In May of 2008, Maria Chapman, the adopted daughter of Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman, was accidentally run over by her older brother in their drive way. She was rushed to hospital, but tragically died soon after.
She was five years old.
When I first read this news, it was in a small segment of the NT News. I was pregnant with Bailey at the time. I remember thinking this was so terrible. Although I obviously didn’t know the family, I had listened to Steven’s music, and it felt close to home.
Last Christmas my sister gave me the book, ‘Choosing to See,’ which was written by Steven’s wife Mary Beth. It was not just the story of her accident, but rather Mary Beth’s life; her struggles with anxiety and depression, and how she coped with a husband who was rapidly becoming famous (in Christian circles at least) and a growing family.
After reading the book, I was inspired to buy the album Steven wrote after Maria’s death. Every song is pretty much focused on his little girl, but in my depression struggles, I took a lot out of it.
Well I haven’t listened to it for a while. I haven’t really needed to. But writing my Can’t Help Falling in Love posts One and Two last week, obviously stirred up some unresolved issues. Friday was a particularly bad day. I spent the afternoon unable to lift my mood. I was not motivated to do anything but lie on the couch, and even that felt depressing. It made me realise that I need to see someone. Medication is only half helping. I need to deal with all this crap that’s just floating in my brain, like icky, brown pond scum.
Saturday morning we picked up our new boat. If I was Boatman (Tim’s new handle,if you hadn’t worked it out), I would tell you its a five metre Quintrex Spirit, with a 90hp Evinrude E-tech, bit because I am a girl I’ll just say it’s big, and white and shiny.
It was nice to go out in it. I haven’t been in the boat since April last year, and obviously Ava had never been. The sides were deep enough that it felt safe, and if she wasn’t unwell and wingey, it would have been very relaxing.
On the way back into the ramp, I had both Ava and Bridie cuddled up on my lap. Bridie is a bit of a princess, and not the biggest boating fan. She doesn’t like the smell, or the sun, or any kind of bumpy waves. In the choice between sitting in the cabin (yes our new boat has a cabin), or as close to me as humanly possible with Ava there, she chose me.
The trip back made the girls sleepy. And for a few minutes at least, Ava shut her eyes and snuggled into my chest. It’s a rare event. Bridie is the cuddliest person you will ever meet, but Ava likes her space.
So I was sitting there, with the wind in my hair, admiring the view, and two of my babies cuddled up as close as possible, and Boatman turned on the radio, (our new boat has a radio too), and what should come on, but a song from Steven Curtis Chapman’s album called Heaven.
Now if the PC had been resurrected, I could put the you tube link, but the iPad won’t let me, so you will have to settle for my singing.
No not, really, I’ll just have to explain. Basically the song is about how Heaven is a wonderful place, that we can have no hope of imagining, but also that we can experience a little bit of Heaven right here and now.
Heaven is the face of a little girl
With dark brown eyes
That disappear when she smiles.
Heaven is the place
Where she calls my name
Says, “Daddy please come play with me for awhile.”
God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more,
But God, You know, that this is what I’m aching for.
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.
So right now…
Heaven is the sound of her breathing deep,
Lying on my chest, falling fast asleep while I sing.
And Heaven is the weight of her in my arms,
Being there to keep her safe from harm while she dreams
And God, I know, it’s all of this and so much more,
But God, You know, that this is what I’m longing for
God, you know, I just can’t see beyond the door.
But in my mind’s eye I can see a place
Where Your glory fills every empty space.
All the cancer is gone,
Every mouth is fed,
And there’s no one left in the orphans’ bed.
Every lonely heart finds their one true love,
And there’s no more goodbye,
And no more not enough,
And there’s no more enemy.
Heaven is a sweet, maple syrup kiss
And a thousand other little things I miss with her gone.
Heaven is the place where she takes my hand
And leads me to You,
And we both run into Your arms.
Oh God, I know, it’s so much more than I can dream.
It’s far beyond anything I can conceive.
So God, You know, I’m trusting You until I see
Heaven in the face of my little girl
Now this is obviously written by a grieving father, trying to make a little bit of sense of the crazy world he has just been thrown into.
But I get it. The world is not what I expected. It’s harder, and scarier, and I really don’t have very much control at all. This year I have seen too many people die, and yesterday as I visited the schools new library, there were two rooms dedicated to staff who have recently died from cancer. One of the them a young mum with two tiny boys.
But sitting in that boat on Saturday morning, with my girls snuggled into me, I really got it. It was a slice of heaven. And even last night, when my dear little Ava had a horrible fever that left her body trembling all over, and wanting to be cuddled, that song drifted through my mind.
This last year I have spent so much time not feeling, and not appreciating anything, but I have these beautiful kids. This slice of heaven in my home, living, breathing, singing at the top of the lungs, and occasionally driving me up the wall.
But at least they are here, to drive me up the wall.
That’s a lot more than some parents get.
I still have a long way to go, obviously. I’m not as whole as I thought was. The bad days still come and go. But that means that so do the good days. So do those moments of joy, and peace, and the ability to recognise joy and peace.
And that… Well it’s Heaven.