Saturday, December 25, 2010
Dear Loved Ones,
I have given much thought to what I might share in our family Christmas card this year. In the past, this letter has included fun tid-bits about each child and a general picture of how our year went. I can’t think of any tid-bits to share this year. Not because there aren’t any, and not because we haven’t laughed at plenty of funny things that our kids have said or done, but because 2010 has been a remarkable year for our family. This year will always be defined by the life and death of our youngest daughter, Annie. Many of you have followed the details of our journey with Annie on her blog. Those that haven’t and would like to know more can find her story at anniesinmyheart.blogspot.com.
Last month I was asked to speak to a group of women and was given the topic, "Angels Among Us." I was grateful for the opportunity that this gave me to express gratitude for the angels that have blessed our lives this year. It is this same topic that is on my mind as I write this letter.
There is a scripture found in the Doctrine and Covenants that I have loved for as long as I can remember. It is the 88th verse of the 84th section and it reads, "And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."
15 years ago, I spoke at my brother’s missionary farewell. I shared this scripture and bore testimony that I knew that angels would accompany him on his two-year mission to Argentina. I knew that when he found himself in a foreign land among strangers and far from home and family, unseen angels would be with him and, as promised in this verse of scripture, they would encircle round about him and bear him up. I knew that angels would protect him; they would comfort him; they would guide his feet and bless his journey.
Just over four months ago, I shared this same scripture at my daughter’s funeral. My testimony of unseen angels was stronger than ever after spending four months in a hospital that had become sacred ground to me. Never has the veil been as thin for me as it was during the many weeks that I spent within the halls and walls of Primary Children’s Hospital. I know that there were many unseen angels encircling me and my family and that they were sent to bear us up in our time of need.
However, when I shared this scripture and mentioned angels at Annie’s funeral, I was not referring to these unseen angels. Instead, I was speaking of the many people that had become angels in our lives through their love and Christ-like service to our family.
Before Annie was born, Cameron and I, knowing of her heart defects, tried to prepare for every scenario we could imagine. Upon her arrival, we were quickly humbled as we realized that our preparation was no match for what we faced. There was no way we could do it all. We could not even come close to taking care of the needs of our family at home while investing the time and energy necessary at the hospital with Annie. There was simply not enough of either one of us to go around. We quickly set priorities, letting things like yard work and housework fall to the bottom of the list. Even then, we needed to feed and care for five children at home. They still needed rides to school and clean clothes to wear. Groceries still had to be bought and food still needed to be placed on the table. While all these things needed to happen, we were consumed with anxiety and grief for the suffering of our youngest daughter – sometimes so much so, that it was hard to function in any capacity outside of her hospital room. It was too much for any family to carry alone and we needed help – lots and lots of help.
Our need was great, and just as promised in the scripture that I shared previously, Heavenly Father sent angels to encircle our family and bear us up. He sent angels to feed our children, to wash our clothes and tend our little ones. He sent angels to drive kids to school and angels to visit us at the hospital. He even sent angels to weed our yard, mow our lawn and mop our floors. Angels left cards and notes and treats on our doorstep. They filled our mailbox and our inbox with words of love and encouragement. Angels brought groceries and planted flowers. They spent lots of time making sure that our five children at home felt loved and not forgotten. When Annie died, He sent angels to help us plan her funeral and honor her life. Angels came and went, often anonymously and without recognition for their good deeds. Words will never be able to adequately express our deep gratitude to these many angels. Whenever we talk about Annie’s life and the service that we received from so many, Cameron and I both describe the feeling that we had for four months was that of being carried – carried by angels in our ward and in our family, angels that worked at the hospital and angels that we also know as friends.
The scars from this experience are still fresh. We know that we will never be the same. Our hearts have never ached like they sometimes do now that Annie is gone. But our hearts have also never been filled with gratitude like they are now. We have a new appreciation for the many things with which we have been blessed, and angels are at the top of our list. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said that "heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind." We have felt heaven close. We have felt God’s love for us and know just of what Elder Holland speaks. We are deeply grateful that God, knowing that we would suffer such loss, took great care to place us among so many angels that could and would help us lift what seemed an impossible burden. Thank you for being our angels.
Merry Christmas and much love,
Cameron, Amy, Austin, Ashleigh, Hayden, Ellie and Hadley Sabin
Posted by Amy Sabin at 12:55 PM
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Through the incredible generosity of others, we were able to honor Annie with a tree at the Festival of Trees this year. Cameron's co-workers at Stoel Rives offered to sponsor the tree, and our families helped to supply the gifts beneath it. Thank you to all who made this happen! Cameron and I were both surprised at how therapeutic this was for us. We miss her so much and can't help but imagine what our holiday season might be like if she were here. Her stocking hangs on the mantle with those of our other children, reminding us every day of our sixth child that will never race up the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought for her. It lifted our hearts to decorate this beautiful tree, and pile all these beautiful gifts around it- gifts that she might have received if she were here. Again, we feel such deep gratitude to the people that have rallied around our family this year. Your love has made such a difference in our lives. We can't say thank you enough.
Below are pictures of Annie's tree and a copy of the bio that was included with her picture.
Annie's Bio for the Festival of Trees
On December 30, 2009, three months before she was born, we learned that our Annie had heart defects. Her official diagnosis was tetralogy of fallot with absent pulmonary valve. For the next several months, we waited anxiously for her birth, hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. On March 30, 2010, Annie Grace Sabin was born, and we immediately fell in love with her. She surprised us all when she did not have to be placed on a ventilator at birth, and for three beautiful weeks, we were able to hold her in our arms and close to our hearts. While she fought for every breath during this time, we cherished every minute we had with her. However, as she struggled more and more to breathe, it was decided that she needed to have open-heart surgery, and, on April 23, we watched our tiny infant daughter go into the operating room for the first time. This photograph was taken the day before she was placed on a ventilator and two days before her first surgery. Never again, until the day she died, would we see her without the ventilator tube taped to her mouth. What we hoped would be fixed with a single surgery, turned into something much more complicated. Over the course of her four-month life, Annie endured four major surgeries (two requiring bypass) and multiple minor surgeries. She was taken to the brink of death several times and continually amazed us with her will to live. She fought valiantly to be here with us. Her fight allowed us precious time to memorize tender details: her beautiful blue eyes, her long slender fingers, and the dimple in the middle of her top lip. More importantly, these months gave us a chance to really know her gentle, patient spirit. Every day with Annie was a gift. She taught us so much in her short life. Annie died on August 1, 2010. Again in our arms and close to our hearts, she took her last breath and passed away peacefully. We miss her. We love her. We will never be the same.
Cameron and Amy Sabin
Posted by Amy Sabin at 6:55 PM