And it still makes me fall to my knees when I remember the sight of my dad on the floor of the airport on the phone with his brother, when he got the call telling us to prepare for what was coming.
And then that final call. Not enough time and yet the longest nine months, the exhale, the fallen shoulders, the no words, there will never be the right words. Anna went home to Jesus.
Now it's four years after that first call and it's still as raw and unreal. Sometimes I forget she's not here, because she should be! And like a sucker punch I know that my aunt and uncle wake up every morning and have to swallow that truth and face another day, month, year, without their only child.
Our family changed forever. My aunt and uncle are not the same people they were before. They do not look the same, holidays do not look the same, family get-togethers do not look the same. If you were looking in from the outside you might not see it. But even if we learn how to wear our grief underneath each hug and smile exchanged and milestone passed together, there is always, and forever will be, a cousin, daughter, granddaughter, niece, missing.
This year it seems like bad news just keeps piling up, one heartbreaking story after the next, reminding us this world is not our home. I have a friend whose 4 year old nephew, named Justus, is terribly sick. And it's amazing how fast and furiously their family was surrounded by a shield of believers. Family and friends and strangers are storming heaven with their prayers and pleas. Just like with Anna.
I believe in miracles and a compassionate God in control of it all. We still have this sure hope that God will heal Justus, one way or another, and He will use this mess for His glory. He could wake up tomorrow a completely healthy normal 4 year old boy. But it's hard not to look for answers that just aren't here to find. The desperate whys, aren't for me to know yet. Why wasn't Anna healed on Earth? Why did our many, many, many prayers seem to go unanswered? God, this is your chance, I selfishly thought, to show off your power, everyone's watching. And the doubts creep in because the miracle I was sure was just around the corner didn't come... or did it?
In one of the Justus' family's updates they said "the moon is always round" and I love that! It means that even when all we see is a sliver of the moon, it is still always whole and round. Even when all I see a sliver of goodness, just a tiny portion of a plan, God is always Good, He is always faithful, He is always in control. He never fails. So my faith will never fail, and my hope is never too big, and my prayers are never too bold.
The hard circumstances can be just that, really stinking hard. Or they can reveal the magnitude of God's love for us. I have seen the pain of a parent who has watched their child suffer and I know that, if they could, they would trade places with them in an instant. It's a heartache I don't wish on my worst enemy. And yet God sent his Son, his only child, to be a sacrifice for us. He handed over his son to save the worst of us. Would I hand over my child, or anyone I love to suffer for strangers?
Yet, while we beg God to let us keep our lives, to heal the sick, to spare the weak, He says, "I already have!" (John 16:33)
God defeated death when He raised his son Jesus from the grave. Anna lives, eternally healed in heaven. And Justus, is known and loved by the Maker of it all. The war is won, there is no more fear in death, or in life, with all it's unknowns and unanswerable questions. So of course, we are changed, for good, forever.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.