One Hundred Percent of a Life: Part Three


My Help Comes From the Lord

“I will lift my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.” ~ Psalm 121:1-3

January 14, 2008
Today has been one week since Francesca’s passing. In some ways it seems like I am very much still in a dream. I cannot believe this happened to my daughter, my family, ME!!! But it has. Every day I am amazed about the stories of people wanting desperately to know about the Lord because of Francesca. God has definitely touched people in very powerful ways. I have never in my life known so much love as I have felt in this week…
It is hard for me not to try to jump ahead and think about the future and how this devastating loss will reshape our family. But the truth is I really don’t know what each day will bring me. Everyday new challenges arise, new emotions arise. Some days it’s guilt, some regret, some unbelief, some anxiety, always there is a sad undertone…
The cemetery is difficult! The cold weather, the newness of the grave! My heart breaks that my baby is lying there. But I know she is not there. It’s just a bit overwhelming that I am at the cemetery to visit my daughter’s grave…
In reflection I feel as God has prepared me for this…

It is interesting to transport back to the moments and days after losing Francesca.  I cannot remember what I did last week but I can remember people, smells, facial expressions, thoughts, and words from those days.  They are forever etched in my brain.  They sit there to always remind me that on that day my circumstances changed but God did not.  In fact, Francesca’s death will forever be the single event that revealed God to me in ways that I never thought imaginable.  His presence was so constant and overwhelming that at moments I could almost feel His breath in the room breathing life into me.  I was a mother in the throes of utter despair and He held me close…yes, I could physically feel Him.  As crazy as it sounds, I sometimes long for His presence the way I felt it in the year after Francesca’s death.  It was so real, so tangible, so completely indescribable.  But what changed?  How could I have had His presence and lost it?  Well, I didn’t lose it, God is ever-present.  Once again my circumstances changed, God did not.  In those first few days, weeks, and months after Francesca’s death nothing made sense.  Life as we knew it was shattered and all that was left were the ashes of what we wanted our lives to be.  In those days all we had was God.  We had no strength, no joy, no understanding but we did have God.  He was all that we could cling to.  The reason we felt God so strongly in that season of our lives was because absolutely nothing distracted us from Him.  He was our sole source of strength.  Prayer was our life support and God’s people were His doctor’s ministering to us.  Wrapping us in the love of the Savior as we licked our fresh wounds from the battlefield called life.

Interestingly toward the end of my pregnancy I had been praying Psalm 139 and that prayer continued after Francesca was born.  At the time I was praying for direction for my life.  Little did I know that Psalm 139 would soon become my greatest source of comfort.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~ Psalm 139: 14-16

In the days after Francesca’s death and even to this day Psalm 139 reminds me that God did not create Francesca to break our hearts.  He created her fearfully and wonderfully.  He had a plan and a purpose for her.  It was not His plan to harm her.  It was His plan to use her in a bold and mighty way for His kingdom and He did.  When people die young it is our natural reaction to say things like “they were taken too soon” or “they still had so much life to live.”  A few days after Francesca passed away a sweet lady, that I do not know, sent me the most precious note. In the note she cited Psalm 139 and wrote “your precious daughter lived 100% of her life.”  That truth enveloped me and has yet to let go. Francesca lived 100% of her life.  God ordained her days before one of them came to be.  She was not here one second longer or one second shorter than what was allotted her.  God had a plan and purpose for her and she completed it in just 78 days.  All around I see the evidence of those 78 days, for God used her to radically change life as we knew it.  In those early moments I couldn’t see the beauty in the change.  Now I see it in abundance.

A Homecoming Celebration

In the darkest moments after Francesca’s death God would often use music as a way soothe my aching soul.  He would allow His love and His truth to flow over me through the perfectly crafted words that spoke to the valley where I was living.  During the planning of Francesca’s funeral Matt and I both clearly knew what we wanted…we wanted her life celebrated.  We wanted to celebrate all that God created her to be and we wanted to glorify the One who had given us this beautiful miracle, even if only for the briefest of moments.  I remember telling our good friend and worship pastor, Jon, that I wanted him to sing In Christ Alone like he was signing it on Easter morning.  He did exactly as we wished.  Her service was a beautiful tribute to her precious little life and to the Author and Creator of life.  Nothing made sense but God had not failed us or abandoned us, we knew that and we wanted everyone else to know that too.  In all of his wisdom, Jon, had come to us with a song that he wanted us to hear, a song that he thought would be perfect to set as the background to the video we would show at the beginning of the service. The song was With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman.  To this day in our home that is “Francesca’s song.”  As soon as the opening chords begin to play my boys will come from any room in the house to listen, often times hoping that the video of their little sister is playing.  To remember that in a mere 78 days God forever changed our lives through a little piece of heaven that He shared with us all.  That piece of heaven of was Francesca.  Matt, Sammy, Santino, and I all now wait…for our hope rests securely in knowing that one day we will see her precious face again when we are reunited in heaven.  It is amazing how your perspective on heaven changes when you have someone there waiting for you…

With Hope

“Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” ~Psalm 146:5

I often wonder how Mary felt in those moments and days after Jesus died.  Through the anguish and tears could she see how God had prepared her heart for the moment of loss?  Did she trust that even when nothing made sense her God had not changed?  He was still good, just, merciful, full of grace, faithful, and loving.  Her circumstances had changed and her world had been rocked but out of the ashes God makes all things new.  In the sadness could she see what a blessed gift she had been given to be the mother of the Son of God?  To all of those questions I believe the answer is yes.  Mary did know anguish and pain but she also knew the love of her heavenly Father.  She knew that out of the depths of despair He could turn the darkness and ugliness of life into the most beautiful gift mankind has ever known, salvation, through His Son Jesus Christ.

