Some of you may remember a post about a year ago, in which my friend Andrea Flanagan Edmunds wrote about losing her eighteen year old special needs daughter, Presley. Today, after a year of grieving in addition to living through a pandemic as a mom and teacher, she is back to share about her journey. She exudes the strength and joy of the Lord and I am confident her post today will be helpful to anyone dealing with a similar tragedy. Welcome back to One Ringing Bell, Andrea, with much love.
One hour. That’s how long doctors gave my daughter to live at birth. My family and friends hoped and trusted that God had a plan for Presley despite her tragic circumstances. I clung to her life verse, Jeremiah 29:11, a promise of “hope and a future.” Presley went on to live for a precious seventeen years, seven months, and nineteen days. A total of around 154,584 hours.
On top of Presley’s passing a year ago, we have experienced covid, which has been a barrier between my family and the up-close love, hugs, and support that one in mourning usually receives. My family faced many difficulties this year, but God keeps His promises. My hope in Christ continues to carry me.
Meriam-Webster defines hope in one way as “to cherish a desire with anticipation” and in another “to expect with confidence: TRUST.” I trusted during the darkest periods of my life, and though there have been many challenges, God has not disappointed me. I have found his word true in Romans 5:3-5: “...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
Hope does not disappoint!
I know that I am not alone in my grief. This past year so many have experienced loss of some sort, and like me, have shed many tears. Maybe you, too, have lost a child or someone close. Maybe it’s been a financial loss. Friends, have hope in the Lord.
My personal takeaways from reflecting on this one-year anniversary of sorrow and loss may help you at this time. They are:
1) The God of hope is with me. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18 NIV). Prayers and love washed over me, helping to mend my crushed spirit this past year. God uses people around you, His word, and His presence to save you.
2) Hope allows rest. Grief without hope weighs heavy on our heart and soul; it can weaken your spirit. Matthew 11:28-30 promises gentle “rest for your souls” if we only come to Him, for His burden is light.
3) Hope in the Lord never disappoints. We can face tomorrow without fear, but with fresh mercy! Romans 5:5 says “Now hope does not disappoint...” And in Lamentations 3:22-23, His “compassions never fail. They are new every morning.”
4) Hope brings joy and peace. Knowing Presley is in heaven gives me peace. Romans 15:13 reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
5) Hope carries me. It is not in my own strength that I live. If it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy poured out to me, I would not have been able to exist after my daughter died. “...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31).
I have hope He will also do this for you.
Since April 22, 2020, I have been grieving Presley’s absence. When I worked in Brazil teaching English as a second language, I found the Brazilians have a phrase that encompasses what I feel. In Portuguese it is “Tenho saudades.” The translation is “I miss [her].” The meaning is so much more. I read an article by Celinne da Costa that described what my heart was feeling. She writes “I believe that the magic of this word lies in its bitter sweetness. How good it is to love someone or something so much that you could feel a part of your heart missing when they’re gone.” My grief is bittersweet.
The bitter: Presley passed away from this earth. She’s not here for me to care and love on her. My heart is broken. The sweet: Presley is in heaven without pain or sorrow, fully whole and able. My pastor, Jerry Varnado at her celebration of life, summed up this bittersweet. He said, “On earth, Presley was a little girl with special needs. Now in heaven, she is just a special little girl.”
I love how The Message writes Psalm 30:5. “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.”
The trust I have in who God is and in His promises gives me joy and hope. God’s hope carries me through as the days of crying my eyes out surely will give way to days of laughter.
Andrea Flanagan Edmunds is a mother of three and teaches fourth grade. She enjoys reading with a pup by her side and going for treks in the woods.