Nov. 12th marked another heavenly birthday for my daughter Dawn. I’ll never know if she would have become the Olympic ice skater or hand surgeon that she dreamed of becoming, or if she would have a family of her own and I would be a grandmother several times over by now. But forever etched in my memory is the moment Dawn entered this world with her big blue eyes wide open and her arms thrown out as if she was embracing the new world she was about to experience. She hit the ground running and never stopped. She was pretty, loving, generous, kind, smart, funny, and ever so creative. She packed more living in her precisely eight and three quarter years than many of us do over decades. Her teachers and coaches described her and her work as “fantastic… tremendous… excellent… beautiful… terrific… outstanding… dynamite.”

But to me it was her love for the Lord and her family, and her kindness to everyone she came in contact with that reflected the beauty of her spirit and made my heart soar. All these years later, when I think of my precious daughter, all “is well with my soul,” but the tears still come with memories of her hand in mine as we walked through the mall to shop, picking strawberries, or singing together in the choir on Sundays.

For a very long time after the crash that killed my sweet girl, I agonized over whether she was in pain or terrified in her final moments. I felt like those are things we are supposed to protect our children against and I had failed. As I accepted the Lord’s call to be lifted up in the aftermath of this tragedy in my life, I came to trust the words of Dawn’s favorite choir song, Be Not Afraid, taken from Isaiah 43. My little girl had no reason to be afraid, Jesus her Savior was “with her through it all,” and she is dancing in heaven with Him today.

It took many years and much grieving and healing before I could feel anything but excruciating pain when I thought of my daughter. But as I grew in my faith and trust in the Lord, I found the peace of acceptance that I needed to find joy again when I thought of Dawn. Now when I think of this beautiful flower in the garden of my life, my heart soars again. I thank God for every labor pain that birthed this precious child and for every minute of those eight and three quarter years that Dawn graced my life with hers.

You are gone from this earth, Dawn, but never from my heart. Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

I love you always and forever, Mom

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