A Castle in the Woods

Once upon a time there was a castle in the woods. It was made out of candy. In the woods, it never rained. Since it never rained, the castle never melted. One day Jane, the princess, went out to the castle in the woods. When she got back she told them all about her adventures.

Leah, age 6.

Leah wrote the above story on the morning of February 24th, 2020. It was a part of her school for the day. I believe the only journal prompt was, “write a journal entry beginning with the phrase, ‘Once upon a time…'” I’m sure she read the story to me that morning when she wrote it and I’m sure I wasn’t really paying attention. A week after Jane’s death, I found the story in a school folder.

It is hard to comprehend that a year has passed since this story was written. It’s harder yet to reconcile with the fact that it has been more than a year since I held my little girl. One year. 365 days. More than a third of the days that she actually spent on this earth.

Yesterday was a difficult day, but it was also a peaceful day. In fact, when the clock struck 4:40pm, I stood in my quiet kitchen and marveled at how different our circumstances were one year prior. Maybe one day I will share more detail about the events of February 24th, 2020, maybe I won’t. It isn’t that our information and the events of that day are some kind of secret, but it is very personal and very painful. I appreciate people who acknowledge and respect that. Either way, yesterday was peaceful. So many people sent kind messages and notes. I know many people were praying for us. Thank you.

I stood in my quiet kitchen and marveled at how different our circumstances were one year prior.

We spent time as a family. Robert and I fasted from food for most of the day. It was a sweet and needed time of prayer. We took beautiful flowers to Jane’s grave and we received beautiful flowers at our home. I helped the older girls make a scrapbook with pictures of Jane and a smaller version for George. We watched the slide show of pictures that played during the visitation for Jane’s funeral. There was some laughter throughout the day and tears too.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional, beautiful and I hope, God honoring.

In the evening we joined a few friends and family for a time of lament. We prayed, read Scripture, shared written lament and sang together. At the conclusion of our time of lament, we broke our fast with communion and a shared meal. It was the best way we could have spent the day. It wasn’t perfect, but it was intentional, beautiful and I hope, God honoring.

This morning I woke up and saw the sun peering through my window. It looked so similar to my morning just one year ago. Except today, my house was quiet and my pillow wasn’t soaked through with tears. My body wasn’t aching from panic attacks and sobs. This morning I stared out the window into the woods. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought about how much Jane is missed and how she will always be missed. I thought about this grief that we will carry for the rest of our days. I thought how grateful I am that I got to be her mommy. Then I thought about all the adventures that she must be having and I can’t wait to hear all about them.

  1. Molly Gamblin says:

    Oh, Casey, I thought of you all all day on the 24th and have prayed for you ever so hard. Ive no doubt Jane smiles down on you all the time. She’s gathering her stories to share one day. Imagine playing in the meadow of flowers, laughing and jumping and skipping with Jesus as her playmate!!
    Much love and prayers!

  2. Katie Cottle says:

    I have prayed for you often, but this week especially. I can’t imagine your loss, but your commitment to the Lord challenges me to surrender and love well. Hugs.

  3. Nicole Kennedy says:

    I am continuing to pray for you. I love Leah’s story about the princess Jane! Leah’s baptism video recently at church was also such a blessing. How precious was it when the camera zoomed onto the “JANE” bracelet around Leah’s wrist. I have been reading HEAVEN IS FOR REAL to a couple of teenagers that I am helping get to school each morning and also reading IMAGINE HEAVEN myself. I have thought so much of The Martins while reading those books. YES, Jane is in an amazing place having an amazing time. Much love!

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