My Sunshine

“…to comfort all who mourn, 
and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.” ~ Isaiah 61:3

Even in these darkest of days, we have had rays of light. We’ve experienced moments of beauty and hope. We have seen joy and comfort as we’ve walked through this long tunnel we found ourselves journeying through beginning just a couple of weeks ago.

There have been many things that have struck me in these last few days, that of course I never entertained the thought of before. I’m living moment to moment, and have realized that this is not a loss that will follow me simply from one moment to the next, but I will carry the heartache of losing Harlynn for the rest of my life – however many years that turns out to be. Years. When Haley graduates high school, goes to college, gets married….Harlynn won’t be there. This is an enduring loss. I cannot wrap my mind around it.

It’s been said (to us) that it will get “better” with time. I’ve decided I hate hearing that. I believe there will be days it won’t be as hard as others. Days where I’ll be able to revel in the sunshine. Days that it will be easier to smile and where praise will roll off my tongue rather than sputter. I do not believe it will ever be “better” not to have Harlynn with us. I don’t believe it will ever be “better” knowing her big sister Haley doesn’t get to share in sisterly bonds and giggles. There will be days that are better than others, no doubt, but I cannot accept that this will ever be “better”.

Yet in the depths of our grief and the intensity of our heartache, we have seen and experienced bright spots. We’ve shared laughter. We’ve shared gratitude. We’ve shared love.  I hope over time, I have the memory, energy, and chance to share all the unique stories of the special “earth angels” God has placed in our lives to help us through this. Most of them are too humble to realize how special they indeed are. Today, I want to share the story of Michelle with you. (And I hope she’s okay with that…)

Michelle is the friend of a friend of a friend. True story. This is how the 6-degrees-of-separation finds real life application. She was connected with my friend, who asked her to take pictures of Harlynn for us. Harlynn had her pictures taken and was already at the funeral home by that time, but my heart had been burdened by who would take pictures at the funeral. Being as though our time with Harlynn was too short, I wanted every available opportunity to forever capture the two days – two short days – we would honor her before her burial.  Michelle agreed without hesitation to take care of photography for us. She may never understand the impact she had on my entire family simply for being available.

I can’t speak enough good of Michelle. Upon meeting her, I just knew she was as genuine as a person could be. Even in such an emotional setting, I could tell along with being compassionate and gentle, she was a fun-loving. She’s the kind of person when you meet them you think, “I want to have coffee with her. At least every other Saturday.”  She took amazing pictures of the visitation and the funeral, some of which I’ll try to post here in a minute. I told Brent she was a photographing ninja – we had no idea she was anywhere, and when you look at the pictures she seemed to be absolutely everywhere. Ninja.

The reason it was so important to have pictures taken didn’t really make sense to me until I saw them. I knew I wanted memories captured on film, yes, but when I saw the pictures Michelle took, I realized why.  These were more than just snapshots. These were moments frozen in time. I look at them and I can see and know and experience exactly what I was feeling, what I was thinking, what was happening in that one moment. When you have to say goodbye to your precious child, having time stand still means more than you can imagine. As painful as the days were for us, and as hard an event it was (and still is) for our little family, having these frozen moments is such a blessing. I wish I could explain the conundrum of having such a painful event captured on film and finding myself thinking, “this one is one of my favorites” but you have to believe in the existence of a balance between the two extremes. Just look…and see if you can see what I mean.

Even when I don’t know what to say (now, for instance) I hope you’re able to see what I mean. These pictures are a treasure, and ones we wouldn’t have were it not for Michelle. She preserved the un-preservable for us. She is a gem of a human being. She has walked this road with us in a most powerful and irreplaceable way. She was the one who was meant to take pictures for us, I have no doubt. She was the friend of a friend of a friend. Now, she is simply a friend. I love her not only for what she did for our family, but for who she is as a person, and I have told her as much. I only hope she realizes it’s true.

I don’t have an awesome camera, I only have a decrepit android phone with a finger-smudged camera lens, but I’ll be sharing a couple of snapshots from today. Today has been another ray of light for our family. Firstly, the sun shone. Most of you are thinking, “Of course it did, it’s April 20th…” Here in the North Pole, though, we’re having the longest winter of anyone’s life. There is still snow on the ground. There is still snow in the forecast for the coming week. We all want to shoot Punxsutawney Phil. The sun shone very brightly today and we – I – needed it’s light.

Haley and I had a mother/daughter breakfast date this morning. I took her to Perkins where we shared some scrambled eggs, she enjoyed her pancakes, and I had some tasty french toast. I was told to got to have a conversation with her fork, who happened to be wearing a pancake hat. He told me, in his deep fork voice, that he was feeding Haley and wanted to poke my lips. I declined his gesture. Haley made me laugh. Real belly laughs. She has always been a gem, of course, but I so needed her sweet, innocent spirit to spend some one-on-one time with me today. After breakfast, we went home and she immediately put on her new bathing suit. And cowgirl boots. Her daddy and I love her so much. We thank God for her. She has been a ray of light every day, and today especially.

When I was pregnant with Haley, I always sang “You Are My Sunshine”, and that is still my song for her today. Dear, sweet Haley:

You are my sunshine ~ my only sunshine
You make me happy ~ when skies are gray
You’ll never know, dear ~ how much I love you
So please don’t take my sunshine away.

This road is a long one. It hasn’t been easy, and it won’t be. There will never be anything that can be done to repair the wounds of Brent’s and my and Haley’s hearts as we try to figure out what life without Harlynn looks like, when we so looked forward to life with her. But praise be to God who has given us these treasures – these people – these moments – filled with His light, and shining glimmers of hope into our aching souls. He will comfort us, He will carry us, and He will bring us in to His light every time we choose to see it.

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One Reply to “My Sunshine”

  1. You have one sassy daughter! I hope you pull that picture out years from now at her graduation just to embarrass her a little bit!

    I think I understand about your favorite pictures too – they capture the moments so perfectly, even though they are moments of pain, they are not moments to forget. The pain you feel for losing Harlynn will never go away completely because she is so precious to you. Though it may not feel as raw as it does, it will still be there, as it should be, because she is important, she is special, she is loved and always will be.

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