March 28. 6 years ago. Not exactly a date I enjoy remembering. There was a lot of pain, a lot of heartache, a lot I didn’t understand. But there was a purpose–a deep purpose I did not understand as I sat on my living room couch that night crying into my blanket. I wanted an answer, but the answer was, “You’ll see.”

It’s not the wish of every 12-year-old that their life be suddenly turned upside down by tragedy, by the loss of their big sister. However, this happened to me. And I had to deal with the grief of it–sorting through the memories with her, knowing I wouldn’t have any new ones to make with her on earth. I had to somehow develop beyond my young mind, to process the hugeness and reality of such a situation. I had to grow up quicker and experience emotions I had never felt before. I had to rely on others–their comforting hugs and prayers helped me more than I could ever imagine. I had to fully rely on God. I needed Him to help me sleep at night, to deal with the reality in the morning that what had happened was not just a dream.

Looking back, it truly is amazing how true the emotions still are for me. Yes, time has passed, and I miss her so much. But somehow, the sting is gone. There’s no more raw pain. The pink stuffed animal elephant “Winks” she gave me before she left for Rockford is a lot more worn than he was years ago; the stuffing is almost gone, and he’s barely even pink. I still feel her hugs, a little more faintly than before. I can still imagine her voice, but it’s a little more faded. While this is normal I suppose, it makes me miss her even more. This year, I turned 18. This is the age I remember her at the most. It’s just interesting, to wonder sometimes if I think the same things she thought at this age–and then to read some of the words she’s written and realize we are on the same wavelength.

I miss her smile, but I know she is always smiling in Heaven. And I know she’s not that far away from me. And I know God has a purpose for her life even though she isn’t here on the earth. Her passion for people has definitely not been lost, and people have been touched by her life even to this day. I know her heart for missions still lives on, and her concerns for the world have truly made me think about what I want to do to help the world.

My whole future career has branched from my experience of dealing with losing her. I want to be a grief counselor–not to continually relive the pain I went through, but to help those who are currently dealing with fresh pain. I find that when I comfort others, God comforts me even more. He patiently whispers His purpose into my ear each time I give a counseling word to those who ask me how they can live another day with their grief. He has made me more compassionate in the past 6 years, more aware of those who are hurting. He has given me a heart that longs to feel what others are feeling.

I look back at that girl who was sitting on the couch 6 years ago, this very day–and I long to tell her to wait and see God’s purpose unfold. There is beauty from the most difficult experiences. God is faithful, and He will never forsake you. He will branch you out beyond what you could imagine, if only you open yourself up–even if that means exposing some of the deepest hurts.

There is purpose.

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