August 1, 2014

A Rose Like No Other…

Category: News — admin @ 6:38 pm

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The women weeping at the gate have gone…And
will not come again. And we shall pass, and
shall not come again…And death and dust will
never come again, for death and dust will die.

—Thomas Wolfe
_______________

The day slid in like such days mostly do. And the dark and brutal thing came, out of nowhere. Totally unexpected. No one saw it coming. No one was quite prepared to deal with it. And there was nothing else to do, but to face the bitter winds and walk.

It was a bright and beautiful Monday morning. I don’t talk that way about Mondays a lot. I’m a grumpy kind of guy, I guess. But that day, that Monday, I was feeling pretty good. Just a few more days, and I would be on my way. Heading out on my road trip to Bloomfield and points south. Heading out to meander. It’s been way too long, since I’ve done a thing like that. I think I even hummed a tune, now and then. Good things were coming, good times. And I was all busy getting my stuff lined up, getting my projects scheduled for delivery in my absence.

And right after lunch, it all came down. Everything was quiet. I was sitting at my computer, I’d just hung up my office phone. And my cell phone rang. That’s not unusual. My cell phone rings lots of times every day. I glanced at the screen. Janice. That’s a little odd, I thought. We chat now and then, but not often during the day. Mostly evenings and weekends. Oh, well. Maybe she was in the area somewhere close and wanted to hang out sometime soon. I answered. Hey. Janice, dear. What’s up?

And her voice was very strange. Flat and heavy. But somehow, calm. “Uncle Ira. What are you doing?” Just working, I said. What’s up? And she told me, just launched right in. “I just got off the phone with Dorothy. Little Abby drowned. They couldn’t find a pulse, but she hasn’t been declared dead. They’re airlifting her to Iowa City right now. I don’t have any details at all, what happened. Can you let the family know?” Ah, no. I groaned. Then I caught myself. In a time like that, it doesn’t do anyone any good to groan. I’ll contact the family, of course, I said. I’ll take care of it. Keep me updated when you know more. “I will,” she promised. We hung up.

And I stood there behind the counter. The dark cloud descended around me, in me, through me. No. It couldn’t be. Not a death like this. Not in my family. No one has ever died in my immediate extended family, not until Mom passed away a few months back. It can’t be. No. It can’t be true. It always hits you way down deep inside when you hear about the tragic death of any child. There’s something so brutal and so senseless about it all. But Abby wasn’t just any child. She was blood kin, the three-year-old daughter, the youngest daughter, of my niece, Dorothy Miller and her husband, Lowell.

And I thought about Dorothy and her little family. She’s Janice’s older sister. We’ve kind of disconnected in the last number of years, at least when it comes to actually seeing each other. We’re friends on Facebook, of course, and we’ve stayed connected there. She married Lowell Miller, a guy from Kalona, Iowa, back in the late 1990s, I think it was. I just don’t get out that way, much. I saw her at Mom’s funeral, back in April. That was the first time in a few years that we got to hang out together.

They are always little girls in my mind, Dorothy and Janice. They forever will be. Years ago, when I was in college down south, I hung out with my sister Maggie’s family almost every weekend. The girls were teenagers back then, slogging through all the drama and angst of that age. And I was their big old rugged uncle, a guy who protected them. Or tried to, at least. I scolded them around a bit, too. We still talk about those days.

Dorothy and Lowell had four children, I knew. I’d been around the older ones. Kali, Hunter, and Lexi. But Abby? I don’t recall seeing her, except maybe when she was a baby. I have ninety-eight great-nieces and nephews out there, scattered all over creation. It’s impossible, to keep track of them all, to know who they all are. So I had no real clear picture in my mind of how she looked. But she was Dorothy’s youngest daughter, and from what I’ve heard told, the life of that family. The baby. The live wire. The little drama queen. She had everyone wrapped around her fingers. And now, right this instant, she was being airlifted to Iowa City, with no pulse.

But she hadn’t been pronounced dead, yet. That tiny glimmer of hope flashed through my mind as I called my sister, Rachel. She answered. She’d heard. Janice had left a message on her phone. And we talked about it, my sister and me. The heaviness and sorrow of it. A new burden, a huge burden, for our extended family. “I’ll text everyone,” she told me. “You post it on the family Facebook page.” OK, I said. Let’s keep in touch as we hear more news. “And let’s pray,” she said. “She’s not been pronounced dead, yet. Where there’s any life, there’s hope.” I knew in my heart that it was probably too late, for prayer to make much difference. Not that I don’t believe in prayer, and the power of it. I do. But life is life, from what I’ve seen. And death is death. But I answered my sister. Yes, I said. Let’s pray.

