The day finally broke and I knew it would be one of the hardest ones I had to face. This would be the day we would put our Maddie Grace to rest.
In my heart and mind I knew she had been with Jesus ever since that Saturday morning when she left my arms. This was a comfort that I continually cling to because of my faith in God and His Word.
This was just going through the motions, what is supposed to come next in this grieving process.
This was her memorial. The day that we would remember our girl.
As I tried to focus on the day ahead I was distracted. We were in the middle of a snow storm and I could hear a bird chirping outside my window. I thought I might have dreamed it but I hadn't slept so this couldn't be. God had let me hear that bird singing to help me that day. And it did. Wow, God is good.
I spent the day in prayer. I was praying for strength. Praying for grace. Praying for my family and my boys. I was praying for what I would say at the funeral. How do I put into words the greatest loss of my existence? I was unsure, confused and completely broken.
I remember sitting at my computer desk and trying to write some things down. The boys were laughing and giggling in the house and being very noisy. I kept getting distracted with their happiness, but I knew they didn't understand what I was going through; that the other part of my heart and their sister was no longer with me. It was tough.
I wrote out an outline for what I thought I would say that night praying that God would help me through it. Before I knew it, it was time to get ready.
I remember washing my hair and just bawling. I kept thinking how I would never wash hers, never put it in pigtails. I would never french braid it. How could this be? It was something I had dreamed of for so long...
I continued getting ready and I cried and cried. I think I put my makeup on 3 times before we even walked out the door. I wasn't ready for this. I just wasn't strong enough.
I wore a black maternity dress. I couldn't fit into any of my clothes yet. It hadn't even been 5 days since her birth. I put on my pink earrings and my locket. I wore the same pink headband in my hair that I wore the day I had her. I wanted to honor her. =) Then I took her pink headband and put it around my wrist. You see, I never found a bracelet and I thought that her headband would be the perfect thing to keep with me that day.
I gathered up some pictures, her blankets, and her diaper bag. I just wanted to have some of her "things" there. I brought the little bird from her nursery and an angel that my cousin had given me.
When I walked into my Church, I saw all the beautiful flowers. It smelled so good. I saw the offering table up front that was covered in a white runner. That's where it will go. The casket. It wasn't there yet, and to be honest, I was never ready to see it arrive.
I placed Madeline's "things" all around the Church among the flowers. I got out her baby book(barely written in) and her footprints. I laid out her newborn outfit and hat along with her blanket. It was hard. I kept messing with everything and moving it. I wanted it to be just right.
People started coming in and I remember speaking to a few of them. I began talking to my wonderful photographer. The one who had taken my beautiful maternity pictures. =) She's the best. She was going to take some pictures for me that night. As I spoke with her I remember seeing the casket being brought in. It only took one person. It was so tiny.
I had to excuse myself for the worry that I might pass out. I was a mess.
I know that Sweet Madeline was not in that box. I knew that. I knew that she was in the arms of Jesus in Heaven. I just couldn't stand the thought that her sweet little body was there. The cheeks I kissed over and over. The hair I brushed. I hated it. I asked God to put good thoughts in my head of my sweet girl and he did.
Just before the service as Rick and I were waiting in his Dad's office, I was completely surprised. I hadn't looked out to see who was there. If the building was empty or full. I didn't know. I didn't care. A huge snow storm had come in and I honestly didn't know if anyone would be there.
Boy, was I wrong.
My Mom had come to tell me some out of town friends arrived and they wanted to see me. As the door swung open I was in shock! I was completely surprised at who was coming through the door and the number of people being the door. The building was completely full. And some of my best friends had just arrived to be there for my husband and I.
My sweet friend Lois gave me a locket that had a picture of my girl inside and the words, "I will always be in your heart, Maddie Grace" inside. Bethany had given me money to buy a tree to plant in her honor. So precious. I hugged them and cried on them. Then some more great friends walked in. I was astonished. I couldn't believe they came so far. Just for us.
My sweet friend Kelsey had made it in. I can't tell you what a relief this was to me. She had been in contact with me since it happened and I knew how much she wanted to be there. She was. She came. I grabbed her so tight and we held each other. You see, Kelsey has a similar story. She lost her sweet little girl, Belle, about 7 years ago.
Kelsey knew my pain. She got it. I could feel both of our hearts breaking all over again as we held each other. For it wasn't that long ago that we were at her precious daughter's funeral. It didn't seem real or right to be going through this again...
Her sweet husband, Tim, asked if he could pray before the service. And hand in hand Rick and I and some of our very best of friends prayed. It was precious.
A few moments later, it was time. Everyone was waiting for us to begin the service. When Rick and I walked through that door I felt like everyone was staring at us. And they were.
