This was one of the hardest weeks of my life. On Sunday, January 1, I was working in the nursery during the 2nd hour. Our preschool director told me after the service that they made an announcement during church that one of the families from Northside had been in a very bad car accident that morning on the way to church. My heart dropped. It was the Longstreet family. And it hit very close to home. They are our age. The parents names are David and Karen. They have four children. 3 boys and 1 girl. Very close to our kids ages. They were at the hospital for children's trauma, and the prognosis was not good for their youngest and only daughter, Emma.
I was sick all afternoon. Was on facebook all afternoon scouring for updates. We got word in the middle of the afternoon that Emma had died and was with Jesus. I can not even tell you the emotions I felt. Devastation. Shock. Heartbroken for her parents. her mom. her brothers. her friends. Wondering how in the world would you go about telling her brothers this news when I can't even find the words to tell my own children.
We got bits and pieces of more information as the day went on. They were on their way to church. Passing through an intersection that I drive through on almost a daily basis. It was about 10:30 on a beautiful, sunny day. As they were turning left, a drunk driver slammed into them after running through the red light and crashed right into their van - hitting Emma's side head on. The other three boys sustained minor injuries - some cuts, bruises, concussions. David, the dad, broke two bones in his neck but miraculously were situated just so that he avoided any kind of more serious paralysis or anything - just a neck brace for 12 weeks. Karen, suffered only a broken heart. No physical wounds.
It was a grueling week. Very emotional. I couldn't stop hugging and kissing my kids. It broke my heart to have to talk with them about it. Yet it was good conversation to have with them. Emma was in Jacob's classes at church, and she and her brothers sang with my children's choir in the Christmas musical. He knew her and asked the most questions. I felt like it was important for them to see the emotion and heartbreak and understand the pain that her family and friends were feeling and that it's okay - and yet also to remember and KNOW with confidence that she is with Jesus.
I went to a court hearing for the drunk driver. So sad for this young man. A repeat offender. A bad choice and his life is also forever changed. I was grateful to see the gracious and loving response of the Longstreet relatives that were there. To hear them telling the officers to be sure they told this young man that although justice needed to be served, that they were praying that he find Jesus throughout this and put his faith in the Lord. Talk about perspective! To hear that David and Karen had actually prayed for this young man right after their daughter died. There were so many reminders that God WILL be glorified throughout these situations - as painful as they are to walk through.
I reread the book "Choosing to See" by MaryBeth Chapman in a day. An incredibly real, encouraging, and hope-inspiring book for anyone that has dealt with any kind of loss or grieving. The perspective that MaryBeth writes with is so amazing. David bought the CD that Steven Curtis Chapman wrote called "Beauty Will Rise" and we listened to it for two days straight. It is full of songs that are full of truth and of God's promises. That He IS faithful. That He IS with us. And that as hard as it is for those of us here on earth grieving the loss, that precious little girl is happier than ever before in the arms of Jesus and dancing and playing in heaven!
David took the CD over to David and Karen one night when he spent some time with them. It was tremendously encouraging to them as they let the truth of those songs wash over them. I can't imagine having to walk down the road of planning the funeral for your 7 year old daughter, but that is what they were facing. David said it was excruciating to have to watch and guide them through. Such a hard service to plan. It's not like a funeral of an 85 year old person who has lived a long full life. It is a celebration of her life - YES - but also such a grieving time of the memories you will never have with her.
We took the kids with us Friday night to the family visitation. Stood in line for 2 1/2 hours (which was ROUGH with 4 kids...). The kids enjoyed seeing the pictures of Emma and the slideshow of memories that the family had put together. It felt good to hug David and Karen both and tell them both how much we loved them and were going to walk through this with them. It was important for the kids to see and try to understand. And desperately painful at the same time.
The funeral on Saturday morning was amazing. Raw. Painful. Emotional. Beautiful. There were times of laughter. Times of sadness. God's goodness was proclaimed. To see this precious family of 5 now clutching each other as they stood over her casket one more time and singing "It is Well With My Soul" was about more than my heart could take. There shouldn't be caskets made that small. And yet we could see how God was using this horrible tragedy for HIS story to be proclaimed all across the city of Lexington.
These were the flowers that I had delivered from the children's choir. The card read "Rejoicing that Emma is now singing in the presence of Jesus!! We will miss her singing with us though! Love, the Northside Children's Choir"
I was SO thankful for the video that we had recorded of the children's musical just a few weeks before. When I watched it that week, we got a kick out of watching Emma in the video. She was just like the other 7 year olds - paying attention most of the time, being silly with her glow stick during one of the songs, doing the motions and singing the songs with LOTS of energy. Precious.
No clue what the deal was with this, but I wanted a picture of the stage from her service. They had her barbie car on stage along with her pink hula hoop. Precious. On top of her casket was a bridal bouquet of roses. Because her father, David, said that the day she died was also her wedding day - she was meeting her Groom, Jesus Christ. Man. What a testimony of faith.
Josiah and Jacob sat with us through the service. It was important for them to be able to see it. I was worried about their little hearts, but knew it was something they needed to be a part of too.
David sang the song "See" by Steven Curtis Chapman while he accompanied himself on the piano. It was powerful. I'd never prayed so hard for him during a song before. Prayed that he could get through it. Prayed that it would wash over David and Karen and their family and remind them of the hope that they do have. And be a blessing to them. And David was amazing. Delivered the song in a way I'd never heard him do before. This touched him. He is a young father to four kids. With one little girl who adores him. And the thought of losing her the way David has lost his Emma was heartbreaking to him in a very personal way.
Right now all I can taste are bitter tears
And right now all I can see are clouds of sorrow
But from the other side of all this pain
Is that you I hear, laughing loud and calling out to me?
Saying "See, it's everything you said that it would be,
And even better than you would believe.
And I'm counting down the days until you're here with me,
And finally, you'll see."
But right now, all I can say is "Lord, how long
Before you come and take away this aching?"
This night of weeping seems to have no end.
But when the morning light breaks through,
We'll open up our eyes and we will see
It's everything that He said that it would be
And even better than we would believe
And he's counting down the days 'til He says "Come with me."
And finally he'll wipe every tear from our eyes
And make everything new, just like he promised
Wait and see, just wait and see, wait and see
And I'm counting down the days until I see
It's everything He said that it would be
And even better than we would believe
And I'm counting down the days 'til He says, "Come with me."
And finally, we'll see. We will see.
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good, the Lord is good
The Lord is good. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good
The Lord is good.
David, Karen, Noah, Levi, and Micah - our hearts break with yours. I don't know what God has trusted your family to bear this story. But I know that He IS faithful. And that He will be glorified throughout this. Thank you for being faithful in sharing your story of faith and hope - in the midst of such overwhelming grief and pain. We will be faithful to pray for you and walk alongside of you in the journey. Until the day when you see your precious Emma again, we will continue to trust Him!