Abby Marie Miller. Three years old. Being airlifted to the hospital, even at the moment. And I logged onto Facebook on my work computer. Posted a brief message on the family page. “Just got terrible news from Janice. Dorothy’s little daughter, Abby, is being airlifted to the hospital. She has no pulse, but has not been pronounced dead. She drowned. At this moment, until she is pronounced dead, please pray hard that the Lord will spare this beautiful child.”

The responses were swift and strong. The family, closing in. Such a thing has never happened before, nothing even close to it. Except for Titus, I guess, way back in 1982. But he was always conscious, when they pulled him from the water. My family has been blessed with life, over the years. Death has been very rare. Mom was the first to leave, of all her extended family. And now the thought flashed through my head. She went first. Because she was needed, to welcome those who would come soon after. She was needed to welcome her little three-year-old great-granddaughter to a far better place. I don’t know if that’s actually something that happens, if it’s actually scriptural or true. But in such moments, your heart, your mind, grasps for some small solace in thoughts like that.

It was gone that day at the office, any chance of getting any real work done. I sat and brooded. The calls came in, and I talked to people, family. I called Steve, and told him. And my nephew, Ira Lee. They both responded in solemn shock. I paced about, tried to focus on what I needed to get done. It was pretty much hopeless. And then I thought. I’ll call John, my nephew. He’s lives in Bloomfield, not far from Kalona, and he and Dorothy are close. He’ll know something. I called. He answered, in his calm, deep voice. Yes. He had been called. He was working just about an hour away from Iowa City. And he was on the way to the hospital now. “Look,” he said. “No one quite knows what’s going on. But Abby hasn’t been pronounced dead, yet. Until she is, I will simply hope and pray for the best.” Yes, I said. Well, hey, thanks. Keep us posted on Facebook, when you get there. He said he would.

I told the others around me, at the office. And everyone got all somber. It’s a brutal, brutal thing to contemplate, the loss of such a young child in such a tragic way. I kept checking the messages on the family page. John announced he’d arrived at the hospital. Dorothy’s family was coming, traveling from far away. Her parents, Ray and Maggie, left immediately from their home in South Carolina. Along with Dorothy’s siblings, Steven and Rhoda. Janice and Evonda were flying in from Houston. He would stay until Janice got there, John wrote. From his words, you could tell the situation was pretty grim.

They found a faint pulse, there at the hospital. Abby was immediately hooked up to the breathing machine. Tomorrow morning they would scan for any brain activity. No one said it, but we all knew. The chances of that were pretty slim. If there was none, they would take her off the machine. I could not imagine what Dorothy and Lowell were going through at about that moment. And their children, Abby’s three older siblings.

The next morning, I talked to John. Janice had arrived around 11:00, he said. That’s when he left. The people from South Carolina drove all night, and arrived just before dawn. It doesn’t look good, does it? I asked. “No,” John said. “It’s not good at all.” And we waited that morning, for news on the brain scan.

There was no life there, when they checked. Lowell and Dorothy took turns, lying in bed beside their daughter, holding her in their arms for the last time. The family gathered in the room, as the life machine was turned off. And they saw the heartbeat on the screen, slowly receding, receding. And then it stopped. Little Abby left them, there. She just left. The text came to me from Janice. “She died at 8:30. Let the family know.” I stared at the message I knew was coming. And I knew what it would say. She was gone. Passed from this life. A beautiful, lively, healthy three-year-old girl.

I told the others in the office, then texted Rachel. Let the family know. Then I posted the news on the family site. By noon, the word came. The funeral would be on Saturday morning. The day we had planned the Amish Reunion in Bloomfield. John and I kept the phone lines hot, calling each other. He’s the one who got it all together, the reunion. And he told me. It would go on, there were a lot of people planning to attend. John just delegated his duties to others. The Wagler clan would show up, but we would just be late.

