Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chapman Update

[From the Tennessean]

Just feet away from her sister Maria's tiny white coffin, Shaohannah Chapman stood with her parents and listened as her daddy read a letter she wrote.

It was addressed to two people up above: her sister and Jesus.

"Maria's stuffed animals are going to be packed away and put into the attic," Steven Curtis Chapman, a well-known Christian singer/songwriter, read in a steady voice that sometimes trailed off into a whisper.

"Enjoy heaven," he continued, addressing some 2,000 mourners Saturday at his 5-year-old daughter's funeral at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

"I will see you soon, but not too soon. I hear the roads are made of solid gold and God waits for everyone. When you see that I'm coming, wait for me at the gate," he continued as Maria's pictures — smiling in huge sunglasses or sitting next to her birthday cake — flashed on two screens behind him.

'Snuggle bunny' loved to draw

Shaohannah's was one of many tributes to Maria, a little girl described by her parents, siblings and friends as a "snuggle bunny" who loved to run around naked, draw flowers and play princesses.

She died Wednesday evening after what authorities called a "terrible accident." One of Chapman's two teenage sons was backing down the family's driveway in a truck. He didn't see the child in the driveway and struck her. She was pronounced dead later that day at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The little girl was one of Chapman's three adopted daughters from China and joined the family in 2004. Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, also have three biological children. They were celebrating the recent engagement of their eldest daughter, Emily.

Boy's plight remembered

The Saturday service, sometimes pierced by spontaneous laughter from the pews caused by funny Maria stories, also served as a reminder that another life, that of the teenage boy who drove the truck, has been shattered.

"I haven't always been a good brother," one of the Chapman boys said. "Just like my dad helped Maria, I hope I help my brother. … (God) healed Maria in a way we don't like, but he's going to heal (my brother) in a way we're going to like."

Those in the sanctuary got up and applauded.

And then Chapman recalled how he tried to fight for his little girl in the hospital, how he told the doctors he needed to pray, he needed to save her.

"That's what you do as a dad," he said, his voice breaking up. And how he asked God for a sign to know that his daughter was OK, and the frustration when it didn't come. Not right away, he said. And then he found a card Maria painted but never finished. When he turned it around, it read "see."

"I heard her little voice and the voice of God," he said. "She said: 'See, dad, it's OK.' "

I don't know why this story has gripped me so much. Maybe it is because I have children, maybe it is because I have thought of death more these past few months and tarried on the edge of the fear of it, maybe it is because the Chapmans seem like such a normal family... I don't know why it has grabbed my attention, but I have to say that I am so thankful for a Savior who has defeated death, but who also showed his own sorrow over it while he walked this earth.

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