Its been 14 days since I’ve kissed Eliza’s sweet face. I debated on whether or not to go in her room that morning, it was early and I was leaving for the airport, I would only be gone a few days. I stood at the door for a second and then went in. I kissed her face, she rustled under the covers, I whispered I love you and then closed the door. 14 days. 336 hours. 20,160 minutes… but it feels like a million years.
A million years since I’ve seen your sweet smile or heard you laugh. A million years since I decided I had to be the one to tell your story to everyone that loves you. A million years since I sat in the dark and wrote the words that I would read as we celebrated your short life. I love you my sweet Eliza… for a million years.
Aaron and I would like to Thank you all for coming today to celebrate our sweet Eliza Hope. Thank you for sharing your memories and pictures. No parent should ever have to stand up and do this but here I am.
Eliza Hope was born on April 12 2012 and she was perfect. Aaron and I and so many others prayed for so long for our sweet girl and at last she was here. We brought her home filled with joy and hope for the future. As the months went on we knew that things were not perfect and that Eliza would have some struggles in life but we got prepared to fight for our sweet girl and try as hard as we could to make her life amazing. Some days were hard, she spent many weeks in hospital beds and many days at doctors appts and Aaron and I, and everyone who loved her struggled to make sense of it all. The last time I saw my baby girl alive she was happy, she wasn’t sick we laid in her bed and talked and hugged and she gave me a million kisses.
Eliza left this world to be with Jesus on the morning of November 11 2016, and I was not there. I was on the other side of the country sleeping with no idea that my mom would find her in her bed and be unable to wake her and my sweet husband would be trying to revive her while the ambulance was on its way.
But today I’m not here talk to you about those horrific moments or that horrific phone call I received from Aaron in a hotel room with 3 of my dear friends. I’m not even going to try to describe the pain that is so gut wrenching there are absolutely no words in any language to describe it. I’m not here to tell you about my regrets. I’m not here to tell that I have never in my life wanted to go back in time so badly, to hold my baby one more time, to kiss her sweet face one more time, to lay next to her one more time. I’m here to tell you about Eliza Hope our miracle that brought Joy and Hope to everyone she met and also to those who had never met her. I’m here to tell you that in the midst of a pain that literally brings me to my knees and makes me want to die there are still the tiniest glimpses of hope. I’m here to tell you that even when the road ahead seems impossible you can get through it. Eliza taught us that in her 4 short years. She showed us the kindness in people that we may have never seen. She showed us that just like in the movie Inside Out that there is no joy without a little sadness. She showed us all of these things with out any words just her joyful spirit.
As I travelled the long trip from the West Coast back home I had one of my best friends with me literally holding me up through airports and layovers. I cried throughout most of the trip and when we arrived in Atlanta a man behind us laid his hands on me and prayed out loud for Jesus to give me comfort and strength. As the women from the airline wheeled me through the airport she continued to whisper Jesus over and over again. A sweet man came up to us as we sat in the airport and said he hoped everything was ok. I told him my daughter died and he brought me a cup of tea. That Friday was the longest day of our lives. My friends and family joined together to try to get me back home as fast as possible to see my baby but nothing would be fast enough. When the wheels touched done in Norfolk I cried so hard knowing that I was only a few minutes away from seeing my baby.
Eliza Hope loved the song Happy, every morning we listened to it on our drive to school, she loved Chick-fil-A waffle fries and popcorn, she loved scented Christmas pine cones that I kept outside our front door. Every morning she would pick one up and smell it and then hand it to me and say “Mel, Mel”. She loved bubble guppies and Mickey Mouse. She loved the movies Frozen and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. She loved flipping through books. She loved her daddy’s beard (which I apologize in advance to everyone because now he can never shave it off) She loved to be rocked, she would grab her blanket and walk over to me or Aaron and say “wok wok”‘ and we would rock her. She loved us to sing rock a bye baby and “dormir dormir dormir”, the song my dad used to sing to me when I was little. She literally loved every one she met. She would hug you so tight and she would not let go until you did. She loved with so much joy and with no judgment and that’s how I hope to live the rest of my life…like Eliza.
About 6 months ago I read the book called Through The Eyes of a Lion by a pastor in Montana, Levi Lusko about his 5-year-old daughter that died suddenly from an asthma attack. It’s about how he and his family have moved through it. It’s about Grace and It’s about Hope. I read it three times. I gave it to my mom to read a few months ago and after she read it she asked me why I would read such a sad book so many times. I didn’t know then but I know now
In these 10 short days I’ve learned a lot. I know that I was not supposed to be here on the day that our sweet Eliza went to heaven. That would have been too much for me to bear. I know that Aaron slept late that day so that my mom would not have to be alone when she found Eliza. I know that God gave my brother the wisdom to know that Aaron and I shouldn’t be the ones to sit at the funeral home and make arrangements and pick caskets and do all the things a parent should never have to do so my Dad and brother and Kristi and Jason did that for us. I know that God gave Kendra and Brett the strength to be able to open their home to me and Aaron and all of our friends and family so we wouldn’t have to go home yet. I know that God gave Dana strength to get me through that long journey home. I know that God gave Jesse the words to write to share the terrible news about our sweet baby online and in the paper? I know that God put Sheri and Bill and Becky in that hospital that morning to pray with the nurses over my baby as she left this earth. Thank you to those who offered their homes for my family to stay, who bought plane tickets. Who donated their airplane miles so that Aaron’s family could get here from Alaska. Thank you to all the nurses and doctors and teachers and therapists, nannies and babysitters that cared for our baby. Thank you for everything you all have done and will continue to do to get Aaron and me through this. Thank you for standing with us.
I have to believe that Eliza is in no more pain, that she can now walk without falling, she can run and jump and talk. I hope that soon I can find peace in that. I hope that everyday this pain that is so intense I can barely breathe will get a little better.
Although there is nothing in the world I want more than to be with Eliza right now I will stay here and run this race for her. Aaron and I will raise money to build a school for children just like her so that no parent has to struggle to find a safe and loving place for their child to learn. We will do everything we can to keep her memory alive.
I was at my doctor’s office on Monday, she wanted to check on me. I stood at the front desk and on my left was a little display of pinecones, as the nurse brought me back to write down my info I looked at her ring finger and she was wearing a butterfly ring. They were my signs.
I will always look for signs that you are with us Eliza. I hope all of you will too. I pray that none of you here will ever forget her as long as you live. I pray that her joy will be your joy and her kindness will be your kindness. That you will all treat others like Eliza did, with a love that is so pure, and that when life gets hard, and it will. That you will always find hope in Jesus.
Your daddy and I miss you so much our sweet baby and I hope from the deepest depths of my heart that you know how much you are loved.