I called my friends at Enterprise. For this trip, I didn’t ask for a Charger. The medical people have been baying on my trail like relentless bloodhounds, the bills have been piling in. So I figured I’d rent something a little smaller, to save money. Just get me a compact, something like a Fusion, I told the guy. I had planned to leave on Thursday. I moved that up a day, to Wednesday. Because of the funeral, I wouldn’t get to see some of my English friends around Bloomfield. So I figured I’d head up a day early, and see them then. On Tuesday morning, on the way to work, I stopped by to pick up my car. What do you have for me? I asked. The nice man peered at his computer screen. “I have a Charger. Will that work?” It absolutely will, I said. It’s my favorite car. He went out and brought it up. Beautiful, gleaming, snow white. How fitting, I thought. I rode a black horse of mourning to Mom’s funeral. Now for Abby, for a little girl, I had a pure white horse. And there was no upcharge, even. Lord, I thought. Thank you for small blessings like this. I never looked for it, never expected it. And now you gave it to me anyway.

I left on Wednesday morning. Packed up two weeks’ worth of clothes. And a black suit for the funeral. I brooded as I drove, the sadness seeped all the way deep down. How do you walk into such a sorrow, such a loss? What do you say? What can you say? I dreaded the next day, when I’d get to Kalona. The Charger cruised and cruised like only Chargers can, that was one nice thing about that day. I-70 was clogged with construction every few miles, it seemed like. I pushed on, making decent time. On and on, through Ohio, then Indiana. Then by early evening, I was in central Illinois. I pulled into a nice Holiday Inn and settled for the night. Tomorrow, a four-hour run would get me to where I was going.

I got to my destination shortly after noon the next day. Janice had told me. The girls were going shopping, so they wouldn’t be home right at that time. The men were there, though. I walked in and greeted my nephew, Steven. We hugged. Then Maggie stepped out of the house. Her face was tired and haggard. Beyond tears, now. It had been three days. We hugged, and I held her tight. I’m so sorry, I said. I’m so, so sorry. We walked into the house. The place was bustling with people, cleaning up and preparing food. I greeted them. Then I walked into the living room where Lowell was. He met me at the door. I’ve never known him that well, never been around him that much. We embraced, and he burst into tears. It’s no one’s fault, I said softly. It’s no one’s fault. And we sat there in that room and talked.

Maggie bustled about, rousting up some food for me to eat. I hung around, chatting with Steven and his father, Ray, who came wandering in. The details of what had happened trickled out. Lowell and Dorothy live in a rented farm house. And out by the barnyard, they had placed some sort of water tank. Dorothy carefully researched on the internet. What was a safe level of water for children? And they put in nineteen inches of water, for the children to play in. Late that Monday morning, the older children were out there, splashing around. Abby came running in and asked for her bathing suit. Her Mom dressed her and sent her out. No one is quite sure how it all happened. The other children thought she was just playing, stretched out there in the water. But the time they realized what was going on, Abby was gone. Her little goggles were there, at the bottom of the tank. They think maybe she was reaching down to pick them up, and slipped and panicked. But she was gone. In nineteen inches of water.

After an hour or so, Janice and Evonda got back from shopping. I hugged them both. Everyone was very calm. Maybe they were still in shock. Or maybe there were no more tears to weep, at least not in that moment. Dorothy was coming soon, Janice said. About half an hour later, the van pulled in. Dorothy and her sister Rhoda, and some of their children. I met them on the back deck. Dorothy walked up to me and I hugged her tight. She wept in my arms. You’re my little niece, I said. You’ll always be my little niece. “I know,” she said, through her tears. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”

I left then, soon, and headed the ninety miles southwest to Bloomfield. I checked in at the local motel, and then drove on out west to West Grove. The café. It was closed already, but Linda happened to be puttering around outside. She smiled when she recognized me. We talked for a while, then I followed her the short distance to her Mom’s house. Mrs. C was very surprised to see me. At 82 years old, she’s still as spry and beautiful as ever. We sat in her living room and visited and caught up. They both clucked in sympathy when I told them about little Abby. Then it was on, up north of Bloomfield to John’s house. He has a big place. And over the years, he has built one very large, beautiful home. He welcomed me. The place was already bustling with company. Two of his brothers, David and Glen, and their families had arrived. And Ed Yoder, our mutual friend from Illinois, and his family. Ed was taking over John’s duties at the Reunion, at least on Saturday. We hung out. Dort had prepared a large delicious meal. We ate, then sat around John’s roomy porch and chatted the hours away. We talked about the Reunion, coming up. And we talked about Abby, and the unspeakable sorrow of her loss. John and Dort’s youngest daughter is almost a twin to Abby. They look like twins. They were close friends.

