Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chris' tribute to Juliet

Below is the eulogy that Chris gave on Saturday. The strength that he had to stand in front of almost 300 people and speak of his love for Juliet was simply amazing. His words were perfect and pure. I am proud to have such an inspiring husband but heartbroken to see the pain in his eyes.

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Thank you all for coming to celebrate the life of my youngest daughter.

Being a father is one of the most special things a man can aspire to be. My experience is three-fold; each the same, but different. My girls have the same facial expressions, the same nose, and the signature cheeks. Were such pictures available, it might be tough to tell the difference between the three if their earliest pictures were all mixed together, and even if some pictures of Jessica from her earliest days were mixed in. I thank God for this blessing because it means I should never struggle to see Juliet – her cheeks, her eyes, her nose, her expressions…all running around in my house.

Of my girls, Juliet is the fighter. Her father is competitive in the sort of “I can beat you” mold. But Juliet is more like her mother in the “you can’t beat me” mold. I will always wonder where in life her quiet, but unyielding courage would have taken her. Even though we never took her home, I miss her already there – hearing two sets of footsteps coming scurrying by, I think it will be a long time before I don’t imagine a third. I know she would have provided great balance among her sisters – too tough to be pushed away, she would have forced her way into their tightly knit circles where she would have thrived. I like to believe she would have a wild streak. I often joked with Jess about how she would want to wear bikinis to show off all of her scars when she was old enough, confident that she could readily dispel, and by force if necessary, any reaction that did not meet her approval. She would have been one who had something to say, and maybe this is why she joined us ahead of schedule in July while we were on vacation instead of waiting until October when she was expected.

Juliet and I had a great relationship. She understood very quickly what it meant to be my daughter. I would talk and she would listen, and then not do what I asked. Early on, I told her about Spain winning the World Cup. I read her books, told her stories, and sang her songs – sometimes even Man United’s supporter songs. She would have hated City. But mostly I told her about her sisters and her mom, and how much fun she’d have when she got home. Juliet’s contributions were made almost exclusively through facial expressions and hand-squeezes, and even the occasional smile. My favorite part was simply being able to hold her gaze.

It is not my intention to tell a sad story. And while it is true that I am sad as I tell it, I am not sure that Juliet’s story is a sad one. So I ask “How is courage measured?” Is courage 1 foot 4 inches tall and weighing just over 7 pounds? There is certainly a sad story here about a brave little girl who fought like hell and did not make it home. But to leave with that would be to miss her true character.

Over the course of her remarkable life, I’ve heard many people – some very close and some whom I have hardly met – remark of Juliet’s strength and courage. This is quite a character for a 6 month old child to have built, and all the more so because she never moved beyond 2 feet of her hospital bed or for the most part uttered more than a peep.

It would be too easy to say that she simply lasted 186 days. The truth is, given her challenges, she could have only lasted 186 minutes. But that would not have been enough time to do what she came to do, to say what she came to say. Some might say how could a child that young and that fragile even know that she should fight? And perhaps that is the beauty of it – she just did. That is where we see the courage and that is what we were meant to see. That was her purpose. How wonderful that God chose to send us this message of courage in the shape of a seemingly delicate baby girl with a name of “Grace.”

It is through her inspiration that you carry and share this story. So her story is in some small part your story about courage. And that is a pretty cool impact for a baby girl to have. It makes me very proud to be her dad. My uncle had a neat way of putting it when he said that it seems like she did so much during her life that she may have died of old age.

As you know, Juliet has two sisters. Their responsibility will be more complex, a greater challenge than telling a story. Addison and Mackenzie - Juliet demonstrated courage every day. Her bravery helped her fight for 186 days against a body that seemed to fail her at every opportunity. For much of that time, she saw you – your pictures, your faces constantly positioned within her line of sight. I think she fought so hard because she desperately wanted to be a part of that love.

Your little sister built a legacy of strength, courage, and love. I ask you to carry that legacy. You must BE the story. I want you to live your lives drawing on Juliet’s strength, courage, and love as you demonstrate your own. I want you to be brave and have the confidence of growing up like Juliet would have grown up so that as she looks down she gets to live her life through the two of you. Keep your little sister close to your heart like an angel and ask her for help as you face the challenges you’ll certainly have in life. Juliet was with us in body ever so briefly, but for you and others who can continue to be inspired, her spirit can stay with us forever.

8 comments:

  1. Chris,

    Your words were touching. Thank you.

    I have been following the blog since the beginning in July (thank you Jessica for all of your heartfelt posts) and was devastated to read about your loss. Lauren and I send you, Jessica and your girls our very best.

    You should all take great pride in your formidable strength. Not only was Juliet quite the fighter, but so were her parents and sisters throughout her fight. It was very easy to sense the love and support shared within your family and I am confident that will only further develop as your children grow up and beyond. I hope you all can find some peace during this difficult time.

    -Davey Kahn

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  2. WOW... what a legacy.
    Thank you for posting it.
    May His grace and comfort continue to abound to you.

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  3. I know Juliet must be proud to hear her Daddy's message about his beautiful girl. What a lucky little angel she is to be part of your family. She will be missed in person but be part of your soul forever. I will continue to think and pray for you all. Thank you for sharing these sweet words with us.

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  4. Jessica and family--My thoughts and prayers will continue for you all as you go through this difficult time in your lives. Juliet was such an inspiration to so many and you can hear how proud you and Chris were to be her parents in these wonderful messages. You will treasure all the moments you had with her in her short time on this earth. Thank you so much for sharing her life with us. God Bless you all. Becky Hinkle

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  5. Naomi (Beckwith) KraenbringJanuary 23, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    Wonderfully amazing thoughts and words for such a beautiful and strong angel. She *will* be a part of your lives forever. Thank you for sharing. I will continue to keep all of you in my thoughts and prayers.
    ~Naomi~

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  6. Jess, Chris, Addison & Mackenzie,
    You all and Juliet are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I hope you are doing well and getting back to some normalcy in your lives. The love that we all had for Juliet will continue to spread throughout our family. May the memories we hold in our hearts of her bring us all peace. We know that she is now in the arms of Jesus and at peace herself.
    Love to you all....aunt laurie

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  7. Oh, Smith family, wow, this is such a special tribute to Juliet. Thank you for sharing it.

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  8. Jessica and Chris, my deepest sympathy to you and your family from all of us at Women to Women, PC.
    I pray for lots of strength, love and healing for your broken hearts.
    -Gwen Cobbs

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