A few weeks ago I was listening to one of the songs we sang at Anna's funeral. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to sing that song on the anniversary of her death. So I emailed the music director and explained our situation and asked if she could lead everyone in singing 'We Will Dance'. I also mentioned that I would be willing to say a few words if she wanted me to. Well, that sounded like a good idea at the time, but it caused quite a bit of additional stress this month as I thought about what to say. It turned out to be a good way for me to honor Anna's memory--even if I ended choking up and crying in front of everyone. Hopefully people could understand what I was saying! It was important for me to tell our new church family what had happened to us and then point them to the hope that we have. Here's part of what I said...
3 years ago today our family walked through the valley of the shadow of death when our 5 year old daughter died of cancer. It didn’t make any sense to us. Why would God create a child to live 5 years. . .or another to live 5 minutes? Why would he create me or you to live 60, 70, or 80 years? The answer is, He didn’t. He created us for eternity.
3 years ago today I asked God how I was supposed to go on living because the pain was so great, it felt like I couldn’t. His answer came quickly. He said, “Do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” I couldn’t see my daughter, so I knew she was now eternal and that everything I could see was temporary—including my pain.
We are not made for this world. We are told over and over again in scripture that we are to live as strangers and aliens here. Maybe you had a lot to be thankful for this week. Maybe you didn’t. Whatever your situation is right now—good or bad, it is only temporary. We were made for more than this life.
After church there was a bag of gifts sitting on our car. The card said, "Salamy Family-- Please accept these gifts from those who have been inspired by you." We each had something to open at lunch. We could tell that they were from someone who knew us. Mine included a butterfly ornament and a journal. Will could not understand why someone would give us something anonymously. I tried to explain how much fun it is to give in secret. He said, "But how can you thank them if you don't know who it is?" I told him I would tell other people what had happened and write about it on my blog and hopefully whoever did it would hear how much we loved our surprise gifts.
Richard and I ended the day by watching the video of Anna's Celebration Service. It was the first time he had seen it and I had only seen it once. There were a lot of tears, but it was good for us to do. There are still certain things we avoid because we know they will cause pain, but when we do face them, it brings a little more healing.
We did another thing for the first time this weekend. We had our family portrait made. Three years ago as we were leaving the cemetery, my friend Shelley took the first picture of our "new" family. It made me sick to my stomach. I didn't want any pictures of our broken family. I didn't want any pictures without Anna. If you look around my house, you will see that all of the pictures are old. It has taken me three years to be able to accept the new look of our family. When we went to the studio Friday there was a lot of laughter... and a little bit of healing.