In the middle of the storms of life we often forget that God is also a Father, not only the Father of creation but the Father of Jesus Christ.  That it was His Son that hung on a tree so that His other children could come home to Him.  Is it any wonder that God provides abundantly for those who are weak and hurting?  He understands anguish more than we could ever know.  The sin that separates us from Him has been causing Him anguish since the Fall.  He is anguished when his people suffer, He is anguished when His people doubt His goodness, He is anguished when His people reject His Son, He weeps with those who weep and He mourns with those who mourn.  He wants us to know that pain and sorrow was never His intention for our lives but He can and will use hurt for good if we would only open our eyes and our hands to His plan.  When we do, the hope that dies in the moments of utter despair is resurrected and reborn with a new vigor, because this hope is built on the evidence of God’s faithfulness.  This hope is not rooted in the things of this world.  This world is dying, it will not last.  Hope is eternal not material. Therefore, our only source of hope comes solely from the eternal One, God himself.  The culmination of that hope is Jesus Christ our Savior. God’s plan has always been eternal and regardless of the trials we walk that plan does not change.  The pains of this life will fade to nothing when we walk the golden streets of heaven, for there is where our hope is fully realized.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that I can write these words today because of God’s faithfulness.  These words flow from my brain to the keyboard because my hope is anchored in the truths of God.  I can confidently know that I will see my little girl again because Jesus told us that in His Father’s house there are many rooms and He has gone to prepare a place for all who believe in Him.  I know that the blood of Jesus Christ has paved a way for me and all believers to be eternally united with God in heaven.  At the end of my life, when 100% of my ordained days have been lived, I want to know that in every experience and in every situation I lived to glorify God.  It’s amazing but that is what my precious Francesca taught me in just a mere 78 days.  Every life that glorifies God will leave a legacy that will impact generations…eternally.


In Loving Memory


Francesca Isabella Catherincchia

October 23, 2007 ~ January 7, 2008


One Hundred Percent of a Life: Part Two


A Moment Can Change Everything

For a moment all the world was right
How could I have known that you’d ever say goodbye?
And now I’m glad I didn’t know
The way it all would end, the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance

~ The Dance (Garth Brooks)

If we would have only know what that January day was about to usher in what would we have done differently?  If I had known, I would have boldly prayed for the day not to come, the very opposite of Joshua’s sun stand still prayer.  There is a Reba McEntire song called If I Had Only Known.  In that song her emotion strained voice sings out the words that echoed my heart…”I would pray a miracle would stop the dawn.”  But I didn’t know.  Instead I muddled through that blah morning nursing my severe headache with sleep.  I was sleeping away precious moments that I wish I would have savored.  Moments where I could have been memorizing every precious detail I lay sleeping instead.  How could I have known that in just a few hours the illness coursing through my body and the headache pounding in my brain would be the least of my concerns?

It was about 3:15 in the afternoon.  Our household was running right on time even with mommy down for the count.  Santino was downstairs doing therapy with his aide, Katie, and Matt was off to pick Sammy up from full day kindergarten.  The only thing that was somewhat off was Francesca.  It had been three hours and she was still napping.  Now, as a mother of three children I know to appreciate when a baby decides to take a long nap. However, I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to check on her.  Three hours was great but it was longer than she had ever napped before.  The moment I opened the door I knew something was wrong.  The images of those first few moments are ones that I desperately prayed for God to erase from my memory, which in His infinite love He has.  All I remember is grabbing her in my arms and screaming for Katie.

Everything from that moment on has become a blur, a flash of memories.  A frantic 911 call, Katie performing CPR, me on my knees screaming for a miracle, Matt completely unaware of what was happening as he picked Sammy up from school.  My whole world flipped upside down.  I was moving in both fast forward and slow motion at the same time.  I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience…like I was watching some poor mother as her world came crashing down.  The pieces of her world shattered like glass on a marble floor.  How could something so broken ever be put back together again.  I knew what was happening but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it was happening to me.  No!!! This was not supposed to happen.  Police, EMT, Firefighters were everywhere.  Sirens screaming, lights flashing, every aspect of Law and Order present.  In a moment of clarity I screamed to Katie to call Matt.  I have never been as thankful for cell phones as I was in that moment.  I didn’t want him to be caught off guard and I didn’t want Sammy to be scared…I needed her to warn him.  Then I walked outside.  A lone police officer stood there, camera in hand, photographing our house.  Hysteria set in.  Every crime and police show I had ever watched came rushing back to me. I sobbed as he stood there.  I yelled at him, “Why are you taking pictures?  You are taking pictures because she is dead aren’t you?”  That poor officer tried his best to calm and reassure me that this was just routine procedure but I knew better.

