#YourStory: Crystal Hopkins

Tender Mercies
We’re quickly approaching March 18 – Trisomy 18 Awareness Day. Today’s #YourStory was written by Crystal Hopkins, a gal with an intimate, walking-through-the shadows understanding of Trisomy 18. 

I knew it from the moment I saw her face.

As the neonatologist rounded the corner to our room, her eyes met mine through the glass.   In that instant, my world slammed to a halt. I knew by the look in her eyes that the suspicion the doctors had during my pregnancy was correct.

My 5-day old daughter would most likely die.  

She had a rare, life-limiting genetic condition called Trisomy 18. Heart condition. Very large VSD. Joint contractures. Aspiration pneumonia. Pulmonary hypertension. Fluid in the lungs. Oxygen. Not a candidate for heart repair. Take her home. Spend time. Hospice.

Words splintered around me like a log. My mind was a whirlpool of sludge unable to make sense of any of it.

That period of time was as devastating as one can imagine it to be. I began immediately to grieve the loss of what I dreamed our life would be like with a daughter and two older sons, 8 and 15.

However, it didn’t hold a candle to the array of emotion I would experience 11 months later.

On January 26, 2015, my 11 month, 6 day old princess fell forever asleep in my arms, joined at the throne with our Heavenly Father.

Anguish. Despair. Anger. Desolation. Sorrow. Devastation. Confusion. Sadness. Despondency. Woe.

Any given day, any number of those words could be used to describe my state.

How does a parent move forward without their child? Is it even possible?

Preposterously, I thought that my time prior to her passing, knowing it would be an eventuality, would have better prepared us.

I couldn’t have been further from the truth. I came to realize quickly that the mere notion any parent could actually prepare for their child’s death is ludicrous.

The truth of the matter is that child loss breaks the standard order of our realm of understanding.

It happens but it doesn’t happen here.

It happens but it doesn’t happen to anyone I know.

It happens but it doesn’t happen to me.

But it did.

And for some reason, that seemed illogical to me. The earth continued to rotate. The sun continued to rise and set. People shuffled back and forth to work. Birthdays were being celebrated. Children jumped with enthusiasm off school buses. Everywhere around me, life continued to move on. Move forward.

How could this be?

Did not everyone know that my daughter’s remains were in an urn on our shelf?

 

 

To never again see her smile. To feel her warmth in my arms.

My heart irrevocably broken. My peace shattered. My faith shaky at best.

It was then, during this period of sheer and utter brokenness, that I began to take note of God’s mercies embracing and enfolding me like a prayer shawl. These, sometimes small, sometimes big, mercies affirmed God’s unconditional love in my life. He didn’t want me to live in brokenness, in suffering.

“…because of the tender mercy of our God,

whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high.” Luke 1:78 ESV

He offered these moments of clarity, like a flashing Vegas sign, when it seemed that I had hit rock bottom. Could go no more. Where the abyss seemed to swallow me whole.

These sometimes fleeting mercies were just enough to provide the life-sustaining air I needed to make it another sunrise.

Once I began to notice around me these tender mercies, I began to see them as God’s lifeline to me as I struggled to keep my head above water.

These mercies brought joy, unspeakable joy with them.

They brought courage. And hope.

And determination. And grit.

I began to slowly count on this gift as I tried to assimilate into the unfamiliar world I had watched with horror continue around me months before.

And time after time over that next year to where I am now, God rained down His mercies.   Providing me the comfort needed to take the next step. Offering the solace necessary to find peace again.

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV

A year ago, I was unable to see the forest through the trees. A year ago, I had unspeakable despair.

But today, I am confident, through God’s sovereignty and His promises, that His mercies will carry me. Today I still have the sorrow. Anguish. Despair. Anger. Desolation. Sorrow. Devastation. Confusion. Sadness. Despondency. Woe.

But they aren’t alone. They don’t consume me.

I also now have triumph. Determination. Delight. Resolve. Hope. And JOY.

The waves of deep grieve do still come and do still swallow me. But today it’s different.

For I know that when I feel like I can no longer get air, it will be God keeping me afloat.

About ~

Headshot Crystal

Crystal Hopkins is a mother, wife, teacher and outdoor enthusiast who is passionate about making every moment count. A woman forever changed by the loss of her daughter, she is on a lifelong journey to discover and uncover the new person she’s become since. Determined to turn ashes into beauty, she and her family have created Everly’s Angels Foundation, a non-profit charity, to provide much needed bereavement tools to other families who experience child loss. The foundation has been a lifeline for Crystal as she seeks to help families maximize memory making and minimize regret.

