On October 31, 2015 (the Eve of All Saints) our lives were changed forever.
I took our three little girls to a piano recital and only brought two home. Our oldest daughter Evelyn played her piano piece perfectly, bowed to the audience, and collapsed in front of her two little sisters and everyone else in the piano studio. I was nearly 7 months pregnant with our youngest son at the time.
Despite heroic efforts on the part of parents in attendance, paramedics, and the emergency room staff, Evie could not be saved. She likely had an undetected cardiac condition still to be determined.
We lost so much beauty in our family when we lost Evie. Here is an excerpt from the obituary that my husband wrote:
Evelyn was born in Oxford, England to Chad and Jennifer and was home educated along with her siblings. Evelyn took delight in reading, drawing, sewing, swimming, practicing piano and guitar, playing dolls with her sisters, exploring nature, and simply being with her friends and family. She was eagerly anticipating the arrival of a baby brother – due to be born later this year – and the opportunity to care for him as a ‘little mommy’. She spoke often about her desire to be a mother and an art teacher when she grew up.
Always smiling, Evelyn was a little girl with enormous joy in her heart and an insatiable sense of wonder and awe for God and the world. She sincerely loved others and was known by all for her eagerness to help, to share, and to bring peace wherever she saw pain or conflict. Evelyn was also known for her abiding sense of contentment: She was satisfied with what she had, asked for very little, and freely gave much away.
The source of Evelyn’s serenity was her intense love for Jesus Christ. She believed that in him she already had everything. Evelyn was an example of prayerfulness, often finding private places to recite the Rosary or forming prayer groups with her friends. She also enjoyed singing hymns with her family, especially those she had memorized in her schooling, and she had a deep affection for the unique presence of Christ in Communion. Many times Evelyn expressed her longing to one day see him face to face and to be counted among the Saints in glory. She found particular inspiration to love and follow Jesus from the very short but extraordinary life of Saint Therese of Liseaux.
There is just no way to comprehend the void that she has left in our family.
The loss was shocking, unexplainable, incomprehensible. She left behind a nine year-old sister who was her best friend and another little sister who saw her as a second mommy. She never got to meet a little brother for which she had spent much time praying and her big brother was crushed and angered by the unfairness of it all.
She left behind a dad who took immense pride in his girls. A dad who read them fairy tales in front of the fire, took them backpacking, had snuggle fests, fed their souls, and danced with her on her birthday.
I was left without my biggest helper–the girl who wanted to do everything and of whom I was incredibly proud. She was a girl after my own heart and even looked so much like me. We were having such a good school year together spending every morning in prayer, hymns, and studying the Scriptures.
We were in the process of building a mini-farm. A peaceful place to be together as a family and share our blessings and gifts with others as well. She was so excited about it.
Everything seemed to be falling into place for us. It was a beautiful life.
Those early days of loss were excruciating. Painful beyond words. Raw. We were surrounded by so many who loved us and loved her. Stories emerged of the impact she had on so many. Doves were seen at her funeral procession, which seemed to stretch on for a mile. Little fortune cookie papers were stuffed into her First Communion banner with messages that my husband needed to hear at the very moment they were discovered. As we began to collect her things, we were amazed at what we found. Little love notes, a journal she began writing to her unborn baby brother, insights into her spirituality. She had a depth of love for Jesus far beyond her years.
The life that we knew came to an abrupt halt the day Evie died and we were propelled into a reality so painful that it threatened to swallow us whole.
But it hasn’t swallowed us. We are still living, breathing, functioning. We are making it through our days. Is it still painful? Yes, incredibly. Do we still have moments when our longing for her is so great that it takes our breath away? Absolutely. Many. But we also have moments of peace, consolation, and even hope for the future. And how can that be?
Because death is not the end of the story. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and He makes all things new.
This blog is an outlet for me to share the insights that the Holy Spirit gives me along this heart-wrenching journey. My prayer is that it can also be a source of comfort and strength for others–whether you are walking this path yourself or trying to support someone else.
The climb to Calvary eventually leads to the empty tomb, where every tear is wiped away. Someday we will hold her again and our hope will be fulfilled. Thank you for joining me on the journey.