Letters to Our Daughter

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“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Jeremiah 1:5

My sweet Piper,
I miss you more than I can bear. I wish more than anything that I could hold you today, that I could whisper that I love you, that I could marvel at the way God knit you together. You left us too soon, sweet girl. And sometimes I don’t think I can take another breath without you here. But I know you are safe in the arms of Jesus, and He somehow loves you even more than I do.

I need you to know that I am so proud of you. You fought until you took your very last breath. Your lungs were so sick, but you fought so hard for your sister, for me, and for daddy. And you did it, baby girl! You defied the odds. You are my miracle baby that made it to 28 weeks when no one thought we could.

There are moments that I long for you to be back in my belly. I would give anything to hear your heart beat on the monitor every six hours, to feel your little movements, to stare at your precious body on the ultrasound screen. But I know you were struggling in there too. Struggling to grow and develop and survive. But you did–and then you gave us six days to study your face, to memorize the way your button nose curved and the way your toes spread out just like mine, to admire God’s work in forming you perfectly. I will never forget the way your cry sounded as you made your way into this world. I will never forget the way you opened your right eye, even when you felt so sick, as I touched you, cried out and begged God for your life. I will never forget the way your body felt in my arms as your breathing slowed. You changed me forever.

I don’t understand why or how or what happened. I replay the days over and over in my head. I feel angry, overwhelmingly sad, frustrated, utterly defeated. Why did it have to happen this way? I trust in the Lord and I KNOW He is good, but life doesn’t feel good right now. I don’t know if it will ever feel good because you aren’t here. So many people prayed for your heart and your lungs. People we don’t even know cried out and pleaded for your life. Why did God not answer our prayers? I know He was in the room when your heart stopped beating. I could feel His arms around us both. And I can feel Him now, giving me the strength to wake up and come back here every day to support and love your twin sister. She’s still fighting. Everyone says how feisty and strong she is, and I know it’s because of you. She’s fighting for you too.

Thank you, sweet girl. For teaching me how to pray the way I breathe–to inhale and have Him fill me with His presence and peace. To exhale and give everything to God, including my feelings. Sorrow, doubt, disappointment, anger, pain, heartbreak. I would do ANYTHING to have you back, but in my heart I know you won, my precious girl. You are home. And oh how I long for Heaven.

I would do anything to have more time with you. To know what made you laugh, what foods you liked and didn’t like, how much trouble you and Avery would get into. To love you more every day and watch you grow into a woman of God. I don’t get that time, but I believe with all my heart that you accomplished more for the Kingdom of God through your fight, 7 months in my belly and 6 days in this world, than many do in their lifetime.

Thank you for the privilege of being your mommy. I will miss you and love you forever.

Love you always,
Mommy

Piper Grace,
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Your life was going to be a testament of His goodness, His miraculous work. You had beaten the odds; you fought so hard. You were perfect. So, so perfect. I’m so sorry I couldn’t protect you. The helplessness I felt as I watched death pluck away your most innocent, pure life will never leave me. I will carry you with me forever. I will always love you.

Life is forever altered. The foundation of everything I have ever believed is violently shaking. Yet the world spins on as it did the day before you left us. The world will never be the same to me. It’s as if a woolen blanket lays over me, and all intake of reality now filtered through thick, blurry scratchiness. Touch, taste, smell, all muted and blunt. A distortion so profuse that it feels like operating in some alternate state. In step with the rest of the world, but floating through the day without purpose or a sense of time. The thing is, I have always loved life. I wanted to devour every second and savor the taste of each day. But now life is a bland meal, overcooked and unseasoned. Every day another bite that I chew and chew in an attempt to force it down my throat.

Will this end? Will the color come back? Or will this insipidness last until I join you? Does this blanket ever get pulled off, does the flavor return? I cannot fathom anything ever being the same. Not just because of how much you changed me. What you meant to me. How badly it hurt watching you die. But also, because you were my first touch of reality. My introduction to the human life for what it is. A pallid, broken, pain-filled struggle, where every life launches from the womb into a rapid race toward the grave.

I have been sheltered and shielded for so long against any real suffering I began to see it as some abstract event that only happened to others. Christianisms like “cast your anxiety on the Lord” and “peace that surpasses all understanding” were easy to believe. Those were for other people. Or for work stress, financial problems; comforting sayings to throw at other people suffering and to make myself feel better when banal troubles sprouted through life.

But what about when anxiety hits me in my chest like a goddam sledgehammer?? When bile builds in the back of my throat, and it takes a determined focus to breathe? What about when I sit next to your twin sister consumed by such paralytic fear and helplessness that I can barely take my eyes off her vitals’ monitor without panicking? I still plead with the Lord for her… but I cast my anxieties upon the Lord as I watched doctors pound on your tiny chest in search of some infinitesimal sign of life. I prayed countless hours for you. I begged on my knees while your Mommy held you as you slipped away from us. And you still slipped away. Your tiny body growing cold in our arms.

What Peace? What understanding? What was the point of all the prayers? What was the point of this fight we have been fighting for months? Will the prayers help Avery? Will they somehow protect her when they couldn’t save you? Is the God I have always believed in, the all-knowing, loving, graceful God, what I’ve always believed Him to be?

I ask these questions as I blindly wade through the flood of emotions. Feeling my way through the debris of the shattered house of cards I once referred to as “my faith.” I did not know God like I thought I did. Have I fabricated a belief out of my imagination, and built some idol of a god I could handle? A god I’d rather have? One that I could fold up and put in my pocket, only accessed at times of convenience… Does God exist at all? And if so, is He truly good and loving as I have always been taught?

