Last week I wrote about not really having any “resolutions” for 2017 but reflected on 2016 and the progress or non-progress I have made thus far.
Many people will make or have made resolutions. Resolutions usually range wide – from starting something to quitting something. At the top of a lot of list is to lose weight, eat healthier and or work-out. Most will say they want to live longer. There is nothing wrong with losing weight, eating healthier or working out – we are supposed to take care of our bodies.
Now, you are wondering, what does this have to do with Amanda’s life and death. Well, I am going to tell you about her death to the best of my ability.
Amanda began to work out and train after her fourth child was born. Around this time she also began to “eat healthy”, “diet” – whatever you want to call it. She met many new friends at the gym and also encouraged others to join the gym. It was a cross-fit gym where you go everyday. The gym is like a family because they are around each other and spend so much time together. She spent more and more time trying to get stronger physically. I heard about toes to bars, burpees, squats, wall ball and hand stand push ups. I also heard about eating certain things or not eating certain things is more like it. She was consumed with her physical “health” to the point conversations and family dinners were very different. It was never the same after cross-fit. There was always the worry of what to cook for family dinners – except for special occassions. I began to learn some of the recipes and cook those dishes for her. Our conversations changed to how much she had accomplished physically.
During this time I was also walking and eating better. Didn’t really lose any weight but I wanted to walk a half marathon with her. I wanted to try to have something in common we could do together. I was a member of Planet Fitness – a whole different atmosphere. I went around 3 times a week.
It wasn’t just her into the gym. Many of my family and friends were involved. Therefore, wherever we were all together they talked about gym life and what they were trying to accomplish. Each of them encouraged each other and cheered each other on to their goals. It just changed all kinds of relationships. It even changed what we did on vacations and trips.
I am not saying gyms are bad. Not at all. Just beware of the addiction of becoming physically fit or the addiction of becoming consumed with physical appearance. People not involved really do not like to have every conversation and every meal controlled by your “fitness”.
The change in her was so evident. Even the way she dressed. Not just her, one thing I have noticed is people start to wear tight clothes, clothes to show off their body to the world. Look at me, I am healthy – not! Look at me, don’t I look good! – more like it.
I do not want this to come off as a slam on working out. I want this to lead somewhere so just bear with me.
Saturday, April 11, 2015, I was supposed to walk the Palmetto Half Marathon with Amanda. We were going to WALK together. I was so looking forward to it. Walking and talking. I knew how competitive my daughter was – it was one reason she carried the working out to the extreme. Anyway, I had a stress facture in my foot. I told Amanda the doctor told me I could try to walk it but he would not say I could finish it. This was all Amanda needed to decide to run it. I actually hoped she would not and asked her not to run it. That was like telling a bull in a china shop not to break anything. Just wasn’t in her nature.
One of my granddaughters had a softball opening ceremony the same day. So really I wouldn’t have walked it anyway. I was going to the opening ceremonies. That morning I received a text from Amanda saying she had picked up my shirt and tag. I looked at it and decided to answer her later since she would have been running during the time I read it. I regret the decision to this day. I know I would have ended my text with be careful and I love you.
As my husband and I walked up to the ball field, I saw my son on the phone. I immediately knew something was wrong. I could tell by the look on his face. He told us we needed to head to the hospital. Amanda had an accident at the race. I immediately thought within my spirit this is very bad. Why? Not sure, maybe because the call was made to my son and not to us. The next thing that happened was texts began about which hospital they were headed. The text began at 9:32am. The only information we had was she passed out at the finish line and she was not awake. It’s up in the air was one of the text last text. I knew without a doubt she was gone. My husband and I quietly drove to the hospital having to change routes as they changed hospitals. I think we both knew. I just kept praying – Lord, please don’t take her, please let me tell her one more time I love her, please Lord, take me – I begged for her life.
When finally arrived at the hospital where a receptionist told us we could not go to the back. There were several people there waiting, people who ran the race too, people who were from the gym. I “politely” explained to the receptionist that I was going back to the ER and she was welcome to call security if she would like. My husband was parking the car. He came in the door about this time and we were escorted toward the ER. I saw her husband coming with someone in scrubs. I knew by the look on his face. She was dead. He spoke the words “she didn’t make it” as two people stood on each side of me. Guess they thought I would faint. I didn’t faint but my knees did buckle. My words still ring in my ears – “He took my daughter”, “He took her”.
