ANNIE GRACE SABIN - March 30, 2010 - August 1, 2010

ANNIE GRACE SABIN - March 30, 2010 - August 1, 2010


Saturday, August 1, 2015


Ten days ago, we dropped our oldest son off at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and said goodbye to him for two years.  We will not see this boy for two whole years!  Our only communication with him will be weekly emails, regular letters, and two annual phone calls (on Mother’s Day and Christmas).

I knew it would be hard.  I just didn’t know it would be that hard.  He was set apart as a missionary the night before and didn’t report to the MTC until 2 PM the following afternoon, so we all got up with him early that morning (missionaries are required to wake up every day at 6:30 AM) and spent the day together.  We went to the temple.  We spent a few hours at home.  We went to lunch.  And then it was time to go.  We got in the car and headed towards Provo and the MTC, (where he will be living for the next two months before moving to Toronto, Canada to begin his service there).  As we drove into Provo and stopped at a traffic light, I glanced at the car next to us, and could see that they, too, were taking their son to the MTC.  I could see the new missionary in the back seat with his siblings.  I could see his parents in front, trying, just as we were, to maintain their composure.  We then drove up the hill to the Provo Temple, where there were countless families, doing just what we were doing… spending a few final moments with a precious son or daughter that was leaving.  Taking all of this in almost took my breath away, and at one point, I whispered to Cameron, “It is amazing to me that so many families are willing to do this.  Because this is really hard.”  
After spending some time on the lawn in front of the Provo Temple, we climbed back into the car to drive just a couple of blocks and finally drop him off at the MTC.  Cameron went the long way (I don’t know if this was on purpose, but I was glad he did), and we drove past the temple, down the hill and then turned left onto the street that the MTC is on.  Because of traffic, we had to wait a while to turn, and I watched as car, after car, after car drove up the street and turned into the MTC.  In that moment, I could feel that I was watching an army of God being gathered right before my eyes (and to think that this happens every Wednesday is just incredible to me!).  We pulled up to the curb, and in less than sixty seconds our boy was gone. 

We cried all the way home. Every single one of us.
But, I can’t deny that my heart was full of gratitude that day as well.  I have never served a full-time mission, but I am so grateful to have raised a son that will.  He is such a good boy.  Not perfect.  But a really, really good boy.   The reason that I am willing to let him go, and the reason that he is willing and wants to go, (and the reason that I believe SO many families -and young men and women- are willing) is this:   The Gospel is true.  It changes lives.  It has changed mine.  And his.  Life is hard (we have certainly learned that first-hand) but God is so very good.  He loves His children and wants them to be happy, now… and later.  And He has asked us to help Him by sharing what we know (and probably take for granted) with others that might not know.    

Annie died five years ago, today.  I still miss her all the time.  I remember wondering way back then, if the missing her would fade over the years.  It hasn’t.  It doesn’t matter if I am happy, or sad, I am always missing her.  There is piece of me that is not here and I know that I will never be complete until I have her back in my arms again. 
But, in the meantime, I know that my Heavenly Father loves me, and I know that He loves her, too.  I know that He provided a Savior and prepared a way for us to be together again-a way for my family and my heart to be whole again.  What a beautiful plan!   

I made Austin a small family album to take on his mission and made sure to include pictures of him with Annie, because chances are, he will meet somebody in Canada who is missing a loved one every minute of every day and feeling like they will never be whole again. 

What a difference the gospel might make to them... it has certainly made a difference to us.
And for that, I am willing. 

I am willing to miss my boy for two years so that another family can know what we know: that Heavenly Father is real and that we are His children; that He loves us; that He hears our prayers and He knows our hearts; that the Savior came to earth and gave His life to atone for the sins of all of us; that He rose from the grave so that we could too; that He paved the way for families to be eternal; that He will someday come again; and that when He does, "every knee shall bend and every tongue shall speak in worship before Him." (The Living Christ) 
Missionary work is God's work.  One only has to visit the MTC campus on a Wednesday afternoon to feel and to know that. 
I'm so grateful to have a son that is willing, worthy, able, and excited to be a part of it.  And, as it turns out, I am more than willing to love, support, pray for, and miss this boy like crazy for the next two years.
Love you, Austin!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Just over two years ago, I met a group of women for dinner.  Until that night, most of us were strangers, but the bond that we felt upon meeting, was immediate and undeniable.  We connected instantly as we introduced ourselves.  We talked about our families.  Our lives. Our children at home. 

And our child in heaven.  

