Held By Love

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.

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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 JesusĀ 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, Ā donated, created art, wore orange in memory of our vibrant girl.

When time passed and we thought everyone had forgotten,Ā 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.

Lisa

Mom, Dad, Kalkidan

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRIĀ® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

12 Comments

  1. AmyE
    January 12, 2017

    So beautifully said. ā¤

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 12, 2017

      Thank you, Amy.

      Reply
  2. Mary
    January 12, 2017

    Love you..

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 12, 2017

      Love you, too, Mary – and thank you so much for traveling to be with us.

      Reply
  3. Luann
    January 12, 2017

    I can’t believe it’s been two years. I remember that I was in the drive thru of Starbucks when I checked my phone and saw the devastating news. I sat in that parking lot for a long time before I was able to drive home. I can’t imagine how you’ve handled the past two years with such grace. Only God.
    Sending love to you and your family.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 12, 2017

      Luann, this may sound odd, but it helps to hear stories of friends hearing the news. I lived the news and it was so devastating and confusing, my brain still tries to make sense of it, so when I hear stories from other people, it adds a piece to my puzzle. Stories also tell me we were not alone; all around the world, friends, and even friends of friends, experienced our tragedy with us. Thank you for sharing with me.

      Reply
  4. Emily and Ben
    January 12, 2017

    We were privileged to be with you all on that day. We remember it and her and you every day. Love you.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 12, 2017

      We’re so glad you could be with us. We love you.

      Reply
  5. Laura
    January 13, 2017

    What I remember most was walking in as a family—the Qualls’ and Andrews extended families— and it was quiet. I had no idea how many people were at the memorial service to honor Kalkidan. And then people began to sing and I realized there were many people there and I looked around and realized there were literally hundreds of people who loved and were supporting your family through this difficult time. They were there present on a cold night to show you they loved and cared about you. It was beautiful.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 16, 2017

      It was so powerful. I’m glad you share those memories with me.

      Reply
  6. Marilyn
    January 19, 2017

    I went. I went to the funeral on Monday after pondering long how to make it work for our family situation. The parents and 2 teenagers in one family were killed last week in WV. I didn’t personally know the family but my teenagers knew some of their teenagers from Bible School. And the pastor’s wife is my dear friend. So I went for the ones walking the journey with the 6 remaining children–4 still at home–the one driving was critically injured with almost every bone broken, just starting to be conscious. Our family had a big weekend out of town planned and I wanted to go to the funeral so bad. But knew I couldn’t take my child from hard places to that funeral. So in the end my husband said I should go with my big girls and he would drive the 4 younger children home. It was a huge funeral, with about 800 there but I will remember how sincerely glad my friend was when she saw me.
    It was the Coleman family–remaining children are Timmy 15, Emily 18, Mike 20, Patrick 22 in hospital, and 2 girls living in OH Julia and Suzanne. Please pray for them.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      January 19, 2017

      Oh Marilyn, I’m so glad you went, and thank you for sharing their story with us. I’m so very sorry for the tremendous loss that family is facing – so much sorrow. I am praying for them right this moment.

      Reply

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