We took our seats and the service began. My sweet Father in Law and Preacher led us in prayer and the service began. At first I was a little distracted. Both my boys were in the auditorium and I really didn't want either in there. I was later informed that they wouldn't stay out and begged to be there. I was worried for them.
I don't remember everything about the funeral. I was so full of grief. I remember holding onto Rick and just crying.
Rick spoke before me. He had written the most beautiful words to our little girl. He talked about the song he sang to her. He talked about her. He was weeping and I remember wanting to run up there to him and say this is all a mistake. We haven't lost her. This isn't real.
Next he had a beautiful song played for her. "I will find you again." Everyone was crying.
Then my Mom and Dad got up. Broken hearted, they stood up for their girl. My mom read a beautiful poem and I wept. They wept.
Then Kelsey got up to read her sweet poem for Maddie Grace. I pictured myself back at Belle's funeral. I pictured both of our girls. Oh how they were missed.
Then I played the song "I will carry you" by Selah. A song that spoke volumes. A song written by a grieving Mommy and Daddy for the loss of their precious girl, Audrey Caroline.
I don't think there was a dry eye in the building.
And then, it was my turn.
I stood up and walked up to the pulpit.
I was weak.
I was physically and mentally sore, completely exhausted. But I stood, For Maddie. For the Lord.
The moment I lifted my head and looked around, I was amazed. I scanned the tremendous crowd and I saw faces from every walk of my life. My childhood, my youth, and my young adulthood. Family, friends and Church members. I was in awe. I could see that every seat was filled and people were standing everywhere.
I was in awe.
I thought, I am loved. She was loved. Wow.
I had jotted down an outline of what I wanted to say... I guess that's the teacher in me. =) You always have to be prepared.
I stood there and this is what I said...
I just want to take a moment to talk about my little girl. My sweet Maddie Grace. I won't have the opportunity to talk about her at graduations or her wedding. You see I won't have the opportunity to experience any of those moments. Although the 2 days of moments I did experience I want to share. I want to talk to you about my girl.
I went on to tell them about Madeline's Beauty.
Her gorgeous eyes and chubby cheeks. Her cute dimpled butt chin(inherited from Mommy and Noah =) and her gorgeous hair. I told them how I loved feeling it under my chin and on my cheek. I talked about her eyes and how alert she was. How she never took her eyes off of her Daddy and how I knew why. <3 I talked about her loud cry and how she would've for sure been a Cheerleader. I just talked about her. Her Beauty.
Then I wanted to talk about her life.
Her short, less than 2 day, tiny, precious, perfect life.
I talked all about my pregnancy and how I loved every moment of it. I talked about how I knew her by her kicks and hiccups. I talked about how the day I found out I was pregnant, I gave this baby to God. She truly always was His.
Then I talked out the birds. The statue, the earrings. Just the birds.
I told them about the text I received from Kelsey the day before about the little red robin that came onto her porch in the middle of the snow storm. How Kelsey told me that it was a peace that our girls were both happy and playing up in Heaven together. I talked about the bird chirping that morning. Maddie was my little bird. I thought the signs meant she would be a singer one day. I wish I could hear her now. Maddie's wings took her back into the arms of Jesus. I'm so thankful for that.
Then, in closing, I talked about Her Grace.
I told them why we named our children the way we did.
Sweet Noah's name means comfort, and God's promises.
My Elijah's name means God is my God.
And Maddie, well I guess you know by now meant God's gift.
My sweet Gift of Grace. She lived up to that name in every way imaginable. She still does. Oh I love her name.
As I said all of these things I had tears in my eyes and a crack in my voice. It was the words I said next that I really want you to hear.
I said "But how can I stand up here and tell you all about my precious gift of a daughter, and not tell you about the one and only perfect gift, God's precious Son."
I didn't even realize what I had said until later that evening. God gave me those words. He even shocked me...
I then went on and talked of the gift of Salvation and the only way to receive it and go to Heaven was through God's perfect son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16
I told them that I had the peace of Salvation settled in my life and I knew without a doubt I would see Madeline Grace again.
I then reminded them I would never forget sweet Maddie Grace for her memory would be carried out in our lives always...
I am making this my life's goal. To speak of Madeline and the Grace of God. It's all I can do.
After I spoke my amazing Pastor got up and preached such an amazing message about the Lord. I remember him saying at one point "The God that was good on Thursday was still good on Saturday!" He gave such a strong message from the Word of God all while mourning the loss of his precious granddaughter. I'm truly honored to have him as a Pastor. What a man of God. He was right though, The God of Thursday was just as good as the God of Saturday.
So true, to God be the Glory. Amen.