The common denominator at our table that night was that each of us had a child in heaven.  Each of us was the mother of a son or a daughter who had lost a battle with congenital heart defects. 

As we shared our stories, the details were obviously different, but one thing was the same for all of us.  We had all buried a precious child way too soon (one mother had done this just the week previous).  Of course, as we talked, many tears were shed at our table in the corner of the restaurant that night.

In turn, each of us shared our experience with the journey: the shock, the fight, the sweetness, the horror, the loss, the grief, the love, the despair, the hope and the healing.  For some, the grief flowed raw and fresh and was still so very painful.  For others, it had ebbed into a place of quiet acceptance, of peace, and even gratitude. 

At one point during this conversation, one woman, who was in the thick of her grief, said something that I have never forgotten. 

After sharing the anguish that she felt with the recent loss of her daughter, and with tears coursing down her cheeks, she cried, "I feel like my heart has been ripped from my chest and has been shattered into a million pieces."  She then followed with, "And I just don't know how it can ever be ok again."

Those words pierced my heart that night.  In part, because I ached for her aching.  Her grief weighed on her like a thousand pounds and any words of comfort that I could think to offer were simply no match for the pain that she was feeling. 

Her words also pierced my heart because I had been in that place before.  I too had once felt that unspeakable despair and agony and wondered for myself how it could ever be ok again.

Towards the end of Annie's life, I told my bishop that I felt like I was hanging from the edge of the deepest, darkest abyss, holding on with just my fingernails. I told him that I felt like I was clawing my way every day to keep from slipping father.  I told him that I knew that if and when Annie died, I would fall into the blackness and that I would never be able to climb out. 

I just knew it.

And I was terrified. 

I could not see how I would ever be ok.

Within less than two weeks of this conversation with my bishop, Annie died. 

My biggest fear became a reality, and yet, it didn't.  Yes, my daughter was gone.  And yes, I grieved as any mother would.  But the fall into that black hole that I just knew was imminent, never happened. 

I felt it looming right up until the end.  Even during our last hours with her I could not keep the fear of that darkness away.  I just did not know how to navigate this part of the journey with her come out intact on the other side.

How would I ever be ok again?

When Annie finally took her last breath and left this earth behind, a miracle happened in her hospital room.  Not the miracle that I had been seeking for the past four months, but a miracle nonetheless.  Instead of slipping into the blackness that I knew would swallow me, I literally felt myself being lifted from the edge of that dreaded abyss.  Hands that I could not see pulled me to safety that day, and for several weeks, arms that I could not see carried me as I navigated those first most difficult weeks without my sweet Annie. 

I'm not going to say that I wasn't incredibly sad and didn't feel deep heartache at the loss of my daughter because I was, and I did.  But, the crushing, suffocating grief that I felt prior to Annie's passing was not part of my experience after she was gone.  I no longer felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails.  The terrifying blackness simply wasn't there.  And somehow I knew that everything would be ok... that I would be ok.

A miracle.

No doubt about it.

Something that I could never have done for myself.

I was rescued.

Just a few days ago, on Easter Sunday morning, I listened as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of another's rescue.  The details of his story took me right back to my own experience in August, 2010, and my heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude for the miracle that occurred in my life almost five years ago. 

He told the following story of two brothers:

Without safety ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind, two brothers—Jimmy, age 14, and John, age 19 (though those aren’t their real names)—attempted to scale a sheer canyon wall in Snow Canyon State Park in my native southern Utah. Near the top of their laborious climb, they discovered that a protruding ledge denied them their final few feet of ascent. They could not get over it, but neither could they now retreat from it. They were stranded. After careful maneuvering, John found enough footing to boost his younger brother to safety on top of the ledge. But there was no way to lift himself. The more he strained to find finger or foot leverage, the more his muscles began to cramp. Panic started to sweep over him, and he began to fear for his life.
Unable to hold on much longer, John decided his only option was to try to jump vertically in an effort to grab the top of the overhanging ledge. If successful, he might, by his considerable arm strength, pull himself to safety.
In his own words, he said:
“Prior to my jump I told Jimmy to go search for a tree branch strong enough to extend down to me, although I knew there was nothing of the kind on this rocky summit. It was only a desperate ruse. If my jump failed, the least I could do was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.
“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.
“But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.”1

He then beautifully related this story to the life and soul-saving rescue that happens for each of us as the Savior extends his hands and opens his arms of mercy to save each one of us from impending doom.  Speaking of this, he said, we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins.
...Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and rose from death in order that He could, like lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fall, hold us with His might, and through our obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life.

