10 November 2013

Goodbye David, Welcome Avonlea

Last weekend was a memorable one for our family.  It was a weekend marked by surrenders.

It was the weekend that we, as a community, said goodbye to our friend David Hurst...

(Picture taken by Glee Glude Smith, friend of David and Dana)

and it was the weekend that we, as a church community, welcomed Avonlea in to the body of Christ through baptism.

Brian and I said both goodbye and hello last weekend - moments spent recognizing the significance of life and death, physically and spiritually.  It's times like these when we are reminded how thin the boundaries between those things are.

Ironically, this is the exact same theme we had the weekend of Oliver's baptism six years ago. While living in Durham, North Carolina, we attended the funeral of our dear friends' loss of their stillborn daughter the day before we baptized Oliver.  Last weekend, the day before we baptized Avonlea, we attended the memorial service of our dear friend's husband and the father of her young children.

Each experience, juxtaposed with the other, presents a picture of the bigger story we live in.

Last weekend, Brian and I watched Dana surrender her claim her to husband's presence.
The following day, Brian and I surrendered our claim to ownership of our daughter through baptism.

On Saturday, Dana committed her husband to God, letting him go, trusting that God will get the last word on David's life.
On Sunday, we committed Avonlea to God, entrusting Him to guide her and care for her heart as she grows.  

Dana continues to teach me me what it means to surrender at the end.
Baptism is teaching me what it means to surrender at the beginning. In both places, God is present.

(Picture taken by Glee Glude Smith, friend of David and Dana)

For those friends who have followed David and Dana's story, I thought I would share my experience of David's memorial...

David's Memorial Service was really beautiful.  Everyone wore black, a sign of mourning, but with emerald green accents.  I loved all the accents.  Men could be found wearing black suits with a green tie.  Women wore black dresses with a green scarf or green jewelry.  Everyone was given little green ribbons at the door to the church.  Green was David's favorite color.  But green also became the color of "Team Hurst" - a community of family and friends who offered hope in the midst of loss.  Looking across the sea of people who attended the memorial, I noticed lots of black.  But I also saw green, tiny reminders of hope scattered amongst the mourning.

David's Memorial began with the family walking in to take their seats.  I watched Dana gracefully lead the family in to the sanctuary, holding the tiny hands of two children dressed in black, here to help say goodbye to Daddy.  She, Parker and Audrey lit a candle before the children left the service as it began.
We sang several praise songs and listened to friends of David share their memories of him.  There was a slideshow of David's life in pictures.  The most moving moment was when a video of David came on where he said goodbye to Audrey and Parker before he left for a ski trip.  Hearing David's voice and seeing David's mannerisms on video reminded me again of the significant loss that we were all grieving.  

After the emotional video, David and Dana's pastor came up to the pulpit and spoke about grieving well.  Brady, the pastor, spoke about how the Bible teaches us to grieve but to do so with hope.  Brady reminded us that David himself set an example of how to do this.  he said, "David knew for two years what was going to happen...and yet he trusted God in the midst of that great pain."  I want to hold these words very close to my heart.

I think David did demonstrate what it means to grieve with hope.  How would I face knowing I was going to leave this earth much too premature, leaving my spouse and children behind in the process?  Would I become angry at God for what would feel unfair and violating?  Or would I embrace God and lean in to Him during that time?  Grief is inevitable.  But grieving with hope is a choice.  I appreciate very much knowing David and knowing how David chose to live his life.  When he was told he was going to die, he chose to trust God more than ever before and live.

At the end, Dana came up on to share her thoughts.  She was, at moments, composed, at other moments, incredibly vulnerable.  She shared how this week is David and Dana's 10th anniversary. She shared how "this was not how I had expected it to be."

A bell was purchased in honor of David to be placed in the new cancer center at our local hospital (the one Bennett and Avonlea were born at; the one at which David was an ER doctor).  This bell will be the bell that people at the cancer center will ring when they go in to remission.

Dana ended the service by sharing that her anniversary gift to David is to ring the bell for him...because, he is now...cancer free.

At that time, Audrey and Parker rejoined their mother to help ring the bell.  It was a significant and emotional moment.

After the service, we were given a chance to hug the family and share our condolences.  It felt good to hug Dana.  The hug wasn't just me comforting her but her comforting me.  

Brian and I briefly had a chance to talk to the kids.  We knew they didn't fully grasp what was happening but they stood patiently next to their mother while she thanked those who had come out to say goodbye to David.  I whispered to Audrey, "Audrey, you did a great job ringing that bell!"  She smiled with her sweet kindergarten snaggled-tooth smile and said, "I wanted to ring it like this!" as she showed me how she would have loved to have been cut loose to ring the bell as hard and loud as she could have possibly wanted.  I smiled and said, "I bet you would have!"

And then, before we left, Brian and I spoke softly to Parker.  We said, "Parker, will you come back to our house sometime soon?"  And he said without missing a beat, "yes! I want to go to a football game."  This made my heart full knowing that Parker had very much enjoyed coming along with us a few weeks ago when Brian and I took the boys to a high school football game.  We promised Parker we would make that happen very soon (which it did...this weekend, in fact).

(Picture taken by Glee Glude Smith, friend of David and Dana)
We continue to support and pray for David's family (Dana, Audrey and Parker) who now must learn to live on without him.  If you would like to read more about their journey and follow them as they create a new normal, read more here: 

(Picture taken by Glee Glude Smith, friend of David and Dana)

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