Photo credit: Jessica Couto

Connect ~

You can connect with Crystal on her website: www.loveforeverly.com.  For more information about the foundation created in honor of her daughter, please visit www.everlysangels.org.

Facebook: Love For Everly

Facebook: Everly’s Angels Foundation

Instagram: Love_for_Everly

Pinterest: Love For Everly


If you’re a parent struggling with the loss of a child, please accept this prayer as your own:

Heavenly Father,
Loss is hard, although I’m sure you understand. This struggle I’m facing is more than I can bear alone. I ask you to be my comfort,  Lord. Please be my shield. Your compassion doesn’t fail, Almighty God. Your mercies are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Guide me with your strength through this darkness. Carry me with your comfort and compassion amid the muck of despair. You are my portion, the One in which I’ll put my hope. I love you, Lord and trust you to see me through this. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

***In the Tampa, FL area?***

THIS  SATURDAY  (3/5/16)  is Everly’s Angels Volksmarch. For more info, click here. 

 
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16 Comments

  1. Oh, heartbreak!
    I can barely believe that you are able to move through this tragedy with such grace. What a testimony to the healing power of a surrendering our brokenness and loss to the sovereign God. May He continue to carry you as you journey through grief.

    1. Michelle, thank you for your kind words! You speak the truth…there is healing that comes from laying it all out there for our God. He meets is where we are time and time again. Blessings to you!

  2. Crystal, after reading a post like this, words escape me. Except for thank you. Thank you for sharing about the loss of your sweet daughter here, and for using your ongoing pain as a means to reach out to other grieving parents. My heart aches for you, but it also rejoices to read how God is adding joy and hope to your sorrow.

    1. Thank you, Lois, for your kind words! There is such healing that comes with service to others and I feel as blessed as we hope those we serve feel. It has been such a gift to find joy and hope in our painful journey. Blessings to you!

  3. What an heartfelt story Crystal! Thank you for sharing your heart and reminding us of the tremendous love and power of our Savior! Both of my sisters have suffered the loss of a young child. The images of the most recent still haunt my thoughts but I am encouraged when i see their strength as they continue to live for Christ and He blesses them everyday. We will never understand why these things happen until we get to heaven but I am sure God is using your story to give so many the strength and encouragement they need. Blessings to you and yours.

    1. Thank you taking time to share! I’m so sorry about the loss of two nieces. I’m encouraged to hear, though, that your sisters have held tight to their faith. You are so right in that we will never understand while here on earth. It’s a fact difficult but necessary to accept. Blessings to you and your family!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, Crystal. I cannot imagine the heartbreak, but how amazing to think that you are coming through it. God is bringing you through. Some things we’ll never understand, all we can do is remember His love, but I’m sure you’ve had moments when it was almost impossible to remember. Grace to you.

    1. Thanks, Betsy, for taking the time to share! It’s so true that there are certainly times remembering His love seems so distant. But those days and times are fleeting thankfully. I love how you say “coming through it” because that is exactly how I think of it. I’ll never “get over” losing my daughter, but rather will work through it. Blessings to you!

  5. Crystal, you’ve unearthed an entirely new perspective on God’s tender mercies. The depth of your heartbreak is unimaginable, but the fact that you can testify to finding joy once more, is such a glorious witness of God’s love. It is not just something we read about, or write about, but is is true and faithful – it is as real as it gets. Thank you for so bravely and honestly sharing your journey. I have no doubt that you are doing a mighty kingdom work in sharing His goodness with those grieving their own loss.

    1. Oh, Tiffany, what encouragement you bring with your thoughtful comments! You speak the absolute truth…walking in faith after child loss is about as real as it gets. This is, in my opinion, where the rubber meets the road. Will your faith stand up? I can answer that it hasn’t been an easy journey to finding Joy and living in faith but I know God understands my pain and my walk with Him. Blessings!

  6. So hard to imagine the anguish and test of faith this hard journey with your daughter has been. Your honesty brings tears to my eyes. Your testimony of God’s faithful mercy is powerful. Today in my post I talk about the day my son was born. I just didn’t want it to take you by surprise if you choose to visit. Blessings, new bloggy friend. I’m linking with you at Coffee For Your Heart.

    1. Ginger, thanks for the heads up! I’ll certainly stop by and visit your blog. Thanks for linking up! You’re correct in saying this was a test of faith. I think even for the truest Christians this journey would be difficult. Blessings to you!

  7. Crystal, I cannot imagine the pain that you’ve walked this last year. Thank you for sharing your story and for reaching out to others with the hope and joy God is giving you. Praying for you tonight, that God will continue to give you eyes that see all of His good mercies.

    1. Lisa, thank you for taking the time to respond. I cherish those tender mercies more now than at any other time in my life. Blessings to you!!