Before Tori was born, many people told us to cherish the early years because they would go quickly, never to return.
After she was diagnosed with Krabbe the moments moved faster and there was nothing we could do to stop the momentum. The days were fleeting, and we wondered each day how many more days we had with our beloved daughter.
As a photographer, it was natural for me to take thousands (more like tens of thousands) of photos of her, every angle and perspective possible, hoping that I could remember everything once she was gone.
But, the problem is that what can’t be captured on film is what I miss the most.
I couldn’t capture how it felt to hold her – something I did for hours each and every day. How it felt to feel her breathing. Her smell. The touch of her soft, smooth skin.
I couldn’t capture her soul, the very thing that makes us who we are.
Miss Tori has been with Jesus in Heaven for over two months now and it is still strange. The impact she had on my life is still being discovered moment by moment, and I continue to be overwhelmed by gratitude more than any other emotion.
I think of her almost every waking minute. I now understand what my Dad has said my entire life – that I am always on his mind. I don’t even try to think about Tori – it just happens.
Yesterday, Brennan and I sat down together and watched many of the pre-Krabbe videos we have of her. Hearing her talk and laugh, watching her move freely, and remembering our precious girl before Krabbe took over her defenseless brain brought joy to our hearts. She had the BEST personality, even before she turned five months old.
And I’m still GRATEFUL. Her memory brings me joy, not pain. Peace, not grief.
The KNOWLEDGE (it’s more than just a “belief” as that word is commonly used today) that we will be reunited with her one day brings such excitement to both of our hearts. It won’t be that long in light of eternity!
Tori’s earthly life was cut short, but this life is really just the beginning for all of us anyway. I heard this song recently and I loved the lyrics (especially knowing that Steven Curtis Chapman has also lost a child and his words reflect his experience):
God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun
And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding
We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning.
- Steven Curtis Chapman, “Glorious Unfolding”
We’re still doing well. The fourteen months of preparation for her death certainly have helped in the two months without her physically with us.
We’re still surprised by how easy it is to leave the house now and how lightly we can pack, how quiet our home is without the humming of machines, how free we feel due to the lack of schedule that we have now…
We have our moments where missing her is something we feel physically. A great example of this was when I first heard the song, “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson and I was caught off guard by this line: “When a sickness takes my child away and there’s nothing I can do, my only hope is to trust in You.” Powerful truth.
Sometimes it comes out of nowhere, other times it comes out of thoughtful remembrance of our adventures with her. We’ve both shed tears in the past two months during those moments.
But, because of God and who He is, we are hopeful above all else and remain joyful. God is doing amazing things in our lives and is still using our little girl to change lives, even after her death.
Tori was an amazing little girl and her legacy lives on. We have MUCH to be thankful for and will continue to focus on those blessings rather than her absence.
Those tens of thousands of photographs continue to make us smile as we remember the incredible life we lived with Tori, and we will continue living life abundantly until we are reunited with her forever. It will be worth the wait.