It's impossible to look at the calendar this week and not think about Anne Pressly. October 20 will always be the anniversary of the beginning of the end for Anne. And for my daughter, Sydney, it was just the beginning of life.
My phone rang early in the morning October 20, 2008. I selfishly assumed the friend on the other end was calling to congratulate me on the birth of my first daughter. He wasn't. And I wasn't prepared for what I was about to hear. I believe our bodies/minds are not allowed to really grasp horrific news when we first hear it. We just go into shock. As I shared the news with my husband, the tears started to fall. Then the phone calls became steady. The questions became many and the answers were few. I held my two-day old baby even closer as I got more concerned about my friend. I wanted to be with all my co-workers going through the emotional roller coaster with them. But I needed to be with my baby girl. I tried to focus on the joy she brought into our lives...but I'd be lying if I said that joy wasn't overshadowed by Anne's attack.
The CD that was playing in Sydney’s room at that time was Colin Raye’s “Counting Sheep.” We listened to it dozens of times during all those late night feedings. But suddenly the words to “A Mother’s Prayer” had a whole new meaning.
"I know you’re listening as I lay me down to sleep
It’s not for me I ask, but my children’s souls to keep
It seems the world is going crazy
And though I need to do my share
Could you please take them under wing
Watch over them especially
Keeping them safe from everything
This is a mother’s prayer"
There I was overcome with such deep love for this tiny person in my arms when I realized that I would do anything, absolutely ANYTHING to protect her. But I knew Anne’s mom well enough to know that she too would do anything to protect her daughter. And that's when it hit me...we can’t. As parents, we can only do so much. What a tough lesson to learn just a couple of days into motherhood. I wanted to think that life would always be wonderful for my sweet baby, and that as her mother I would make sure of that. But the words to this song reminded me that no matter how much I WANT that, it is not in my control. No matter how much Anne’s mom WANTED to protect Anne, ultimately it was not in her control. And that thought made me sick to my stomach. At the time, Anne’s attacker was still on the loose. I went to sleep every night terrified that he would break into our home and hurt one of us. New moms never get much sleep but even when I had the opportunity, peaceful rest was certainly out of the question.
That helpless feeling forced me to turn to what gets me through today. Prayer. Lots of prayer and lots of faith.
"And though there’s darkness all around us
By my faith I know you’re there
Give me the strength to lead the way
Send me the words I need to say
Use me to guide them day to day
This is a mother’s prayer"
It was a tough lesson to learn and an awful way to do it. But it has allowed me to let go of the things I can not control. And as a parent, I believe that is essential when it comes to raising kids. Even now, four years later, it is not something that is easy to do. Which is why I pray about it often.
Anne heard about Sydney being born while she was on Saturday Daybreak. She asked a co-worker about how we decided to spell her name (Anne was all about the details) and said she loved it. She even got to see pics of Sydney that night from a friend that had been with us at the hospital. I wish Sydney and Anne would have met but I also like to think that maybe Sydney will have a little of Anne's spunky spirit (and if you knew Anne, you know a little would go a long way). :)
Our first outing as new parents with our baby girl was to a funeral. As sad as that sounds it was actually uplifting to see so many people there for a woman who had only lived on this earth for 26 years. What a great reminder that life is not about quantity...but quality. And how we spend that time investing in others and truly caring about them. Thank you, Anne, for teaching me that. I will do my best to teach that to my daughters. Until we meet again...this will be my prayer:
"A Mother And Father's Prayer"