There is a little girl in our community who went to preschool with my youngest. I saw her and her mom at school and said hello in the parking lot, and that is about all I knew of them. They were just another ordinary family that I passed in the hallways at school. Until we were at preschool graduation last spring and found out that a few weeks before, she had suddenly started presenting with unusual symptoms and was at that moment in the hospital with an aggressive brain tumor.

I’ve followed her story with horror as our community rallies around her family and her parents share their grief and pain. She has two older siblings, just like my daughter, and she should have started kindergarten this year, just like my daughter. But instead she is fighting for her life.

For some reason this has been getting to me. Big time. I am often one to get teary eyed at a sad story, but I can control my emotions. Not with this. My children have caught me hiding in my room sobbing on more than one occasion. I can hardly look at my daughter without seeing pictures of that precious little girl in the hospital. And I can’t help but imagine what her parents and her sisters are going through right now.

Just an ordinary family and an ordinary kid struck down by one of life’s horrendous blows. But certainly not the only one.

There is a woman that I know, I have known her and her family since she was a teenager. I have been following her battle with cancer for years. She was originally given only months to live, but she has cheerfully and determinedly fought this beast for years with chemo treatments, trying to eek out every last day with her husband and children. I chatted with her last night, and her faith in her Savior is strong, and she is still praying for a miracle cure. I know she has dark days, but her hope is secure and her smile is firmly in place. I ache for her, as a mother who knows how desperately she wants to be here for her kids as long as she can.

A few months ago, our blogging community was stunned when we heard that one of her own lost her husband suddenly to a heart attack. I looked at a video she posted on her blog of him dancing with their daughter a few weeks before he passed away, and I wept for their pain and their lost — a man taken down in his prime, leaving behind a young family to somehow go on without him.

Over the weekend I read this story of a 12-year-old boy in the D.C. area, swept away by a flash flood this week. I do not know this family, but I have been to their blog. They are suffering this tragedy quietly, as there are no updates on the blog since she posted the children’s first day of school pictures earlier in the week.

I have an 11-year-old son. I posted first day of school pictures a few weeks ago, innocently, as did she, as did so many others, fully expecting him to live to see next week and next year and well beyond.

When I let my imagination take over, I am overwhelmed with grief. It’s all just hitting too close to home. I lay in bed one night last week, fighting back tears, thinking of this dear family whose daughter is so dreadfully ill and picturing my own precious children and contemplating how it could just as easily be me. What would it be like for my world to be suddenly turned upside down?

Just this morning I saw the Facebook update that I was dreading. She’s gone. Last night, this dear little girl lost her fight with those nasty tumors raging in her brain. I don’t know how to tell my kids. They’ve been praying for her and they ask about her often. This isn’t a conversation I want to have. There are no easy answers.

I truly believe that no matter what horrors we face in this life, God is on his throne. And I have to cling to that, because without that, there’s just no point in going on. But days like this it is so hard not to ask WHY. I realize that no one is immune to tragedy and heartache. But how do I explain that to my kids?

I know this much. Today, I will drink in my children. I’ll look at those intelligent brown eyes and those delicate freckles and those strong arms and legs, and I will take it all in and revel in it. Because that is my now. It may not be my tomorrow, but it is my now, and I am so very thankful.

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28 Responses

  1. Yes. Drink them in. Close your computer and hug them tight. I know from personal experience that they can be gone in an instant. Just last weekend a dad from our neighborhood passed away suddenly. Although his children are in their 20s, it still seems too much to take in. And one of my friends’ daughter is very close to death in the ICU right now. It feels like too much. Too much. Like you, I just cling to the promises of God, and I trust that none of these tragedies are wasted in His eyes.

    Love you, friend!

  2. My heart aches for that family it’s tremendously sad. I can’t even imagine what they are going through makes me cry.

  3. I know that we are not immune. That thought has come back again and again in my mind. Sometimes I try to reason and I think well we have one child with special needs, we’ve been through divorce, and my oldest boys’ father died (October 2010) so God can’t possibly give us any more to deal with. But I know He could and might. That is the reality we have to face. Nothing is guaranteed. We just have to trust Him even when we don’t understand.

    Sometimes I have no idea what to tell my boys about their dad. Sometimes I don’t have the “right” words or answers for my oldest about why he is so small and has no hair. Sometimes, I just have to hold them and cry with them. God has brought us through so much . I know He is always here and always listening but we only have right now. It is up to us to make each moment eternal.

