On the morning marking two years, I walked into the kitchen; Russ was standing at the window looking out at the snow. He turned as I poured coffee.
“Do you remember what today is?”
“Yes,” he quietly answered.
“You know what I remember most about that day?”
“What?”he said, reaching out his hand to me.
“The love. We were surrounded by love. Hundreds of people came; they just kept coming. They showed up and held us up with their love. Their strength gave us strength. They carried us.”
He pulled me close against his chest and we stood in the quiet, tears running down my cheeks.
January 2nd was the two-year anniversary of the memorial service for Kalkidan. I lay awake in the night reflecting on it, thinking about how hard the day was. I honestly didn’t know how I would survive. My body was so broken and bruised, I couldn’t shower and dress myself, I couldn’t walk. My heart was devastated. My brain injured and in shock; I couldn’t think clearly.
Russ and I were crushed. Our children clinging to one another and to us. It was one of the worst days of our lives.
You would think I would remember it that way, but you know what? I don’t.
Yes, I remember my fears, the pain, the overwhelming sense that I couldn’t do it, the sense of disbelief that this was even happening. Surely this was not true. The accident couldn’t be real, our daughter couldn’t have died – this was a terrible dream.
If I let myself dwell on those thoughts too long, my stomach hurts, my chest aches, and I feel myself slipping downward into a very dark place.
The beautiful truth is that my strongest memory of the day is an overwhelming sense of love.
We gathered with our community in the most broken, vulnerable, painful moments, when we were most nakedly ourselves, and we felt loved.
We worshiped. We told our love story of Kalkidan, and declared that everything we had ever said about Jesus was true. He died for her, for us, and she was with Him in heaven completely healed and loved.
Our friends and family, some of you, from near and far, were the hands and feet of Jesus to us during the darkest, most painful days of our lives. Your love, His love, carried us. This is the sweetness of the fellowship of the saints.
You prayed for us, fed us, cleaned our house, sent us cards and gifts, cared for our children, drove me to appointments, donated, created art, wore orange in memory of our vibrant girl.
When time passed and we thought everyone had forgotten, leaving us alone with our grief, you still showed up, sending cards and flowers, wearing orange again on her second birthday gone, leaving flowers at the site of our accident, and most of all remembering – just remembering Kalkidan.
She was so alive – I can only imagine her in heaven.
Friends, when possible, even when you don’t know what to do, just go. Go to the funeral.
The receiving line was long, and every person so precious to me, every minute, every hug, every word. I remember. For those who couldn’t stay to greet us, we read each signature in the guest book, marveling at the people who cared enough to come that winter evening.
Russ and I chose these verses from Psalm 27 for our 27th anniversary and I have loved them ever since.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Friends and family showing up was such a powerful experience of the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. God strengthened our hearts through them, through you. He gave us courage. You gave us courage.
Dark days of grief pulling us under like pounding waves did come, and sometimes still do, but I look back on that hardest of days and remember it overflowing with love.