Skip to main content

Four years and two months ago our daughter Sarah died of leukemia.

How I miss her! Every November it's the anniversary, time to remember, and a sort of cold fog wraps our hearts and minds. But November is not the only time. We can't predict what might stir up that sadness, and sometimes there's nothing apparent — the sadness and the memories just happen. Vivid pictures, sharp feelings, pain, and sorrow. And the absence of a loved child ... how deep an ache that is. Will we never, never get to hug and laugh again?

And now comes the testimony part, because that dimension of the experience is just as real, just as piercing — God is faithful, he is present, and he does give joy. Some of the hottest tears fall when I remember Sarah's testimony, her calm conviction that she was held in God's hands when she was taken to the hospital basement in the middle of the night for a surprise exam. When she got the diagnosis, she said, "I'm God's child now, and I'll be God's child no matter what happens." And there was her frequent concern expressed for us, "If I die, I know I'll be fine, but I worry about you guys. You'll be so sad." For the last couple years of Sarah's life, after the diagnosis, God gave her calm, a contentment, a peace, that blessed us then, and still does. 

Our son in law has since remarried, and he and his wife make it a point to keep us in their lives. What a gift. We've been able to stand with close friends who've lost kids, and be a blessing and a comfort simply by sharing the experience. That's a gift when God uses us like that. And there has been other deep pain in our lives as well since Sarah's death, and in the crucible, God is faithful. There are so much beauty in our lives ... the love of Sarah's friends continues to bless us, our own friends have become more precious, our church family is a place of love, acceptance, and encouragement, as well as opportunities for new friendships and ministry.
We see other's pain with new eyes, with a bit more insight, a bit more compassion, and we look for what God is doing in an through the pain. I've never been able to believe that God wanted Sarah to die, and I've often asked him where he was on that Sunday morning four years ago. Did he look away for just a moment? No, that's not the explanation. We live in a broken world, a world in which evil is real, and we just don't get to avoid everything that gives us pain. That's not reality, and that's not what God offers us. But God does offer his presence, faithful, hopeful, joyful, leading to a resurrection future. A new life in Jesus. We're enjoying it now.

Attached Media


Thanks Karl!

Ruth and I have the same kind of anniversary in 5 days.  This year is will be 18 years since Annie moved to greater glory.  The hole her absence left is still huge - but as you testify - God continues to add new and precious experiences of life around the hole.  There's more than the hole - yet nothing ever replaces all the ways Sarah and Annie imacted our lives when they were still with us.  Six months after Annie died, we gathered to remember what would have been her 13th birthday and to celebrate her much too short life.  I remember the first words of a prayer our friend Heidi Hofman offered at our 'would have been her' birthday gathering and grieving.  Since Annie'd death - 2 of Heidi's own sisters have gone to glory as well.  Heidi's started her prayer this way: 'God - we don't know which planets or stars Annie may be exploring today - but do please remind her that we love her and miss her a lot.'  Those prayer words so blessed me.  They remiind me of something John Calvin himself taught - that our resurrection begins with our death.  

So, I wonder what planet or stars Sarah and Annie may be exploring today.  I picture Annie calling my dad over to look at something she discovered in the 'resurrection world' that is already her home.  It's not complete yet - the resurrection world.  It's waiting for us - we who still serve in this world filled with foretastes of our eternal home.  

Thanks for sharing some of the foretastes God provided you and Liz through Sarah.



Karl, our son, Dylan, was only 3 1/2 weeks old when he passed away. Our grief is different because mostly we wonder what might have been. Thanks for sharing your story. It's good to read your testimony of God's sustaining grace. I would guess that many of us parents are on this journey. 

Thanks, Karl, for this reflection. Grief is so painful; it persists. It is right for us to grieve and to be honest about it. And we are blessed when we hear the testimony of people like you. The hope of the resurrection doesn't take away grief, but it surely puts it in a very different light.  God continue to bless you and yours. Harvey 

It's been a little over two years now since we said goodbye to our 21-year old daughter, Holly.  Holly passed away on September 9, 2011 - only 2 and half months after battling a rare, very aggressive spinal cord tumor that caused her to become paralyzed just a couple of weeks after the onset of back pain.  

Both my husband and I have experienced that same deep sadness - not only on those "anniversaries", but other times, too, when we are suddenly blindsided by grief.  All of the hopes and dreams we had for Holly graduating college and getting married, evaporated the day she left us to go to heaven.  Still, we cling tightly to the hope that we will see her again one day - her body healed--no more surgery, no more radiation treatments, no more wheelchair.  

During Holly's illness, we witnessed the body of Christ through Neland Church members...through neighbors and friends....and people in the Grand Rapids community, who transformed our home into a wheel-chair accessible place for her after her treatment.  And, after Holly left us for heaven, God still brings people alongside us on our grief journey.  One of those people is Ruth Boven - pastor at Neland Church.  She was a constant visitor to Holly and also uplifted my husband and I through some of our most difficult days in the hospital and multiple trips to the emergency room....and when a cure was not evident, Ruth reminded us, that we still can lean on that resurrection hope and have faith that we wiill see our precious girl again.  

We have also found that blessing others, who have been touched by cancer,  has been a balm to our grief.  A group of us from Neland Church have cooked some of the community dinners for the residents of Hope Lodge - the facility where our daughter stayed during cancer treatment.  We've also sponsored a team through Relay for Life the last two years - another way we can honor Holly and be an encouragement to others.  We still miss our daughter terribly - we know that there will always be that "hole", but believe that God is using this tragic and untimely loss to bless others.




To my own surprise, I've revisited what I wrote about Sarah several times, rereading it, and pondering this experience in my heart.  Thank you to those of you who've responded in writing; your response to our experience is a  blessing and a comfort.  Oh how much I would have loved to get to know Annie and Dylan and Holly, and all the rest of the saints --children of  fellow believers who went before us - to greater glory as Brother John says.   Yes, I shed a lot of  tears for all the loss, and I still do, and I guess I'll go on shedding tears in my life too.  We all will, and we'll hold on to the promises together too.  And we'll comfort each other, and by God's grace and Spirit we'll live lives that are empowered and joyful now with the power of the resurrection. 

Just reading this. My heart breaks for this searing loss. Thank you for sharing. I am deeply encouraged by your testimony. Prayers until you see her again. 

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post