“He took my daughter” – hadn’t I been praying for her safety, hadn’t I prayed on the way here that You would spare her. She has a husband and four beautiful children – parents, nieces, grandparents, cousins who love her and who she loves-aren’t You supposed to give us the desires of our heart – aren’t You supposed to want good for us. Why? Why God? She’s way too young. She has way too much life to live. She is raising her children to love You. She was a child of Yours and lived it. Why?
When I looked at her laying there in that hospital room, I wanted to pick her up. I wanted to hold her. I kept touching her. Brushing her hair. Rubbing her arm. Holding her hand. I didn’t want to leave her. I couldn’t believe it and knew it all at the same time. My daughter was dead.
Then because the word had spread of her death, we started to panic to make sure the family knew. I really have never experienced bad news traveling so fast. One phone call, one person told was all it took. We had people go to our parents’ house to tell them. It would have been awful to have them find out through word of mouth or Facebook. I can remember the panic I felt.
After the funeral home came to get her we left. We had to go tell the children. I still can remember how tight they held me after they were told. Eventually, we made it to Amanda’s home. I was in a stunned disbelieve. Numb. Shock. Yet, trying to go on for the children. It was so heartbreaking. Seeing the kids (hers and her nieces) go from playing to weeping. I could not imagine what they were thinking.
From the very beginning, people were at a loss as to what to say. I sure couldn’t blame them. Some were saying some mean things. I am sure they did not intend for it to be mean. Some were too nosey to care about the hurt they were causing. We had to really watch the children. People were saying inappropriate things to them and asking them questions. Some were trying to be “helpful” about things for the future and we hadn’t even buried her yet. Those people had no clue as to what we were going through. We still hadn’t even picked out her coffin yet. I still have a hard time being around them. I can still picture them sitting there talking. They still do not have a clue as to how much it hurt, how much it hurts.
We (her husband, brother/his wife, parents) picked out a white and pink coffin for her. We had her monogram put on her coffin. Amanda monogrammed everything. Thankfully, some friends took care of making it and delivering it. I was in the process of gathering pictures for her video. Several people brought photos to me. Tons of photos. Then, there were flowers to be picked out. A friend met us at the florist to help us with the decision. The florist actually did not have enough flowers and had to order some more.
The outpouring of love through prayers, food, text, visits, calls, cleaning and baby-sitting was tremendous. It actually lasted for quite a while after the funeral. We felt loved, we felt prayed for, we felt comforted. Family, church family, friends, neighbors and people we didn’t even know showed up to give us what they could of themselves.
The visitation was set up for Tuesday night, April 14. We arrived early to look at her and spent a little time looking at the flowers. It was very overwhelming. Some of the older children were there. They stayed as long as they could. We had already decided to have a closed casket funeral. Better for the children we thought. The number of people who came was amazing. At the time it was the largest visitation the funeral home had ever handled. Not sure about now. People were lined up down the street. Stood for hours to speak to us, to show us some kindness and love. It was comforting to hear the stories people told of the difference Amanda made in their life. One man was having trouble finishing the race and as she ran by she encouraged him to finish the race. Many spoke to us about the encouragement she had given them in life. Encouragement through Christ. A lot of people talked about how her life pointed to Christ. They knew she was saved and she showed Him to them. It was encouraging. She even had a high school softball team-mate come from Texas! She was so loved.
After everyone left that night, her husband went in and sealed the casket. This is one decision I still regret to this day. I did not realize they were closing it right then. I thought I would be able to see her again alone. I wanted to take my time. One of the children was upset too. She thought she would be able to see her again. She wanted to touch her. She had been too scared during the night. It was something we didn’t think about. We should have told the kids. We should have told them it was the last time her casket would be open. Of course, we were not thinking. We were still in a daze.
April 15th was the funeral. Her funeral was just like she would have wanted it to be. Big! Not big as in elaborate but big as in lots of people. She loved people and loved being the center of the room. People were parking down the street. Some came hours early to get a seat. The church and the gym were packed.
Her brother spoke. Actually, saying he spoke is a very big understatement. She was his best friend; they worked together, lived side by side, ate dinner together often and helped each other out with the kids. It was an unusual day for them not to see each other. He spoke so eloquently that I can not even explain it. You knew her when he was finished. He had the whole place laughing and crying. It was a wonderful thing to watch, him standing there paying tribute to his sister and preaching the gospel. He wanted everyone to know the most important thing about her life was she was a Christian. A Christian woman who was relying on God to be a wife and a mother. She had very strict guidelines where her children were concerned. She worked with them on memorizing scripture, their prayer life and thankfully she was able to see two of her children come to know Christ – but, I get off point. We were praying for souls to be saved during this time. For people to come to know Christ out of this tragedy. (People did give their life to Christ.) When he finished speaking he received a standing ovation. I have never in my life witnessed a whole church stand and clap after someone spoke at a funeral.
