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

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


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.

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