One of my favorite hymns is "God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son".  The third verse almost always brings tears to my eyes:

Oh, love effulgent, love divine!
What debt of gratitude is mine,
That in his offering I have part
And hold a place within His heart.

His rescue has made all the difference in my life without Annie.

He is the reason that I am ok.

Better than ok. 

There was a time when (just like my friend in the restaurant), I didn't know that I would ever be happy again.

But, I am.

Because of Him.

I know that I will see her again, and because I know that, I can be happy in the meantime.

Because of Him.

What debt of gratitude is mine for the part of His offering that belongs to me.

How thankful I am to have experienced His love, His grace, and His rescuing power in my life.

It really has made all the difference.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Raindrops From Heaven

The last month of Annie's life was excruciating.

For all of us.

It really was. 

It still makes me shudder when I let myself really remember that time in our lives.  I have never felt more alone.  I have never been more desperate for comfort;  truly, agonizingly, achingly desperate.

I remember describing that it actually hurt to breathe at times. 

That sounds crazy. 

But, that is how it felt to live through some of those days.  That is how it felt for me. 

I can hardly bear to imagine how it felt for Annie. 

I know I have already written some about this, but I want to share an experience today, on her four- year angel day, that has stayed with me all of these years.

One morning in July of 2010, I stopped by my sister-in-law's house to drop my kids off on the way to the hospital.  I remember that I came inside for a few minutes to change Hadley's diaper before I left.  And I remember that she (my sister-in-law) was getting her baby out of the tub while I was kneeling on her living room floor with Hadley at my knees.  My sister-in-law's own sweet daughter was born just a few weeks after Annie, and as I watched her carry that baby wrapped up snug in a towel my heart just broke in two.  I was caught completely off-guard by my reaction to such a small thing, but in that moment, to think of the everyday regular things (like baths and fluffy towels) that Annie was missing out on was more than I could bear.  Not once, in Annie's entire life, did she get to take a bath; at least not a bath like that.  Until that day at my sister-in-law's home, a real bath had not even been on my radar of things to be sad about. But this particular morning, it completely crushed me.

I got in my car and I wept as I drove towards the hospital.  At first my tears were sad, broken-hearted tears.  But, it did not take long before I was crying tears of frustration, bitterness and even anger.  I almost never felt anger during Annie's life.  But I was angry that day. 

I started a conversation with my Heavenly Father right there in my car.  This was a regular occurrence for me during Annie's life, but this time, the conversation was different.  This time, I really let Him have it.  And by that, I mean that I held absolutely nothing back.  I didn't choose my words carefully.  I didn't filter my thoughts.  I vented.  I cried.  I begged.

And, I told Him that I felt abandoned by Him. 

I said the words out loud that I had been feeling for days, but had not dared to vocalize. 

Especially to Him. 

I held nothing back.

In the midst of this heated (on my part) conversation, a big fat raindrop hit my window.  At first, I didn't think it was (or even could possibly be) a raindrop, because in every direction from my vantage point there was nothing but blue sky and sunshine.  I literally could not see a cloud in the sky.  But then, another, and another, and another hit my windshield and before I knew it, I was turning on the wipers to clear the rain so I could see the road clearly. 

Now this seems like a silly thing, and of course, there is an explanation for the rain (there was a cloud above my car that I simply could not see from my place in the driver's seat).  And, I know that I am not the first person to experience a summer rain cloud surrounded by an otherwise beautiful blue sky. 

A small thing really. 

But that day, it was everything to me.

In my broken-in-every-way state, with tear drops falling freely from my cheeks, I found long-sought comfort in those rain drops falling freely from the sky.  Such a simple thing, I know.  But, I honestly felt like Heaven was weeping with me that morning.  Somehow, I felt like my suffering was acknowledged and for the first time in good while...

I didn't feel alone in it.

He was with me.

I felt Him there. 

He didn't care that I was angry and frustrated with my situation and even with Him.  He didn't care about my unbecoming meltdown in the car that day. 

He just cared about me. 

That's it. 

One daughter out of countless daughters. 

He cared about me.

I've never forgotten it.

I've had other hard days and times since that unbelievably hard time in my life.

I've even had more unbecoming meltdowns since that morning in my car.

But, I have never forgotten that He was with me that day.

I've never forgotten those raindrops from heaven.

And I never will.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tender Mercies

This little cutie-pie turned 5 in December.  I love this girl and often say to others that she has been SO good for my heart these last few years.  When I found out that I was pregnant with Annie, I cried, in part because Hadley was only 6 months old at the time, and I couldn't fathom how I was going to add another baby to the mix and keep my sanity.