But you know what is the strangest thing, my sweet Piper? As I ask these questions there is one thing your tragic death has made resoundingly clear; that He does exist, He is very real, and He loves with such unadulterated passion that we will never even begin to fathom its deepness. You must understand, I BELIEVED this before, but KNOW this now. Amid my swirling questions, this one massive cornerstone now lays solid as the bedrock of my crumbled faith.

How do I know this with absolute confidence? Because as I knelt on the linoleum floor next to you as your tiny heart faded, I would have done absolutely anything to take your place. It was an incomprehensible feeling of love so strong that it made a sacrifice seem almost possible. If I could just reach into the chasm and pull you back only by throwing myself downward, without hesitation, I would have done so.

I barely knew you, but you meant more to me than my life ever will. If anyone ever asked me before, I would have always said I’d die for my kids; it’s the right answer. But in the moments watching you pass it was the first time I FELT it, begged for it, knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that I would; overwhelmed with a feeling that I was failing by not taking your place.

Apart from God, how else could such love be possible? I know my selfish, self-centered, sinful self. I am aware enough of my depravity to realize that the pure sacrificial love I FELT, feel, for you is ONLY a dull reflection of what our Maker feels for each one of us. There is no way that I, a human, an instinctual animal, could muster such extrinsic, irrational, and sacrificial love. And because the deep, deep pain I feel is just a dull reflection of the pain our great Father felt as he watched his Son suffer and die a brutal death on the cross. He willingly accepted that pain, wholly preventable, out of nothing but his eternal love for each of us. He loves us so much more than I love you. And that seems impossible to me.

So, Piper, because you fought I too will fight. I will build upon this bedrock you left behind and attempt to truly know the Jesus who reached into the chasm for us and pulled us out of eternal death. I will seek out the Father who willingly accepted this deep pain of total separation from his beloved so that we might have life and know His love. I will strive to honor your life with the remainder of mine. I will allow your spirit to burn within me in hopes that your tiny life will change the world. With the hope that countless souls will know the incomprehensible love of our Father because of you. Maybe it was supposed to be this way after all. Your life will be a testament of His goodness and miraculous work, just in the lives of so many others rather than your own. Is there anything else worth living for? Piper my love, you did more in your six days on earth than I have done in 31 years.

I’m sorry I failed you. I’m sorry it took your death to lay me bare. But I hope in heaven, in being with you again. I have no idea if there will be some cosmic reunion, or if I will get to hold you there (I desperately hope I do); but I have not the slightest clue of what Heaven will be. I do know this; there will be more people in Heaven because you lived. And in that perfect realm, whether our souls find each other or not, we will be connected more intimately than could have ever been possible here on earth. And we will share in the Glory of the Lord together, forever.

I love you, I love you, I love you.
Daddy

 

 

9 thoughts on “Letters to Our Daughter

  1. My heart breaks for you and your family and I am amazed at the faith you continue to show even through the darkest times. I pray that you continue to feel God’s love. Praying for strength and peace for you and your beautiful family.

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  2. Dear Daniel & Lisa,
    There are no words!! But the love I have for the Most High, the obedience I have for His commandments, the joy I have for His creation are more intense and fresh hearing your words today. I continue to pray for Avery and rejoice in the fact that God is glorified even in the darkest of places.
    Blessings & Peace to ALL!

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  3. May God bless you and your family as your hearts are broken into a million pieces. I lost our first baby, Scarlett, February 13, 2016 at 9 days old. It is so incredibly painful. I sit here today almost a year later and can not say that it gets easier. I still long to hold her in my arms, feel her move inside of me, and dream of who she would have become. But Gods grace is incredible and we have been blessed in so many ways this year. Please look into the organization Molly Bears. I just received mine over Christmas and it has helped with the grieving process. Peace be with you and your family.

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  4. Lisa & Daniel – Your Community Bible Study family continues to pray for Avery Rose’s complete healing every single day, multiple times a day. Praying God provides your family with much needed strength and stamina as He fills your hearts with peace, love and comfort that only He can provide during the days ahead.

    If there is anything we can do in Midland while you’re away, PLEASE allow us to help your precious family! We love and miss you each week.

    Blessings & Prayers ❤🙏🏻
    Midland Ladies Day Leadership

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  5. Brittany Strebeck, my niece, shared your story with me. My heart breaks for you in losing this precious girl. Yet, as you struggle with your pain God is so very much at work here. I recently experienced a very difficult loss in life and for the first time understood “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”. There is a beauty in the complete reliance on God to carry you through to a higher place where you will be forever changed. You are on my heart and in my prayers.

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  6. This was beautiful…both of you wrote words that totally resonated with me and brought me back to those moments when I watched my son take his last breath and watched life fade from his body. The questions you ask are the same, the feeling you felt are the same, the way you watch the world go on while you are stuck in this abyss that seems never-ending…all the same.

    The LORD is faithful. I’m so relieved that you are continuing to lean deeply into Him. The fog will lift, but you and your world will never be the same. You will forever look at this place differently and long for Heaven more each day. Relationships will take on new meaning and some will fade away. Take hold of each other tightly and ask Him for the strength EACH DAY. He has been faithful to provide that for me and I know He will for you as well.

    Prayers are being lifted up for each of you.

    In Him,
    Megan

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  7. I’ve been praying ever since I heard your story of complications during the pregnancy. I’ve never met you and your family, but through Craig I was able to send prayer to you through God. I will continue to pray for strength and good heath for Avery and comfort for all of you with the loss of Piper. My heart is heavy as I read your stories, yet inspired by your great faith. Love to you all. ❤

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  8. I’m so very sorry for your loss, yall! We prayed so many prayers for miracles and waited expectantly. I can’t imagine the grief that you feel. And I wish that there were words to take away the pain. But know that we are praying for you often, and we will do anything to help you on this journey.

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