Friends of ours sang at the funeral. Their reliance on the Holy Spirit to see them through singing was evident. They were very close to Amanda and had been for years. One song in particular was sang which I sing to myself almost everyday. “I am not Alone” by Kari Jobe. She was so led by the Spirit that the children commented on it. At one point she looked at us and sang – you are not alone. How very true. Jesus has been with us every step of the way.
The Pastor preached after. He went through how to be saved. How Christ died for us all. How Amanda was in heaven with her Savior because she knew Jesus. Not because of good works but because He was the Lord of her life.
We then followed the casket outside to the grave yard. It was cold, rainy and windy that day. The grave side service was actually started before everyone could get up from the gym. We wanted to get the children inside, out of the bad weather. We stood in church and greeted people again. Thankfully, it was not like before. Most people had already spoken to us. By this time we were completely worn out.
My husband and I stayed with her family for a while. I can’t remember exactly how long. I helped with the kids and tried to do whatever I could to help her husband. My husband and I slept with the kids. They liked that. It brought them some comfort. I tried my best to answer all of their questions. They still ask me questions. I do my best to answer according to their age. After all, I had/have a lot of questions too. Some I will never know the answer to on this side of eternity.
I tried to make things as easy as possible for her husband. I handled trying to hand out the flowers and plants the funeral home brought to the house. I hand wrote the thank-you notes, it took months. I tried to handle as much as I possibly could. I really wanted to help ease his pain. I knew just how much they loved each other. They talked on the phone or texted all day long. I really could not understand the grief he felt. They had found each other so fast and fell in love so fast and got married so fast and had children so fast. It was amazing to watch. Their family. The love for each other. The care. The direction they were headed. Amanda used to talk about how God brought them together. “Bless the Broken Road” was sang at their wedding for a reason.
It’s been 20 months now. We’ve made it through the second of the holidays except for Easter. Her birthday was December 9th which was extremely hard. We did have the children and the Live Nativity at church to keep us busy. But, something I have come to realize is the “staying busy” hurts in the long run. Keeping busy does not solve the real issues. Praying, spending alone time with God, just plain ole spending time alone and thinking things through – those are the things that help. I still am praying for wisdom for myself and the whole family. Life is so very different.
I have been struggling lately not with her death but actually being around certain people. Seems like every time I am around them something is said that hurts. Or I am reminded of some hurt I felt. My husband is struggling too. He actually headed home early today.
Amanda was 32 years old when she died. Young. She was in the best physical health of her life. We really can’t control how many days we have. You can run every day and eat perfectly but God determines your number of days. God determined hers. God also expects us to treat our bodies in a way that is pleasing to Him. They are His temple. So I am not saying don’t work out. I am saying priorities have to be in order.
Long life in Scripture is found several times. Proverbs 3:13 – 17 “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.”
The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what do you wish Me to give you. Solomon’s answer was profound – an understanding heart to judge between right and wrong. God was pleased with Solomon because Solomon did not ask for a long life or riches or death of his enemies but he asked for discernment. Because of Solomon’s answer God blessed Solomon with riches and honor. Then, in 1 Kings 3:14 God says “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”
Long life is also mentioned in Ephesians 6:2&3 “Honor your father and mother” – which is the first commandment with a promise-“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
So, why was Amanda only 32 when she died? Simple, faithful answer is – it furthered the kingdom of God. Somehow, someway – it has furthered His kingdom.
How is this post encouraging? We (those of us how have had a child die) have all gone through similar things. Our children’s stories are not exactly the same. Our heartaches are not exactly the same. Our struggles are not exactly the same. But they are similar. You have told me. Although, we are not the same – the only way to get through it all is the same – God. He alone through wisdom, understanding and direction will show us the way. The way to live. The way to help each other. The way to face the next minute.
Please never hesitate to comment or write me with your stories or share your heartaches and most of all your victories…..I would love to pray for you by name. Also, never hesitate to seek professional help. God uses Doctors!
Prayers and love to all of you – You are not alone! Don’t give up and don’t give in!
Manda’s Mom #APG