I knew my tears were selfish, but I couldn't deny my feelings (or stop the tears for that matter).  At that time, I had no idea about Annie's complicated heart defects and the toll that they would take on her life and mine.  And still, consumed in self-pity, I questioned Heavenly Father's timing in sending another little one to our family.

I just could not see the wisdom in it.
Fast forward a few months and we found out that not only were we welcoming a daughter, but this baby was going to have a tough time.  Her life was not going to be easy.  We knew then that even if things went well, she and we would be spending a significant amount of time at the hospital.  By this time, I knew that Annie was meant for our family.  I no longer questioned Heavenly Father in sending her to us.

But, I still wondered about the timing.  Hadley was too young to understand any of it, and I wished that she was older; that the gap between these two was wider.
Annie was born and things didn't go as well as we had hoped they would.  For the next several months, I spent every single day (except one, when I was sick) in Annie's hospital room.  She had to be my number one priority, and while I knew that I was making the right choice, I felt guilty about the impact this might be having on my children at home, especially Hadley who was surely wondering why Mom was leaving her every day.

Again, I wished that she was older, and assumed that this would all be a bit easier if she were.

Four months later, Annie died.
I was home again. 
Just like that, it was over. 

I had my old life back.

But I was not my old self.

The new me had a hole in my heart that just would not quit.   
I still have a hole in my heart.

But I can now see that Heavenly Father's ways are (and always were) so much higher and better than my ways.  What I thought was terrible timing on His part, was, in reality, one of the greatest tender mercies He has ever shown me. 
He knew that Annie wasn't staying for long.  He knew that she wasn't coming home to us.  He knew that her life and her death would introduce me to a soul-crushing grief that my previous self didn't even know was possible.  He knew that when she was gone, when she was really gone, my heart and my arms would literally ache to hold and rock and cuddle that precious, priceless, youngest daughter.

He couldn't let me keep her.  He couldn't give me that.  But, he could give me another daughter that loved to be held and rocked and cuddled and snuggled tight.  And, He could send these two girls close enough together that the big sister hadn't outgrown all of these things when He called the little sister home. 
He could give me that.
All of my kids have been snuggly-bugs, but Hadley is by far the snuggliest.  Even now, at the age of five, she is happy to curl up on my lap or in my bed and just be held.  She is not a replacement for Annie.  No one ever could be.  Hadley is her own beautiful person that lights up our family in so many ways.  She is adored and loved by every single one of us.  But, I have no doubt that her place in our family was divinely appointed.  She was meant to be a barely bigger sister to our precious little Annie.  The Lord was in all of it.  Every detail.  I didn't understand it.  But He did.  And in His infinite wisdom and love, He granted this blessing to me that I did not ask for or deserve.
A beautiful tender mercy.
Almost four years ago, while waiting for Annie to come out of one of her many surgeries, I passed the time hand-stitching this quote by Elder David A. Bednar onto a piece of fabric:
"The tender mercies of the Lord are real and they do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.  Faithfulness, obedience and humility invite tender mercies into our lives, and it is often the Lord's timing that enables us to recognize and treasure these important blessings.  We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord's tender mercies.  The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live."
I loved this the first time I heard it (years before Annie was born).  I love it even more today. 
His tender mercies are real.
I know that, for sure.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1, 2010

The phone was ringing and it was way too early for the phone to be ringing.  I knew what the caller ID said without even looking at it.  I knew it was the hospital.  With my heart in my throat, I answered the call.  I tried to listen carefully as the doctor on the other end explained what was happening to my daughter's swollen and oh-so-tired body.  I tried to hear her telling me details about blood gasses and IV access and kidney failure and on and on and on.  I tried to hear her, but my heart was breaking too loudly to hear much of anything.  I hung up and knew that it was over.

Our fight for her life was over.

For four months we had been waiting for and aching for some resolution, and now we would finally have it.  Not the answer that we hoped for, but an answer still.

Our little baby was not coming home to us.

She was going home to Him. 

We gathered our other children on our bed to share the news with them.  We wept as any family would.  Yes, we believe in eternal families.  But that doesn't mean that we don't mourn the loss of those we love, and we mourned deeply that morning.  I can still see it.  I can still feel it.  The truth is, I am still mourning her.  I think we all are.

Cameron and I left for the hospital and arranged for the kids to meet us later that morning.  We asked the older children if they wanted to be with us when we said goodbye.  They said yes.  My sister came to be with the little ones.

