Friday, October 14, 2011

God at His Finest

I have started to write this post so many times—but as soon as I even begin to think of the appropriate words, my eyes become flooded with tears and I have to walk away. It’s a hard one to write as it takes me directly back to the day that I saw my baby’s face, touched her perfect skin, ran my fingers through her crazy hair…for the last time. Despite the pain it brings to go back to that day, the story that I want to share today is one that I have to document—I cannot risk forgetting even the smallest details (though I don’t think that I could if I tried.) Something happened that day that I don’t know if I will have words to adequately describe… (I apologize in advance for the length on this one!)

From the time that we found out about Charlotte’s heart I have used this blog to tell her story. Accounts of her trials, bravery and achievements reached people far and wide…but truth be told, this blog has always been more for Matt, Charlotte and myself than anyone else. It provided a way to document and reflect back on our crazy adventure, allowed me to vent/cry without having to do it face to face, it gave me a chance to brag about how A.W.E.S.O.M.E. my little girl was. I always intended for this to be something that I could share with Charlotte when she was older so that she could truly understand what a miracle she was.  I have shared her story since before she was born and even though I knew it would be difficult, I knew that I wanted to continue to share her with all of you...to heal my own heart. I used my words to document it all, and because of that, I knew that they had to be a part of the day we said “goodbye.”

The decision to speak at Charlotte’s memorial service was an easy one. I knew that I wanted to do it, but at the same time I feared…well…everything about the actual act. Could I do this? Would I fall apart? Would anyone be able to comprehend my words through the inevitable sniffles and sobs? Heck, would my legs even support me if I tried to stand?  Anticipating the worst, I wrote down what I hoped to say and graciously accepted when my sister volunteered to step in if needed. Then I prayed. I stood in the shower that morning with tears running down my face as I prayed for God to give me strength. I distinctly remember uttering the words, “God, I want to do this. I need to do this. But I know that it’s not possible without You. I need you to show me that I can. Please God, I need you to show me that I will be OK.”

God spoke to me in the most incredible way that morning…

Meet my brother-in-law Abe—Or as Charlotte knew him, Uncle Abe.

Abe is your average 12 year old boy.  He goes to school (though not always willingly!), has lots of friends, likes junk food, loves to go swimming.  He's always on the move and likes to do his own thing.  

When Abe was 2 years old he was diagnosed with Autism.  I had never been around an autistic child before Abe and to be honest, when I first met him, I wasn't quite sure how to act (this sounds TOTALLY silly now that I think back on it...he's just a kid after all!) I quickly got over my uncertainty and came to realize that the "autism" label does not define who Abe is...much like Charlotte's heart didn't define who she was.  There is so much more to Abe than his diagnosis.  He's a lovable goof with a great belly laugh, a determined spirit and a little ornery streak in him from time to time.  I'm sitting here smiling just thinking about it!

Charlotte (or ChaCha as Abe calls her) was enamored with Abe and when he was around, her eyes were LOCKED on him.

I LOVE this picture!
Look at her checking him out.
Ok, so maybe in this one she's more interested in the Pop-Tart, but she knew Abe was the one to go for if she was looking for yummy treats!
I'm pretty sure that this was the first time that they met!

The morning of Charlotte’s service (after my shower break-down) I found Abe sitting in his room…totally silent with a look on his face that told me something was "off". He looked at me and in that moment that I knew that he knew. I hadn’t been giving Abe the credit that he deserved, but right then and there I could tell that he was well aware of the grieving that was going on all around him…and he was grieving too. I went and sat next to him face-to-face on his bed and I talked about Charlotte. As I talked, Abe sat quietly and looked me straight in the eyes (for those of you who don’t know, eye contact is a big deal in kiddos with Autism). As if his insane attentiveness wasn't enough, somewhere in the midst of our conversation he picked up the charm on my necklace--a silver mended heart given to me by my friend Jill.  He held it in his hand and rubbed his thumb over it again and again before bringing the little silver heart to my lips for me to kiss.  Tears slowly started to pour down my cheeks and much to my amazement...sigh...Abe reached up and wiped them away with the back of his hand.  

I had to remind myself to breathe.

I looked over at my mother-in-law standing in the door way--She was just staring with tears in her eyes, obviously in just as much awe over the events taking place in front of her as I was.

I looked into Abe’s piercing blue eyes and I knew that this was the sign that I had begged for not an hour earlier.  I truly believe that God was showing Himself to me through Abe that morning.  He was telling me that despite my fears and uncertainty--

It was going to be okay. 
I was going to be okay. 
We were going to be okay.

I think of that moment with Abe often and am still as amazed by it today as I was 4 months ago.  Its definitely one of those times where I find myself smiling through the tears.  I am forever grateful.

Happy 17 months Baby girl!  Mommy and Daddy miss you like craziness and wish that we could give you some giant birthday hugs today.  Instead we'll be sending extra kisses to heaven.  I love you with all my heart little lady...all my heart.

6 comments:

  1. I had to walk around and gather myself halfway through this. Beautiful

    Neysa

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing Abe and Charlotte with all of us. Big hugs to you on Char's 17 month birthday.

    Stacey Lihn

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  3. Love the title of your post..."God at His Finest"...how true. Thank you for sharing this emotional and beautiful experience. I am so thankful that I was there to witness such a moving moment with you.
    Much love,
    Mary

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  4. This was a message I needed today...Thank you so much! You are a strong women!!! - Heather Hrouda

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  5. I had the privilege to work with Abram while in college and am blessed with having the Ritchie family in my life. I can remember on various occasions showing up to work with Abe, hurting for this reason or that, and he always had an innate way of touching my heart and giving me healing like no one else could. My husband and I were able to get together with Hal, Mary, and Abram a couple months ago and they told us your story. It was obvious to us how completely surrounded in love Charlotte is still to this day. I can't imagine what you have been through, but my thoughts and prayers are with you. I once saw the saying, "Blossomed on Earth to bloom in Heaven." I think that's a beautiful saying and hopefully it will give you some comfort to know that your beautiful little girl is blooming in Heaven.

    ~Trisha Nicolas

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