It’s with a heavy heart that we are writing to tell you that Elli went home to be with the Lord this morning.

It is a great mercy of God that Elli went peacefully in her sleep, at home in her bed and her familiar surroundings. No life-support machines. No IVs. No pain or distress as far as we could tell. She was getting over a mild cold and had seemed to be doing better. There were no indications whatsoever that this was coming.

Yesterday, she was up early with her cough – about 6am. I got up with her and gave her a nice, warm shower because she had spit up a little bit in the night.

Later on Saturday morning, I stayed home with her while Scott took the other 3 kids to my parents’ house to get some firewood. While he was gone with the other kids, she and I hung out on the couch, watching videos and spending some good time together, since Elli was still getting over her cold and needed to rest. Elli took a nap in the middle of the morning, which was no surprise since she had been up so early.

Elli spent the day at home, listening to her favorite music, watching Veggie Tales and Wonder Pets DVDs and talking on her Dynavox. Yesterday evening, Scott and I worked together to make Elli’s favorite dinner – homemade pizza. We pureed a slice for her and spoon fed it to her – she ate really well.

We did our usual bedtime routine. We sat around Elli’s bed, as we always do, read a Dora book that Little Girl had picked out, and, as always, Scott embellished the words that were written in the book. Elli always knew when he embellished the words, and she would smile. On this particular night, we really wanted to see her smile since she hadn’t been smiling as much lately with her cold.

After the Dora book, we spent a few minutes working on our memory verse. It was Psalm 16:11 – “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Then we sang a song together that repeats these words 3 times:

Jesus is the Rock of my salvation
His banner over me is love

The kids really got into the motions, and Elli was happier than she had been all day as she watched them. It was obvious that her cold was much better.

Then we had prayer time. Older Boy prayed and thanked God that we had so much fun at Gramma and Grampa’s. Little Girl also thanked God for our time at Gramma and Grampa’s. Then Scott closed in prayer, asked for a good night’s sleep for everyone, and tucked everyone in their beds.

Scott’s last words to Elli at bedtime have been a solemn time for quite a while now. About a year ago, he resolved to treat it like the last time he would ever look into her eyes. His routine is to hold both of her hands in mine, bend over very close to her face and whisper Numbers 6:24-26 in her ear:

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

She always looks into his eyes and smiles, her eyes sparkling. Then he kisses her on the forehead and strokes her hair, telling her “I love you, you are so precious,” about two more times between turning out her light and closing the bedroom door.

We can’t tell you how thankful we are that last night was no exception to that routine. Thank you, Lord, for this last moment you gave Scott to usher Elli into eternity with a pronouncement of God’s blessing. We would not have wanted our earthly goodbye to be any other way.

I made 2 more visits to Elli’s room between 8:30 and 11pm to give her some cold medications through her feeding tube and check on her. On both occasions, she stirred when I entered the room, which was typical. I stroked her hair and kissed her goodnight as she drifted back to sleep. The last time we saw her alive was this visit from me at 11pm while she was sleeping comfortably.

I can’t help but think that Psalm 16:11 may have still been fresh in her memory as she stepped into “fullness of joy” in the presence of her God.

Elli was such a rare and precious gift to us, and to everyone who knew her. She endured the pain of several lifetimes in eight short years. From 3 days old, she was in an all-out fight for her life. We have seen her at death’s door many, many times. And we have seen her elated and brimming with life many, many more times.

Elli leaves a legacy of the glory of God in her wake. Few met her, probably, who did not stop to consider what mattered most. She was an ever-present reminder that “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).”

We are stunned at her sudden departure. I think we all expected a long, difficult battle in the hospital. While we miss her terribly and are still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that she is gone, we smile to think of her running, dancing, and singing, free of the broken body she lived in here. Our lives will be very different now, but we pray that we will never forget the lessons she taught us.

Elli was an ever-present reminder that we have an unwavering Lover of our souls. And He is a tender Rock, the rock of my salvation, whose banner over me is love.