The next day I headed back up to Kalona and the Miller home. The viewing would be from 2:00 to 8:00 PM. That sure seems like a long old drag, I thought. That’s going to be brutal on Dorothy and the family. Jesse and Lynda and a few of their children had arrived from South Carolina, after driving through the night before. I greeted them. And soon before 2:00, we headed over to Fairview Mennonite Church, where Lowell and Dorothy are members. We walked in. A nice big place. It looked like they were ready for large crowds. A podium was set up in the hall, where you could sign the guest book. And there was a big sign as well, on an easel. Abby loved going barefoot, it said. In honor of her memory, please feel free to remove your shoes. And that sign was why there were a lot of barefoot women and children that day at the viewing, and the next day at the funeral.

I walked into the large room where the coffin was set up. Lowell and Dorothy stood at the far end, along with members of both their families. A large table was on the right with pictures and memories of Abby. And down along the wall, there was the little white coffin, with half a dozen huge bouquets of flowers. A few people had already lined up. I joined the line, as it crept slowly toward the coffin. And then I was there. And there she lay. Abby.

She looked like a beautiful little girl asleep. Just lying there, eyes closed, sleeping. On her left arm, she snuggled her favorite doll, Minnie Mouse. Another doll on her right arm. I stood and looked down on her for a moment. It surged through me, the unspeakable sadness and sorrow of it all. Then I turned and embraced my niece and her husband. I’m so sorry, I said. I’m so, so sorry.

I walked down the line, shaking the hands of all the people there. And turned back to the room. Janice was sitting off in one empty corner, by herself. I grabbed a chair and joined her. That spot was where my family would gather, as they came. And they came, from all over. This was a new thing for all of us, a thing we would have given just about anything not to have to face. But it was what it was, and we came. Nieces and nephews and their families. My siblings. All of us made it, except Joseph and Rosemary. Joseph wasn’t well enough to attend, or he would have been there. Rosemary didn’t make it, but some of her children would. That afternoon we got the word.

Dad was coming, too. When the news got up to Aylmer that Tuesday, they told Dad. That day, he decided he would not attend. The next morning, he walked over to Rosemary’s house. His eyes were bloodshot, he had slept very little the night before. And he told Rosemary. “I want to go to this funeral.” Rosemary’s children, Eunice and Lester, and Lester’s wife, Tina, wanted to go, too. So early on Friday morning, they loaded up on a van and headed out for Kalona.

The line flowed through in a steady stream all afternoon. At 4:30, the family was invited downstairs for the evening meal. Around 5:00, Dorothy and Lowell joined us. By then, so many of the family had arrived that the room was pretty much overflowing. They fed us well, the people of that church. They surrounded Dorothy and Lowell with tons and tons of support and love. It was all a bit overwhelming to see.

And right about then, Dad’s load arrived. Someone guided him through the short line, right up to the coffin. He stood there, bent and leaning on his walker, and just looked down on Abby. I don’t know what was going through his mind. He’s seen a lot in his lifetime, but he’d never seen anything like this. His great-granddaughter, lying there in a little white coffin, asleep. He’s ninety-two years old. She was three.

Dad’s sister Rachel, who lives in the Kalona Amish community, was with him. We seated them at the end of the line, where Dorothy and Lowell had stood. We set up a little table for them, and Maggie and I carried up food for my father and his sister. I went downstairs again, but Maggie sought me out. “Dad would like someone to come up and sit with them,” she said. I took my plate of food up to where they were and sat and ate with them.

After supper, the place filled up quickly as the crowds surged in. The line strung out the room and flowed into the foyer. It’s maddening, how slowly funeral viewing lines crawl along. People mean well, but they don’t think. You can’t stop and visit with every person in the bereaved family. It takes up too much time. And by 7:00, the line was through the foyer and out the door. I conferred with Janice. We have to get those people moving along. I’m not from around here, I told her. If people get mad at me for nudging them along, I won’t be around to hear it. Let’s do it. So that’s what I did. Kind of stalked up and down, and policed the line. Once in a while, I tapped some slowpoke on the shoulder. You really have to keep moving, I’d murmur quietly. The line is out the door, back there. You have to move along. And they did.

