Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Renee!

Happy Birthday, Renee!

Now I finally have time to write this birthday letter. Hope I don't have to go off to the lawyer in between to sign more papers, on account of that buy/sell agreement, which makes us feel like we have been cut into a million pieces with a machete knife, or like there are so many strands of vines, wrapping themselves around us, choking the life out of us, and we need a machete knife to chop our way out of the thick darkness of the jungle before all life gets sucked out of us. Like you said, maybe a good old fashioned prophet could have come in handy here, but I'm sure nobody knows what that was supposed to mean, except your dad and I, and maybe a few close friends.

I started this day off by listening to Jennifer Knapp's version of the Lord's prayer, "Hallowed" which was also one of the songs I played for you on my iPod, that Monday afternoon when you wanted to listen to some music, when you were feeling so anxious. I also listened to some of the pieces from the Jonathan Helser album, which for some reason I had overlooked and had not listened to till the day after the memorial service in Vancouver. It was such a powerful experience that morning. Wow! I can't even describe it! It felt like you were speaking the words of the songs to me. "Likeness of Jesus" and the instrumental Prelude is what I listened to this morning.

And of course, I had to have a good cup of coffee, at least as good as it could be with the brand of coffee that your dad bought. This brand he got was about half the price of Kicking Horse, and it was such a huge package. Will just have to drink lots of coffee. The sooner it is used up, the sooner I can buy something better. It is not too bad though. I don't know what you would have to say about it.

Back to that Jonathan Helser album. I sure would like to know what you were thinking about, when you put all this music on my iPod two weeks before you were promoted to glory, like the "Peering from Heaven" one, a beautiful instrumental piece. The one after that, "I've Seen I Am" is the one that really got me going. I was crying so hard.

And I don't really care if this makes everybody cry, all the people that read this. It seemed like my thoughts were being blown in the wind when I wrote my blogs those four months when I was in New York. It doesn't really matter. It was mostly for therapeutic reasons that I wrote the blogs.

This is is a beautiful day, because you brought so much joy and beauty into our family and this is the day that the Lord has made. We are left here to carry on the work that God has for each of us, to proclaim the truth of the gospel in whatever way God has called us to. There is so much to do and it is so urgent. We don't know when our time will be up.

I want people to be able to say of me when I am gone that I lived a full life, as they did of you. I know I wasted many years, feeling sorry for myself. I am very sorry, but I am so thankful for God's mercy and grace and I want to make the best use of all the remaining years that are allotted to me.

"Only one life, twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."

I made Beef and Cabbage Stir-fry for lunch for Kara and I. That was one of the recipes, I printed off at the hospital, before we had a printer at the apartment. I never got around to making it for you. We happened to have a head of cabbage in the fridge here. I don't know how or who or what. But I am sure it is not the head of cabbage that Justin bought in New York. Dad asked that last day what you were hungry for and you said cabbage soup, but not to make the pieces too big. I was feeling kind of woozy from donating stem cells, but I was planning to make the soup for you later. But it never happened. I didn't even eat supper. We were all getting very concerned when you were starting to have trouble breathing. I eventually ate three packages of crackers, when I realized that I hadn't eaten supper.

I felt so helpless. I wish there was something we could have done. Maybe suggested a lighter chemo protocol or something, or started treating the diarrhea sooner. It was so hard to leave the hospital, when we realized there was nothing else we could do for you. You had been promoted to glory and didn't need us anymore. You are now safe in the arms of Jesus.

Your brother and two sisters still need us. I hope that the five of us can go out to remember your birthday today. We have not had very much time to be together, just the five of us. Now it will always be just the five of us. We will miss you terribly.

It doesn't matter how much people say that it was just your time to go, and even although we want to believe it, there will always be a big empty spot in our family. There will be tears because of the pain of missing you, but also smiles because of all the joy and beauty you brought into our lives.

You loved life and the lives of everybody you met, as one of your friends said. You had such a passion for the homeless and less fortunate. A passion for justice and to mobilize people into missions and to proclaim the truth. To know that you impacted so many people in your few short years helps to bring me some comfort in having had to say good bye to you so soon.

How is it up there or wherever heaven is? It might not be up. I hope there are llamas (inside joke), beautiful kitty cats, puppy dogs and lots of really good ethnic food, if that is what you need to make you happy there. Though your flesh failed you, nothing can stop you from praising the Lord you loved you so much and the One you loved with all your heart, soul and mind.

I'm sorry that you were born with SCIDS and I'm sorry that you got leukemia and that you relapsed. Sorry that you got the infection in your lung and sorry that you had to get more chemo. Sorry that I did not just cry with you when you were feeling so overwhelmed when you found out that you would have to get more chemo before the transplant. Why did I have to preach at you? I am so sorry. My intentions were good. I just wanted to remind you that the Lord is our Shepherd, but you knew that. I wouldn't have had to remind you.

I am so thankful for all the people that prayed for you. I am thankful that Pastor Gordie shared part of the prayer of St. Patrick with you. That you got it printed and kept it with you. I don't know whether you thought about it a lot or not. I wish now I had asked you about it. Your friend Wade did such a good job of presenting it at the memorial services we had for you.

It was nice to get to know some of your friends a bit better, although the circumstances sucked. It is good to know that God's love is measured, not by circumstances, but by the cross. I am also thankful that God's love is more powerful than all the evil in this world. There is so much of that. Seems so hopeless sometimes. That reminds me of your tattoo - the word hope in the Cambodian language. I am thinking of getting a tattoo with the word hope in one form or another. That is maybe a bit crazy, but I will really think about it. I was going to do it in Vancouver, but that was a bit too soon. Maybe in New York, if I can find out where you got yours done. I will just get Justin to design it.

The sun is shining so beautifully today, making the snow sparkle. Reminds me of you, always bringing a sparkle with you wherever you went. Like Monique said, you are like a diamond, with so many different facets. People saw you in many different ways, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, niece, friend, fellow YWAMMER, fellow WAVER, ESL volunteer, student, class mate, employee, and on and on. And for the doctors and nurses you were a patient, never complaining. Your quiet strength was evident to all. Your writing and photography was an inspiration to everybody. Why someone, who had so much she wanted to do, had to go so soon, we will never know. It doesn't make any sense.

Renee, we will always miss you, and look forward to the day when we will see you again.

With love, from your mama.


  1. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Beautiful letter, Martha.


  2. Anonymous11:08 AM

    This is a Beautiful letter, Martha. It inspired me to be mindful to write my daughter a birthday letter for her next birthday and hopefully she will read it on this side of heaven.


  3. Anonymous4:52 PM

    Thanks for sharing your beautifully written letter to Renee.
    It saddens me though that you have to hear people telling you that it was her time or that it was God's will.
    It reminds of the time after Caleb had just had one of his first seizures, a particularly long and hard one, he was about 2. He and I had just come home from the hospital and a pastor couple came over to be with us. The pastor very well meaningly said, "But you want to accept God's will." I had no words to respond to him (but I must admit some other "unchristian" urges came over me, thankfully I resisted.)That was not my perception of God. I don't think God wants our children to suffer, but God suffers too. I would rather see God weeping with us and like a mother hen, enfolding us in her loving wings and caring for us. I thought Wades' words at her memorial were so appropiate.