    I’m praying for all of those you mentioned. That is so terribly sad. I can’t even imagine it. My heart goes out to them.

  4. I went to the blog you mentioned above with the full intention of leaving heart felt condolences, but when I got there and saw his beautiful face and thought about his life cut short I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even say good bye to a boy I never knew or offer a mother sympathy. My heart was just too swollen. And maybe it is because of what you mentioned… There but for the grace of God go I. Heart breaking.

  5. Oh my gosh Jo-Lynne. I will pray for the little girl and for her family. It’s unimaginable. For what it’s worth, I would tell my kids that her family has someone praying for them in Heaven now, and she’s out of pain and very happy. We don’t understand these things, but God works all things for good for those who love Him, and we simply must have faith.

  6. Oh Jo-Lynne, this just reached right to the depth of my soul. I have been going through something similar to this with a friends daughter who just turned 5. Her name is Emma and she has acute aplastic anemia. She had a bone marrow transplant this past week. Her sweet brother was a match for her and he proudly donated his marrow. He was her best chance at a match. She now has a very long road ahead of her. Several months of isolation and more chemo. I will be praying for you, your children, and the family of this precious little girl.

  7. I have been following that little girl’s story also and was in tears when I read that she was gone. I immediately thought of one of my favorite songs “I can Only Imagine” and pictured her dancing with Jesus in her sparkley shoes. I grieve for her family that is left behind.

  8. Ohh My. I wouldn’t know how to begin with my kids on that one either. But it may go something like this…God is perfect. He is infallible, and He wanted her to be with Him. Even as adults we don’t understand these things most of the time, and it’s ok to tell them that too….
    I’ll be praying for all of you. What a difficult situation…BUT GOD….He alone is perfect.

  9. I know when I come across stories like that it makes me ponder those same things. I know that we are not immune to tragedy, but while things are good, I’m going to make the most of it and hug my children more and tell everyone I love them every day. It really does make you appreciate the good times.
    I’ll be saying a prayer for that family today!

  10. These are difficult graces for sure. I think sometimes we are required to ask “why”? We don’t always understand God’s plan, so questioning HIM at times can lead us to the good that we seek in everything.

  11. Wise advice … we need to remember to drink in our children … our spouses … family, friends & neighbors … Praying God’s peace to those you mentioned. Life is hard & so many are hurting. Words escape me … There but by the grace of God go I.

  12. Sometimes I feel like if I cry enough, worry enough or grieve enough for a situation that someone else is going through it’ll be like insurance that it won’t happen to me/my family. Does that sound odd? It does to me too but I do it anyway.

    Our church put out a call to a specific pastor and yesterday he gave a sermon accepting the call. Yesterday afternoon his grandson died. I have no words for experiences such as these. I only know I’m in a fit of anger and sadness and turmoil and I don’t know what to do with it all.

  13. It is overwhelming at times. We all have our own stories such as these…friends, neighbors, family. It’s so very sad. God draws us closer through any and all suffering. Clinging to Him and continually saying, “Jesus, I trust in You” is the only way to get through it. Praying for all of those mentioned.

  14. Thank you for sharing this, Jo-Lynne. I have been following the story too – my heart so heavy for this family. I can’t imagine how awful it is to live through this. And I cannot stop echoing the same thoughts as you: THIS COULD EASILY BE ME. My kids. My life. And it’s overwhelming. The past 2 years or so, I’ve really struggled with my faith. And I find myself struggling with the fact (in this situation) that I WANT to say “God is in control – He is on His throne – He has a greater plan.” That’s what I would have said. What my mind and heart are so used to saying. But I struggle. I struggle to cling to that truth. Because it’s so hard to accept that these things happen – that hard things happen – that sad things happen. I find it hard to trust, as much as everything in me wants to. But thank you -thank you for sharing – and I know there are so many shaken by this event.

  15. I can’t imagine the depth of sorrow at losing a child. We should treasure them each day, and treasure our spouses and parents too. We assume each day will go on happily as the one before — how foolish of us! Living in this fallen world is like playing on a playground laid with landmines. I don’t know how families cope with such a loss, without God’s comfort and the certainty of seeing their child again, forever in heaven. These earthly years are quick; how fast the decades clip by! But heaven is forever. There must be solace in knowing that these losses and heartaches will never happen there. Everyone is safe there. I hope they have that help!

