I thought it would be good to give you all a chance to get to know my family a little better through having them share the past year in their own words. Grieving the loss of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend looks different. Through each story, our goal is to give you a picture of how this year has transformed us. May you be encouraged by their humility and transparency as they share the pain of death, the hope Jesus offers, and everything else in between.
Here is Chris' story:
So where do I start? Do I start with "God's got this"? Do I start with how I feel? Do I start with what I've learned? Do I start with where I go from here? Where do I start?
As I write this, it's been almost a year since Leanne went to heaven. On one level, it seems like that was yesterday and on another it seems like the longest year of my life. I can remember that day and the emotions as if it were yesterday and at the same time I cannot imagine that I have gone a year without seeing her or hearing her voice.
The past twelve months have been a season of "Firsts". First birthday, first Christmas, first anniversary, Leo’s first birthday without mommy, you get the picture. Each one has been a difficult reminder that Leanne is not here to share them. This is the last first. So what now?
On that day, May 20th at 4:45pm, our world turned completely upside down. We were facing changes in our lives we never expected or wanted. What would happen to our family? What would happen to Ryan and Leo? What do we do? Who we talk to about this?
Here's what I know:
* We miss Leanne like crazy.
* We know she is no longer in pain or hurting.
* We hurt for Ryan and Leo.
* Our lives will never be the same.
* We have to move forward.
Here's what I also know:
* God is in control.
* He never left my side.
* His plan is perfect.
* He knows and cares how I feel.
* I will see Leanne again.
A good friend of mine asked me the other day if God gives us glimpses of Leanne. I quickly answered yes. We have had messages of love and care throughout the year that have assured us we (and Leanne) are not forgotten. We have been contacted by complete strangers who have been touched my Leanne's story. And most importantly, we see daily reminders of Leanne in Leo. From his "Spicy" personality, to his infectious sense of humor, we see so much of her (and Ryan) in him.
We put on our "Game faces" each day and go out to our work, meetings, activities, etc. We tell people we are doing "Okay" because that's people need to hear. To be honest, we are not doing okay. We are getting through. We are hurting and missing Leanne. As a dear friend told me "You cannot go back, you cannot stay where you are, you can only move forward". And so we do. It is not easy and we are not alone.
Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians holds language of special comfort for me; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed".
God has been with us every step of the way. We have been aware of his presence through his Holy Spirit and his word. We have felt "God hugs" that reassure us we are not in this by ourselves. It is such a blessing to have a family that are believers and are of one mind. We are able to cling to God and each other to get through the days, weeks and months. There have been so many of you who have cared for us, prayed for us, been servants to us, we cannot say thank-you enough.
And where do we go from here? We long for heaven to come to earth so our family can be complete again. We have families whose lives must go on. We have Leo to build a memory of mommy with. Where do we go? What do we do?
What we do is we trust in God and His perfect plan. He knew what was going to happen all along. And He knows what's going to happen in the future. We need to rest in the assurance of his love and provision. As Leanne said "God's got this".
I'm reminded of Paul's letter to the Romans chapter 8:37-39; "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord".
We are not the same people we were a year ago. In some ways we are better and in some we are worse. We miss Leanne and we miss the way our family used to be. But we hold dear to the promise that we will be a complete family for eternity. In that we find hope. We have seen the incredible impact Leanne's story has had on literally thousands of people.
We pray that Leanne's message of faith and hope in God will continue to impact lives. We are committed to sharing her story as often as we can in the hope that lives will change and God will be glorified.