I finally got to read this book. I opened it this morning and finished it an hour ago. I cried my way through it. Mary Beth Chapman's adopted Chinese daughter, Maria, died the day before Joey died, two and a half years ago. Mary Beth tells the story of her youngest child being accidentally run over by her teenaged son and the impact of this accident on the entire family. Her husband, Steven Curtis Chapman, has always been one of my favorite Christian recording artists, and I have followed his career for two decades. I remember waking up to the news on that Thursday, May 21, 2008 and reading of their daughter's death. I was shocked and filled with sorrow, wondering how such a devastating thing could happen to such a wonderful family. The next day, I got a phone call of my own that broke my heart and sent me staggering to my knees.
Fast forward to a month later, after our son's memorial services, when their family appeared on Larry King Live-- they sounded so much like us. No pat answers. No neat little boxes. Just transparency and pain and perplexity...and continuing hope in God. And tattoos. They were our family's inspiration.
Since then, I've been reading Mary Beth's blog. She has a gift for writing about the heartbreak and turmoil that their family has been plunged into, and her hope in God that He is enough even in that deep loss. I identified strongly with her words--her restless longings for her daughter, her anxiety, her anger, her doubts, God's silence, and her courage to push forward. I love her honesty. Not all Christian leaders are so open about their struggles, and not all bereaved mothers grieve in a way with which I can identify. But she is one broken hearted mama who understands and validates me in my own grief journey. I am so thankful for her openness. It's been a lifeline for me.
The book is a deeper extension of her blog. She gives the back story on her childhood, marriage and family. She shares the harrowing aftermath of the death of a child...the sleeplessness, marital tension, numbness, and futile attempts to fix things. She shares her tendency to want to control her life, to protect herself from pain, and of second-guessing God as he overwrites her plans with His own. I love the way she points out what she calls "bread crumbs" on the path, little signs that God is present in their sorrow, and in control of what appears to be such random chaos. I was touched that they had the same two songs at Maria's memorial that we had at Joey's, only in their case the actual artist, Matt Redman, was there to sing them.
Here is a quote from one of Steven's songs, written about Maria. I love this song:
Out of these ashes
I am so grateful for families who openly share their sorrow. It helps me bear my own.