though it was only yesterday that you left us, Ashley. Then there are moments when it seems that a lifetime has passed since that awful day.
I still miss you like crazy. We’re doing OK, though. You taught us to cherish every day. Most days we remember to do that. You taught us to live life to the fullest, to squeeze every drop of adventure out of every day that God gives us. You showed us that the real beauty of life is living with a complete trust in God. It’s funny how I’ve been a minister most of my adult life, but you figured that out so much better and lived it so much more completely than I ever have.