  16. Sometimes I think we have too much guilt about asking God “why?” If we look through the Bible, especially Psalms, we see time and time again that people ask God “why?” Yes, we need to trust that God is in control and has a plan, but at the same time we aren’t expected to understand everything, and there shouldn’t be shame in wishing we could know why things happen the way they do.

  17. You have GOT to read “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp! She explores many of the same questions you are asking. Awesome book. Sending love and hugs and lots of prayers.

    1. Someone mentioned that book on my blog recently, too, and it’s on my list! Another one I reach for when I’m caught up in all the “Why?” questions is one of my favorites: “Ten prayers God always says yes to” by Anthony DeStefano. It calms me down and puts my soul at rest.

      Another one, though no where near as well-written but a great story, is “Heaven is for real”, but everyone has probably already heard of that one. It makes you rejoice for those children who have left us too soon.

      You’ve hit a nerve today for so many of us! It seems we all know someone dealing with tragedy right now…


  18. How terribly sad! I know what you mean about how sometimes a tragedy in your community just gets to you, and you can’t control your reaction to it. A few years ago a man at my company passed away from ALS, and for some reason I burst into tears when I heard about it. I didn’t know him well – I’d gone to high school with his daughter, but I didn’t know her well at all, either – and I’d never actually worked with him on anything. He was just a well-known pillar of our little community, and it broke my heart that someone so strong and vibrant and smart, who still had so much to give, had been destroyed by this terrible disease.

    I am sorry for your loss – because it sounds like your heart has broken, too – and I’ll pray for this family that lost a dear little one. And I’m going to hug my son extra tight today.

  19. I have lived through the questions of why… why did I have to go through brain cancer… why did God “take” my precious Emma Grace from me….

    Why my family…

    But I loved how you put the why’s into perspective… He is still on his throne, even when it feels like he is so far away…. He is still the sovereign Lord of my yesterdays, when life was much more manageable. He gradually takes our hands and walks us through the grief and the sadness, the overwhelming sadness… He may not answer our “why’s”, but I know one thing for sure…. He holds my heart.

    Thank you for this post.

  20. I too am living through the questions of “why”. My heart is broken for this family. This Saturday marks my son’s 1st birthday. I was 20 weeks pregnant and hemorrhaging horribly. Eight weeks of hemorrhaging ended with a placenta abruption and Jesus taking my sweet baby with him. I cling to the truth that nothing happens that does not first pass through my makers hands. I picture my little boy playing baseball with Jesus and this sweet girl playing pretty, pretty princess with her maker. Lots of prayers for this family as they grieve and heal.

  21. I am so very sorry for the loss of that little girl. May her family find peace and may we all slow down and enjoy these little people to whom we have been entrusted!

  22. When I experienced a time recently of asking God “Why” and allowing my mind to play with “What If”, it was as if God spoke to me and said, “My Grace is sufficient.” It calmed my anxious heart when I began to meditate on God’s Grace. He is with us in abundance when we need Him. Nothing is too big for God to cover with His Grace. When I talk with believers who suffer tremendous loss, they always say that God ministers to their heart in an inexplainable way. The grief is there, but God’s abundant Grace is also there to see us through. We are called to comfort others and pray for them. And we must trust God for the measure of grace we need each day.

  23. Oh I am so sorry. I have been dealing with something so similar. A friend of Boo’s lost her brother last week, he was only weeks younger than Hunter. He spent this past weekend and I loved having the time with him, and he caught me many times just staring.

    Spend the time loving your children, your husbands. You never know how short the time will be.

  24. This is so sad and touching. We don’t know when our time will be, but it’s something we can’t worry about. God always has been and always will be.

    My heart goes out to all those families.

  25. Thank you for a post that says and feels what we all must think every now and then. Those moments happen at the most inopportune times but what time is good during a heart breaking moment?
    I know I can fill up my heart or put aside what I don’t want to deal with and then one thing will happen and it’s all she wrote. Those are all heart breaking happenings and you are so right about appreciating your little boy, it could just as easily been any one of us.
    My son who is 35 has been going through some tough things, he hasn’t dealt with other things that happened when he was much much younger. I believe he’s feeling the repercussions, its all adding up now. There are other dynamics playing in this from other family members, I can understand their perspective but for me the bottom line is this. We have a photo when he was 1 of his birthday party. In that photo was my nephew, my friends daughter, and my son. My son is the only one left. I believe what is important is to focus on him and not the junk. I’m very blessed to be able to look him in the eye regardless. They cannot.

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