The most heartrending scene happened right about that time. A family came through with young children. And there was a little daughter, right at Abby’s age. The little girl was Abby’s best friend. I saw the father lift up his daughter, so she could see her friend, lying there. I saw him explaining to her the story of what had happened. That Abby was now sleeping, now up in heaven with Jesus. And then the family approached Dorothy and Lowell. And I saw the poor woman, my poor niece, I saw her body heaving as Abby’s best friend walked up to her. Dorothy sobbed, slow and deep, as the enormity of her loss swept through her, all the way down. She reached out and enveloped the little girl in her arms. The family stood there, half circling her. Tears flowed freely from all standing close by. I stepped up with Janice, and we directed the people in line around the little huddled group.

After she composed herself, Dorothy’s sisters led her outside for some fresh air. A short time later, they returned. But the strain was just too much for Dorothy. Ten minutes later, they brought a wheelchair and took her outside and took her home. She had requested that the family stop by after the viewing. She wanted to have a fire outside, and sit around. So we all assembled there. It had all been taken care of, the wood was chopped and someone had started a nice crackling fire. My nephew David, Joseph’s son, popped popcorn in a large black lidded kettle above the fire, and we feasted on that. And then a bunch of food arrived, food that people had delivered to the church. And we sat around and talked and ate. Soon, a guitar was strumming, and you could hear the accompanying harmonica. And they sang. Songs of heaven, songs for Abby. After Dorothy had recuperated a bit, she came out and joined us. And we just hung out, as a family. It was a good time, a beautiful time, and a very sad time.

The next morning, we gathered at the church to bury one of our own. The place was pretty well packed out. The coffin was set up in the foyer as we arrived. And I looked again, down on a beautiful, sleeping little girl. They seated my family way up in the front rows. And the service began. A short devotional, then the main sermon. After that, a video tribute to Abby, very touching. And then Abby’s aunt and uncle, Janice and Steven, stood at a mic in the back of the church. All was somber and silent as Steven strummed his guitar and they sang with tears streaming down their faces, in perfect, absolutely beautiful harmony. A slow, achingly haunting rendition of “Jesus loves me, this I know…” And then they finished, and all was quiet. And then we were dismissed.

They trundled the little white coffin right out to the graveyard. We stood under the canopy, the crowd flowing all around. Dorothy and Lowell and their children had one last look at Abby. Then the coffin lid was closed. The family stood close to the grave, right at the very edge, as the coffin was slowly lowered. It was some sort of winch system. They didn’t do it by hand, like the Amish do. The coffin slowly sank down, and settled. And thus little Abby Marie Miller was returned to the earth.

They had brought out dozens of red balloons. I guess that was Abby’s favorite color. The balloons were passed out after the coffin went down. The crowd kind of spilled out to an empty part of the graveyard. Dorothy stood there, surrounded by her children and her family. And she told us. “Abby liked to claim she was eleven. So we’re counting down from eleven to zero, then we’ll release the balloons.” She started the count, and we all chanted with her. ”Eleven, ten,” all the way down to zero. And then we let them go, the balloons. A hundred of them, it seemed like. They floated up and the south winds instantly caught them and carried them away. And they drifted out of sight within a few minutes. Abby’s balloons.

And that’s about all I got to say about the funeral. I wasn’t sure I could even write about it, because to write such a thing, you have to walk back through and relive it all again. And that was pretty tough to do. But I’ve always said. You write from where you are. Wherever that is. Even from the hard places, maybe especially from the hard places. So that’s what I tried to do.

Lowell and Dorothy and their surviving children are going to have a long, hard road ahead of them. It will return again and again for a long time, the heavy sorrow of their loss. It’s the cruelest loss of all, of that there is little doubt. I’ve seen a lot of hard losses, in my life. A lot of hard things, stripped away. But I’ve never lost a child. And I’ve never lost a sibling.

I’ve been thinking about things a bit, about Dorothy and Lowell and their family. I’ve never asked for a penny for the twenty-plus hours of labor that go into every blog I post. But now I am asking my readers. If you enjoy my blogs, please consider donating to help defray all the expenses incurred by Abby’s tragic accident and death. There are medical and funeral costs. And loss of work, for Lowell. They will have financial hardships. And no, they didn’t ask me to post this link. If you can’t contribute, I understand, just pray for the family. But if you can, any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. (If you saw this link on Facebook before and responded, just ignore this paragraph.) Or if you’d rather, just send them a card or letter in the mail. Thank you, either way.

