One Year On

One Year On

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I haven’t blogged in 10 days – probably the longest time I’ve gone without blogging in a year.

I think it’s because I don’t know how I’m feeling, now that the first anniversary of Leah’s death has been and gone.

Now that it has been one full year since I have hugged and kissed my second born, much loved child, am I actually supposed to feel a little less sad?

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Taken before the Rend Collective Concert June 2013

One year on, is my heart supposed to feel a little less broken?

Or am I supposed to have developed coping skills that enable me to bear the pain of loss without, for example, bursting into tears at the sight of Leah’s favourite foods on promotion in the supermarket?

Despite the fact that Leah has been gone for a year now, sometimes I open the drawer laden with post transplant medication in her bedroom, gaze at the contents and wonder: “Did all of this really happen?”

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Yet, at other times I feel strong. A friend whose husband had taken his own life when their children were small, used to tell me “When the worst thing that can ever happen to you has already happened, there’s nothing left to fear.”

Now I understand what she meant.

Although I’m often sad, I have a lot less fear than I once had.

If God can give me the strength to get through this, well then what is there left to fear?

This is the "Kneeling Plate" on Leah's grave with one of her favourite Bible verses.
This is the “Kneeling Plate” on Leah’s grave with one of her favourite Bible verses.

We have also been so blessed with the support of family and friends along the way.

On Friday 16th January, the actual anniversary of Leah’s death, despite ice, snow and ungritted roads, we had 24 young people (mainly Leah’s school friends) at our house, to remember Leah with us.

We laughed, cried, chatted, sang some of Leah’s favourite worship songs, watched her “I Am Second” video, looked through her memory books, ate yummy food and played party games.

This was the third Friday in January, on previous years some of these girls used to come to our house on the third Friday in January for Leah’s birthday sleepover.

As the chatter of these young people filled our house, I thought about how fitting it was to remember our spiritual, fun loving, outgoing daughter in this way.

Then on Saturday 17th, my sister, her husband and three of her four adult children came to stay. It felt good to be surrounded by the love of family.

On Sunday 18th, we got together with my husband’s entire extended family for church, and lunch afterwards in my sister-in-law/brother-in-law’s house. Leah always loved these big family get togethers and so do I.

On Monday and Tuesday of this past week, my husband and I attended a Bereavement Programme, provided by Action Cancer.

We are certainly well supported by our friends, family, church and community.

For that we are really thankful, it all helps.

We still have to live without our daughter though, we still have to face the pain.

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This song by Casting Crowns is a song that Leah and I used to listen to.

I’ve listened to it a lot since Leah died.

I find the words very comforting.

“Praise You In This Storm”

I was sure by now
God You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

[Chorus:]
And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can’t find You

But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with you”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

[Chorus]

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Leah and her iPad

Leah and her iPad

One of the activities that Leah loved being involved with was L.O.S.T. – Limavady Outreach and Service Team. After we had received Leah’s diagnosis on Friday 19th April ’13, the first people to overcome their shock and visit us to support us and pray with us, were three of the L.O.S.T. leaders who came on Sunday afternoon 21st April ’13.

This was my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary, but we weren’t celebrating – we were too shocked and overwhelmed by the news that had been delivered to us over the phone at 4.30pm on the Friday.

We deeply appreciated the courage and Christian love shown by these youth leaders, in coming to minister to my husband and I whom they barely knew – their visit made a difference.

A few weeks later all the leaders involved with L.O.S.T. bought Leah a gift of a 3G enabled iPad. She had to buy a bigger handbag to accommodate it because it went everywhere with her.

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This iPad was invaluable for the many long hours that Leah subsequently spent, as both an inpatient and an outpatient. Leah’s cousin bought her a subscription to Love Film so that she could watch films on it. Her aunt and uncle bought her a Spotify subscription. Wherever Leah went, this iPad went too and only the grave finally parted Leah and her iPad.

I love to listen to the Bible teaching of John Piper at desiring god.org. I know that some people consider John Piper too wordy and deep. For me, John Piper’s Bible teaching reaches the parts that other preachers don’t reach.

Today I was listening to a sermon by John Piper entitled “Ambushing Satan With Song” and I heard the following.

“January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot and four other young missionaries approached the jungle edge where the Auca Indians lived. Their last recorded act according to Elizabeth Elliot was to sing a hymn together:

‘We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
And needing more each day thy grace to know,
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
We rest on thee, and in thy name we go.’

All five of them were killed that afternoon. But they, too, were protected by God—protected from a fate far worse than death. They were protected from cowardice and unbelief and fear. And I think it would be fair to say – protected with song.

We have two great weapons in worship: the Word of God and song. So let us give heed to the Word of God and let us sing with all our heart.

I thought about how Leah chose to listen to her favourite Christian music every day, using her Spotify playlist on her IPad, while dying in ICU. When the nurses came in to work with Leah I would lower the volume so as not to bother them, but they often told me that there was no need, as they liked listening to such lovely songs.

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While Leah was taking her last breaths in the Children’s Hospice, her music also played. The doctor attending to her said the music was beautiful.

Throughout Leah’s wake at our home, Leah’s Spotify play list played softly in the background. Several people commented on the peaceful atmosphere.

I think we should never underestimate the importance of music in influencing our mood.

John Piper’s words reminded me of how our daughter faced death without fear. I think that listening to songs that encouraged her faith helped her to remain strong and courageous.