What do you see when you look back? What do the anniversary milestones indicate?
Do you ever look back at past decisions and shiver when you realize what you would have missed out on if you had not made the choice you did?
Many times we think about our regrets and missteps, but what about the countless decisions we made each day that brought us to this very moment, decisions that were exactly right?
Jason and I celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary this past Sunday (July 12), and while I could easily focus on him as why that was a right decision, there is another anniversary this week that makes me know without question I was supposed to be part of the Rash family.
Six months ago today Jason’s twin sister, Kelley, and her husband, David, released their baby girl into the arms of Jesus. Saturday, Jan. 17, was barely a reality when she left us. We had all said our goodbyes in the last hours of Friday, Jan. 16, as the minutes ticked toward the inevitable.
Belle left this life like she lived it — fearless, peaceful and full of joy. Even though physical limitations gradually overtook her ability to show her fun-loving side to its fullest, we knew she was still as sassy as ever when, despite no longer being able to walk, she demanded to go swimming that week.
She also continued her sweet attention to others by zeroing in on specific past moments with each person who dropped by to say their goodbyes. So many stood in amazement holding back the flood of tears that fought to be released as she left them with the kind of memory only Belle could give.
As we watched her slip away over the course of that last week, we took turns sitting with her around the clock. She and I did makeup that Wednesday and talked about my doggie Rudy several times throughout the week. She and Uncle Jay played thumb wars and picked on each other like they always did. Her siblings held her iPad so she could watch her favorite shows on Netflix. She even pushed them away and scolded them when they started aggravating her — just like normal. She held on tight to her daddy as he moved her from bed to sofa and back to bed, and among her final spoken words were, “I love you, Mommy.”
Those final moments are still so real, so raw. Six months seems like an eternity some days and six seconds on other days, but most often I simply want to believe it really didn’t happen.
And while the intensity of the ache of missing Belle will permanently be etched in our beings, I remain forever thankful and blessed that God saw fit to allow me to be part of the Belle experience — and that because of His saving grace I will be with her again. She is merely a little ahead of us on the journey Home.
Born May 24, 2007, Belle’s cancer battle began in September 2009. She fought hard and beat all the odds for five and a half years. What a privilege for me to serve among the ranks of Team Belle, to be Belle’s Aunt Jen Jen and god mother, to give her all of my heart and watch her transform it beyond what I could ever imagine.
If Jason had not picked me, if I had not married him and if Kelley and David had not trusted and loved me so much, I would have missed out on the very reason I was created. God used Belle to touch so many lives, chief among them mine.
What happens next? How do we push through the grief? Who are we now?
Today, at the six-month mark, I can’t yet answer those questions. But I do know the future — a future anointed by God and enhanced by Belle — is bright, bold, joyous, compassionate, full of surprises, wrapped in excitement and, of course, streaked in hot pink.
—Forever Aunt Jen Jen