The tears once again poured from my eyes and my heart ached. This was something I wish no parent would have to do, yet here we were. However, as we let go of the last piece of Audrey’s physical existence on this earth, somehow it felt right. We were officially giving her up to God. It was painful and heart-wrenching, but at the same time, it was good.
Last week we returned from a trip back to Homer, Alaska. For those of you who might not know, we were stationed there from 2015-2017 and we completely fell in love with it. Homer is a place filled with so much beauty. It was there that we first found out we were pregnant with Audrey, and even hiked up Grace Ridge, a 3,100-ft mountain, to photograph the announcement of our pregnancy. We have always considered Audrey our “Alaskan baby.”
Because Homer holds such a special place in our hearts and is where we consider Audrey to be from, we saw it as the perfect place to release Audrey’s ashes.
It turned into an incredibly beautiful week of celebration with both our parents and almost all of our siblings flying up to join us.
The evening we set to release Audrey’s ashes was cloudy but God held off the rain for us to go to the beach and make a bonfire. We circled together as a family and prayed and then Justin shared the most beautiful words to celebrate Audrey’s life.
Reading out of Psalm 8 and 115 and 1 Corinthians 1, he reflected on the beauty of Audrey’s name and on the majesty of our LORD’s name. During my pregnancy, Justin had been unsure of the name Audrey, meaning “noble strength”, because giving her a name that suggested she was nobility seemed untrue. But look at what Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 1:26, “think of what you were when you were called…not many were of noble birth.” Audrey’s life was a wonderful witness to the truth that God uses the weak things of the world to establish His strength. How wonderful it was to rejoice that God had chosen Audrey to be one of His.
Who are we that God is mindful of us? Yet He crowned us with glory and honor (Psalm 8:5). He made us sons and daughters of the King. He made us nobility. Therefore, we have access to live in the courts of our Lord God forever.
Because of this incredible truth, the greater name to reflect on is the name of our God. God did not send His Son to die for us to make us the center of the universe but so that we might enjoy Him forever as the center of our universe.
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
For that reason we say, “not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1). While we could have spent so much time praising how wonderful Audrey was, how much greater it was to celebrate that she is with the One who we will forever praise as wonderful.
After offering our praise to God, Justin and I went down to the water and waded in until we were waist deep. As we stood in the dark water, the waves surged against us, threatening to push us over. I couldn’t help but think how it was a picture of our story. How we are standing in the dark cold ocean and the waves of loss, pain, and doubt threaten to push us over. But yet, we still stand tall. Our God won’t let us fall, He won’t let us be toppled by the waves.
“Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”
Justin then opened the little urn and poured Audrey’s ashes into our hands. I was shocked to see how few ashes there were. I cried as I realized that the last time I held her body was when she was dying in my arms. We silently released her ashes into the water. It was beautiful to see them float on the top and then slowly sink down below the waves. We then threw a bouquet of peonies into the water and we watched them float away. The moment was beautiful.
As we stood there we looked up to the heavens to thank God for our daughter, and as we looked up, we realized that there before us, illuminated by rays of sunlight was Grace Ridge. How awesome is it the way God speaks through His creation? That mountain, the place where we told the world about our daughter and now gazed upon while releasing her ashes, was a blatant reminder of God’s ever-present grace to us.
Justin and I continued holding each other for awhile in the waves, watching the flowers drift away and thanking God for giving us such a sacred moment to remember our daughter.
When we returned to our family on the beach, we set everyone to find a rock to build a memorial. We wanted a memorial of remembrance just as the Israelites constructed in Joshua 3 and 4 to remember that God was with them. The Israelites finally finished wandering the wilderness and were entering the Promised Land when they needed to cross the Jordan River. God told them to carry the Ark of the Covenant out into the middle of the river and as long as it stayed there the waters would stop so the Israelites could pass. When they passed through the dry river, Joshua then instructed that a man from each tribe collect a rock from the river bed. Out of the rocks they made a memorial so that they would remember how God was with them while they were in the wilderness and with them then as they were going into the Promised Land.
We wanted to do the same. God has been with us since the beginning. When we were up on Grace Ridge celebrating the life growing inside of me, to the moment we stood in the cold water releasing Audrey’s ashes, and everything in between, He was there.
Together we built the memorial. Then we sang the Doxology and then spent the night cooking food around the fire and listening to the music that has comforted us the most during the past six months. We fellowshipped, played games, and laughed together. It was exactly how we wanted it to be. When it was finally dark enough, we all released floating lanterns up into the sky. Again I saw a beautiful picture of God, of how He is our light in the darkness. Praise God for giving us such a beautiful evening. And praise God for His everlasting grace that saves us and chooses us to be His sons and daughters, heirs to His Kingdom.
With Love, Emily