When they arrived, we huddled around Annie in that crib that had been a prison and a home to her for so many long months.  We cried.  We told her how very much we loved her.  We told her that we knew it was time for her to go to heaven and that we would be O.K.  Somehow, we would be O.K.

We prepared to do what we never thought we could.

Together, we removed every line and monitor from her bruised and broken body.  Together, we held her close while she took her final breaths and passed away. 

Together, we let her go. 

We held her lifeless body.  We dressed her in the blessing dress that would instead now be her burial dress.  We took handprints, and footprints and pictures. 

After some time, the mortician came.  I could not bring myself to hand her over to him just yet.  So, I asked if I could carry her to his car.  I think my request was unusual, but he said yes, so I wrapped her snug in a blanket, like I did all my babies when we left the hospital. Only this was nothing like leaving the hospital with my other babies.  I was led through back hallways and "employee only" elevators and through a parking garage that I had not known existed, to his waiting car.  He asked me to lay her on the front passenger seat.  I was taken aback that this was where he wanted me to place her, but I could not think of what a better alternative might be, so I obliged, and placed her in his car and finally in his care.  This man was so kind and patient with a grieving mom that was not making it easy for him to do his job the way he probably usually does his job.

We walked back to her room where we lingered for hours.  I think we didn't know how to leave and not come back tomorrow.  I think we were afraid to put every earthly piece of her life into a wagon and haul it to our car.  What then?  Put it in a box on a shelf?  What about tomorrow?  How were we going to wake up and not call to see how she did through the night?  How were we not going to drive to this hospital and walk through these doors in the morning, knowing that she would be here waiting for us?  How were we not going to feel her spirit (her spirit that had lived in this room for so long) every day for the rest of our lives?  How?

We did not know how.

The next several days were a blur.  I was amazed to see that life was still going on for the rest of the world. People were shopping and vacationing and enjoying the last of summer.  I was even more amazed to find that our lives were still going on.  We were living and breathing and making plans.  Yes, we were planning a funeral and a future without our baby.

But, we were living and breathing and planning.

And, here we are three years later.  We are getting really good at living and breathing and planning in her absence, but we have not forgotten her and we never will.  We will always miss Annie.

Sometimes I don't just mourn her, I mourn the person that I used to be.  That person didn't really know about loss.  That person didn't really know about suffering. That person didn't know what it is to be so broken and so helpless to fix it.

I'm a different person for sure. 

In my broken state, I have learned something that maybe I could never have learned another way.  I have learned how much I really need a Savior.  I have learned how much I need and want to be saved from being broken.  I need Someone who can heal.  I need Someone who can carry.  I need Someone who can bind a heart and hold a family together across forever.

I need Him.

We all do.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

He Is The Reason

Annie would have been three today.

She would have played with her cousins at the family party this afternoon.

She would have hunted for eggs and eaten way too much candy.

She would have an Easter dress lying out for church tomorrow; one that matched her sisters.

She would have blown out the candles on her birthday cake and we would all be eating her favorite flavor of ice cream tonight.

The pink balloons that we sent to heaven last night would, instead, be all over our house.

She would have snuggled up with our family to watch a movie tonight.

She would have been three...

We all miss her so much.  A couple of months ago, I found this note that Ellie had drawn/ written:

As evidenced by this sweet note, Annie is never far from our thoughts and hearts.  She is very much a part of our every-day family life and always will be.  I love that her birthday is on Easter weekend this year.  It feels so perfect to celebrate the life of our daughter today and the life of our Savior tomorrow... to celebrate them together.   It is perfect because He is the reason that we can celebrate her.  He is the reason that I didn't cry ALL day today.  He is the reason that we can move forward with hope and happiness in our lives, knowing that someday, she will be with us again.  It is perfect to celebrate them together this weekend, but, in truth, we always celebrate them together. 

Because He lives, she will too. 

He is The Reason.

Monday, October 8, 2012


This weekend, as we listened to General Conference, several messages touched my heart, but none quite like this one:
"Remember, as you attended the funeral of your loved one, the feelings in your heart as you drove away from the cemetery, and looked back to see that solitary casket, wondering if your heart would break?...
"I testify that, because of Him, even our Savior, Jesus Christ, those feelings of sorrow, loneliness and despair will one day be swallowed up in a fullness of joy."
Elder Shayne M. Bowen
In my journey with Annie, I have become acquainted with sorrow, loneliness and even, (during her last few weeks with us) despair.  There are no words to describe how anxious I am to experience the fullness of joy that will one day be mine when I have this angel back in my arms again, and our family is finally and forever together. 
I'll be missing her till then.