My memory of the ride to the hospital is fuzzy at best.  A domino effect of moments occurred in the haze of the chaos.  Matt pulled up to the house, Katie instantly grabbed both Sammy and Santino and off to my parents they went.  I don’t even recall speaking to Matt.  These details are lost to me.  Why?  Where did they go?  I cannot remember who left first, the ambulance or Matt. I cannot recollect why I wasn’t in the car with my husband; did he assume I was going with the ambulance?  In the frenzy of the moment these become the memories that elude you later.  I do have a vivid memory of tail lights; the tail lights of Matt’s silver Jeep Commander as he rushed to the hospital.  He actually made it there before the ambulance.  I later learned that his frantic drive included him driving into oncoming traffic to get to the hospital faster.

I never did get in the ambulance that day.  As I stood on the curb with my world crumbling around me the EMT driver must have sensed my control slipping.  In that moment of utter desperation I will never forget his harsh words barking at me as if I had any control over myself.  “You better calm down.”  Those four words sliced through me sharper than any knife ever could.  This man did not want to deal with a hysterical mother; he had made that abundantly clear.  In that exchange I allowed this man to rob me of being with my daughter on the final ride of her life. By the grace of God one of my dearest friends ended up at my house that fateful afternoon.  Safely tucked in her car, together we drove a path that no parent should ever have to travel.  This would signify the beginning of this same dear friend walking Matt and I down the devastatingly broken road that lay ahead of us.

In the corridor of the hospital I was finally held in the comforting arms of my husband.  I needed him to cover me physically with his body so that I could still feel the life pulsating within us.  Everything around me felt like death but he was my source of life.  He was my protector and I needed his body to shield me from the physical and emotional blow that we were about to take.  Together we both stood there like lost children, scared and bewildered.  Would we get our miracle?  Or would our world implode on what had started as a seemingly uneventful day.

In a small side room at Mt. Clemens General Hospital the emergency rooms doctors confirmed what I had already known; our precious girl had been called home to Jesus. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) had become our grim reality.  My mind raced…SIDS was something that doctors warned us about but in my mind I falsely believed we were untouchable…it would never happen to us.  I even remember having a conversation on the topic of SIDS once where I cavalierly made the statement, “If it’s God will it will happen, I can’t worry about it.”  What did that even mean?  How could this hell ever be God’s will?  My head was spinning and I just wanted to shut it all down.  As I sat there, the numbness of shock settling in, I heard this sound that can only be likened to an animal that has been mortally wounded.  However, this was no animal…it was husband.  He wasn’t home when I found her, he hadn’t seen her so he sat there waiting…full of hope…full expectation that all would be fine.  The cries I heard coming out of my husband were the audible sounds of hope dying.  That moment broke my husband.  All of his hopes and dreams extinguished in the blink of an eye.  He was broken in a way that in the days to come I wondered if I would ever see glimpses of who he had once been ever again.

Through all of the chaos of this day the one thing I remember with crystal clarity is how much God’s hand been upon us.  He carefully orchestrated the details so that He could carry us through this horrific day.  Details like the fact that Sammy had just started full day kindergarten that week ensuring he was not in the house when everything happened.  The fact that Katie was there to get both of my boys out of the situation, the fact that Matt just happened to be home that day and not traveling out-of-state, the fact that my good friend was literally 30 seconds from my house and drove me to the hospital after the ambulance driver yelled at me to remain calm…as if such a thing was possible.  I am not saying God took Francesca home on this day because of these details I am saying He used these details to reveal that His protective hand had been upon us.  His presence was all around.  As I walked out of the doorway that lead to the triage room where we would say goodbye to our sweet girl I saw a sea of people.  Family, pastors, and friends lined the hallway of the emergency room.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before.  Face after face represented God saying “I’m here, you will not walk this journey alone.”  There must have been close to 50 people at the hospital that day.  Looking back I am in awe at how many people God brought around us in a moment’s notice.  They were there to pray, to minister to not only us but to our family as well, phone calls were made, protocol was explained, and details were arranged.  Matt and I had to do nothing but let them lavish their love on us like salve to an open wound.  Right there in the hospital God had begun the healing process, even when healing seemed so far beyond our reach.  One of my most vivid memories of that day was leaving the hospital.  I had turned around and I caught of glimpse of all of our loved ones who gathered to be with us.  There they stood watching us go, with so much love, so much concern, at such loss for what the right thing to do or say was but knowing that God wanted them there to be His hands and feet.  I can see that image as if it happened yesterday.  In the middle stood our friend Jeff, who was a doctor at the hospital, in his blue surgical scrubs.  Because of his attire he stood out among the crowd of many.  The blue of those scrubs will forever remind me of the day God used His people to save my family from crumbling to nothingness.


To Be Continued…