Lowell and Dorothy Miller
4808 Sharon Center Road SW
Iowa City, IA 52240

A couple of thoughts in closing. How does one make any sense of it all? It seems so random and so brutal and so wrong. Maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe they don’t. I don’t think that anyone’s ever going to tell Lowell and Dorothy the reason why their little Abby is gone. There are no formulas for that. No wise words, no pat answers.

But still, there can be words of comfort, when you grasp down deep to find them. And speak them from the heart. And now, I think back to that day as it came down. As it was descending around us, the dark thing, that Monday after lunch, my mind flashed back thirty-five years or so. Back to a connection, back to a simple scene in Bloomfield, Iowa. I don’t remember where church was that Sunday. But I remember my brother Joseph, preaching. And in that moment, that dark Monday, I went back to a time and place of long ago. And I heard again the rhythm and flow of my brother’s voice.

Somewhere in his sermon, he told a story. I don’t know what triggered it. But he spoke in detail of a young Amish couple in another community. About Lowell and Dorothy’s age. They had four or five children. The youngest child was a daughter, the baby of the family. Just like Abby. And somehow, that little girl got killed, in some totally senseless and tragic accident. One moment she was there, healthy, bubbling, happy. And the next moment, she was gone. Dead. And they buried her in the graveyard.

Joseph struggled to describe how hard it was for the parents to let their little daughter go. Especially for the mother. She wept and wept and grieved. Her heart was simply broken, she would not be consoled. All she could do was mourn for her little girl. It was beyond Joseph’s comprehension, such a loss, such a heavy sorrow. And he spoke tenderly and compassionately of how brutal life can be sometimes, of how some are called to face hardships that few others ever see. Burdens that few others can even imagine.

And then he spoke of the comfort that can only come from the Lord. He’d heard it said, or maybe he’d read it in a poem somewhere. Children are like flowers in a garden. Blooming there, in innocence. The Lord looks down on His garden every day. And once in a while, Joseph said, He reaches down with His finger and plucks up one of those beautiful little flowers from His garden. And takes that flower home to be with Him.

Somehow, it affected me deeply, that simple sermon and that simple analogy. I never forgot it, and thought of it now and then, over the years. And it applies here, if you think about it. And if you believe, by faith. There is no other way any of it makes any sense. It gives me comfort, the way Joseph told the story in that long-ago time and place. That was then. This is now. But he could just as well have been speaking about little Abby today.

The Lord looked down on His garden, back on that fateful Monday morning. And He saw a beautiful flower blooming there. A beautiful, beautiful rose. A rose like no other. He reached down with His finger, and gently plucked little Abby from this earth. And took her home to be with Him.

Now, here we are, heartbroken, right where we were when she left us. And now, there she is, in that magnificent place no tongue can ever describe. A rose like no other.

And there she’ll live forever, blooming for Him.

Abby

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(23 Comments) »

  1. Beautifully written! I saw a link on Facebook about little Abby’s drowning and was on Dorothy’s Facebook page and read about her. Then along comes your post. In checking back, I saw the poignant picture of your dad at the coffin. Thanks again! Praying for Abby’s family.

    Comment by Janet Martin — August 1, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

  2. An extremely beautiful and well-written blog post. I cried all the way through. I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I love the connection with the garden flower. It is beautiful. Your whole family is in my prayers. May God’s peace descend on all of you.

    Comment by Rosanna F. — August 1, 2014 @ 8:07 pm

  3. Your words are blurred with my tears. You did a wonderful job capturing the family’s deep grief–with tender kindness. This was our story 11 years ago except our daughter drowned four days before her 3rd birthday. It’s wonderful to see family support – they will need loving care for a long time. Grief like this cuts deeper and lasts longer than anyone wants to endure. The first year is awful and the next not much better but time does soften the pain and life will become bearable and eventually return to a new normal. God bless your family as you minister to Lowell, Dorothy and their children.

    Comment by Dorothy Hostetler — August 1, 2014 @ 8:28 pm

  4. I echo what Dorothy Hostetler wrote…we have walked this journey of grief as well since our son died in a drowning accident. There really are no words to describe the death of one of your children! And yet you did a wonderful job in conveying this whole story, one that makes no sense to our human reasoning! You don’t know us, but I shook your hand at the viewing and blessed you for your writings:) And yes, I also struggle terribly with those lines at viewings..for many different reasons!

    Comment by Fannie Ellen Schlabach — August 1, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

  5. Abby, dear sweet precious child of God….you are too beautiful for words…this picture of you is like a picture of heaven–words can’t possibly capture your grace and the sorrow of losing you. But heaven’s gift is such a loss for us. I didn’t know you but somehow your leaving is piercing my heart, too. God bless this family and keep their hearts open to grace always, please!!!

    Comment by Pam — August 1, 2014 @ 10:31 pm

  6. I have been reading your all posts (current and previous) ever since I read your book last year. I have enjoyed reading what you have to say and appreciate you opening up your life to your readers.

    Today’s post really moved me as my nephew and his wife lost their 3 year old daughter and 6 week old son when they drowned in a pond after an auto accident in TN.

    I especially appreciated how you ended today’s post with your remembrance of a sermon your brother preached. What a beautiful illustration of children and our heavenly Father. I think this will bring comfort to my nephew and his wife and I will be forwarding today’s post to them. Thank you.

    I will be sending a card and financial gift to Lowell and Dorothy and will pray for them.

    Comment by Tom — August 1, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

  7. One of the most beautiful and heartbreaking posts you ever wrote. Yes, I will help Dorothy and Lowell. When a child dies, the world turns upside down. Parents are not meant to bury their children. Children die every day in this cruel world of ours. I can’t reach out to every parent who has lost a child, but I can reach out to Dorothy and Lowell. Thank you for writing this. Rest in peace, little Abby.

    Comment by cynthia r chase — August 2, 2014 @ 8:48 am

  8. I thought something was wrong when you didn’t post for a while…what a sad ending to a young life…I will put a card in the mail for the grieving family…

    Comment by Lana — August 2, 2014 @ 9:44 am

  9. The depth and breadth of your family’s bond is wonderfully amazing. Your endearment towards your nieces is sweet. You are all very lucky to have each other. Dorothy, Lowell, Kali, Hunter and Lexi, peace be with you. For Abby, ‘Good night. Good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow. That I should say goodnight till it be morrow.” -Shakespeare.

    Comment by Lisa DeYoung — August 2, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  10. Thank you for taking those of us who are further from their journey of loss, into the story so we may grieve more fully. I went to the visitation and I’m so glad you encouraged people to move along. I felt bad for being there at all and realized it was for me, not them, that I attended. The most meaningful scripture to me when losing a loved one is also the shortest; “Jesus wept”. He did this outside of the tomb of the man he was about to raise from the dead. He loves us; He truly does. That is the only answer to the unanswerable.

    Comment by Katherine Anderson — August 2, 2014 @ 10:39 am

  11. You write about this so beautifully. Your words were blurred by my tears also. As you know I, too, lost my son, my baby, even though he was 31. As his mother, he will always be my baby boy. To me, while on this earth, there will never be a good enough reason for him to be taken before me. Someday I will know the why. As you and your family walk this journey, know that people do care and will do whatever they can to help. I am just now getting to the point I can pray without being angry. I will pray for comfort to come to you all. I find comfort in thinking Eric is there helping to care for little Abby.

    Comment by Carolyn Teubel — August 2, 2014 @ 11:55 am

  12. Thank you for the beautiful tribute for Abby. She was a very talented young lady…and she sported a few Wagler actions….when I saw Janice’s name come up in my caller ID, an arrow shot thru me. Janice is a busy executive with a large company. She does not randomly call people in the middle of the day. But what she said when I returned her call left me speechless. And that’s pretty much my feeling today. But I am thankful that there is a God. He is under no obligation to explain his plan to us. That being said, we will never forget this dear little rose who bloomed so sweetly for 3 short years…

    Comment by Rachel — August 2, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

  13. Thank you, Ira, for sharing such a heartbreaking experience with all of us. I didn’t want to read it…because hearing of a drowning always hurts my heart terribly, let alone to read details of the funeral. You see, my family lost a child to drowning also. I was five years old when my brother drowned in the Ohio River. He was 15 yrs. old in 1952, but such an innocent 15 yr. old. My family was never the same again. The hurt becomes fresh once again when I hear of a drowning.

    But I did read it…as you say so often, it is what it is..and I’m a believer in that saying as well. May God bless Abby’s family and comfort them through this troubling time. No, their family will never be the same again, and Abby will NEVER be forgotten or her memory laid aside. But time does help to heal the raw grief. Thank you SO much, Ira.

    Comment by Diane — August 2, 2014 @ 5:23 pm

  14. Tears are flowing down my cheeks. I grieve for your loss and the family of Abby. We don’t know why this happens. We just have to have faith and trust in the Lord. I am sending $100 to the family.

    Comment by Julie — August 2, 2014 @ 5:25 pm

  15. I was on Dorothy’s Facebook a few years ago and what amazed me was the great lenghts that she went to when she taught her chilren about Jesus Christ. Especially at Christmas. I know that this beautiful little child lived in a world where she knew she was loved and when she moved onto the next world she knew Jesus and is with a friend who loves her.

    Comment by Carol Ellmore — August 2, 2014 @ 5:35 pm

  16. There are no words that can help, but I do pray for Dorothy, Lowell and their children, only GOD knows why and can help them thru their loss.

    Comment by Warren — August 2, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

  17. Such a touching post… and beautifully written. I had to stop to cry, and read it in manageable segments because it breaks my heart, every word. When I was a pre-teen, my nephew drowned, only two years old, in a few inches of water… a little kiddie pool. I never met him either. The support Dorothy and Lowell experienced from family, friends and church is incredible. The healing, however, will take a lifetime. You are so right that there is no way to understand, and there are no words. My prayers continue for the whole family, especially Dorothy, Lowell and the children. Bless you, Ira, for sharing this difficult story with us.

    Comment by Trudy Metzger — August 3, 2014 @ 1:52 am

  18. Thank you for sharing your gift for writing with us.

    This morning in our sermon at church the preacher said ” …no matter what we are going through…what trial or problem or dilemma…God is there first”.

    It doesn’t always help or make things easier, but I believe it is true.

    Comment by Lynda — August 3, 2014 @ 4:43 am

  19. Just weeping. My sympathy to you, your family, and the little three year old friends. May peace that passes all understanding be your portion.

    Comment by Rhoda — August 3, 2014 @ 3:23 pm

  20. Sad..so very sad, it is hard to imagine the grief of a person, a parent who has lost a piece of themselves. Something that they helped create, that brought them joy. Someone they can never touch or hold again, who would have grown up to experience life with all its joys and at times, tragedy. My mantra, the one that says there is nothing, absolutely nothing out of place in God’s world would ring a bit hollow right now if I was in the parent’s place. Anger would be inside me, rage perhaps, grief and fear. God, what is the meaning of this, why did you take the little one from us like that? I saw a thing yesterday that resonated, and I’d seen it it before, but yesterday it got me. That there is no spiritual growth without suffering. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t like to suffer. My heart goes out to the family for that empty spot in the midst of them. And my prayers are with them that they may find comfort and peace. Thanks IRA, for writing this out so well.

    Comment by Lenny — August 5, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

  21. Ira,

    Thanks so much for sharing Dorothy and Lowell’s grief experience. Our sympathy to all of you. That blog was one of the best you’ve ever written. Expressing your feelings as you did took one right to the scene; very poignant. Writing about those days over Abby’s funeral is the best gift you could’ve given to your niece and family. They will cherish it for years to come. I loved to read the details.

    I wish someone would’ve done that for us. Having experienced sudden deaths with two of our children, we can empathize with Dorothy and Lowell. Time moves on, yet you remember the scene as if it happened yesterday. Tell them to do the “small” pleasures in life. Getting up in the morning for that cup of coffee (or tea) is worth getting up for. This process of grief is an unfamiliar path; the road is uphill and hard. Their faith will help them through. Looking forward to your next blog!

    Comment by Esther — August 11, 2014 @ 7:43 pm

  22. Thank you for telling the story. I cry everytime I read it, but thank you for capturing it.

    Comment by Janice — August 17, 2014 @ 11:49 pm

  23. Dear dear Uncle…
    Once again you have out done yourself. I have read this many times and still can not read this without weeping. Our Wagler family IS close and even more dear to me now then ever. Thank you for showing right up and being here for “your little niece” (that part makes me chuckle) and for preserving memories that for us were all a blur in the hub bub of the viewing and funeral. I am overwhelmed at the support, cards and letters that have kept coming on an almost daily basis from many of your readers and friends. “Thank you” seems feeble….
    Please know we are grateful..
    I Love you so much!

    Comment by Dorothy Miller — August 21, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

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