we left the funeral home just after ten. the sun was bright and the air was warm. just as we’ve done many times before, josh and i sat in the front seat of the car while ava rested quietly behind us. this time, though, she wasn’t strapped into her car seat or wearing a colorful hat that matched her onesie. no, for this final trip, she was laid peacefully within the beautiful casket her daddy and brother had made for her and she was wearing the hat, the white one that our sweet eight-year-old friend had knitted weeks ago for ava to wear when she met jesus.

1

as we neared our house, i told josh i couldn’t do it. i couldn’t see her all dressed up in her burial clothes for the first time in the presence of all our other children. he didn’t ask questions, he just pulled over at the park down the road and held me as i lifted the lid. we stood so closely wrapped in each other’s arms that i couldn’t tell where my tears stopped and his started.

after everyone at home had time to say goodbye, we began the drive out to the beautiful country where ava was to be buried with so many of my family, perfectly placed between my grandmother and great-grandmother. josh’s phone rang and i answered it when i saw it was my mom. oh, ummmm, hey honey…i was hoping to talk to josh. i knew something was wrong. i pieced josh’s side of the conversation together enough to realize that there was a problem with ava’s grave. my heart began to race and that part of any mommy that wants things to be perfect for her baby girl panicked. what could have struck us like a disaster, though, ended up giving birth to one of the greatest gifts of my life as a mother when we finally drove up to the cemetery and saw so many of the people who love us well themselves digging the grave that would soon hold our daughter’s body. my daddy, my sister, a precious friend, uncles, cousins…nothing can compare to the love they displayed as they worked tirelessly under the bright alabama sun to prepare her final resting place. i imagine that for decades to come i’ll carry the memory of seeing the man who married us – the one who challenged us to fall hard on the lord in good times and bad – on his hands and knees scooping dirt out of that deepening hole with his bare hands.

2

our dear friend, JT, performed ava’s service as we were supported by many others who also loved that tiny, incredible gift dearly.

3

and then came the part that made me feel as if i couldn’t find the next breath. josh, who has led this family with such wisdom and dependence on the lord and who has loved ava with the fierce love of a daddy, lowered ava’s body into the ground until i could no longer see the small casket in which it was held. i don’t know that i said a word out loud, but the desperate cry of my heart in those moments was, oh father, be near.

4

i gathered the strength to take sam into my arms then knelt beside his baby sister’s grave and whispered over and over, she’s with jesus. i know you don’t understand this now but we’ll tell you this story over and over until you do.

5

i imagine reading this, it sounds like this story has all the makings of a tragedy. loss, separation, sickness, death…there doesn’t seem to be even a hint of joy to be found. oh, but friends, if you could have just heard the lord speak through JT on that gorgeous saturday afternoon.

6

psalm 23. specifically verse 4. even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… i’ve tried to share openly and honestly throughout this journey; sometimes that meant coming to you to rejoice over an unexpected and unexplainable smile or to celebrate the reappearance of those gorgeous blue eyes. but for today, it means sharing with you that the days right now are full of heaviness and shadows. but as JT reminded us as we stood there beside the graves of my grandparents and our beloved baby girl…

wherever there’s a shadow, there is also a light.

and while the grief may seek to destroy me and the darkness threatens to consume me, my hope lies somewhere else than what i’ve witnessed over these past few days. a peace finds its way into my heart as i rest in the assurance that ava – that delight whom we loved on earth for 178 days – has new eyes that are open to see something far greater than my mind can even comprehend.

ava leigh lewis is beholding The Light.

7

and the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its Light.
revelation 21:23

*endless thankfulness to justin poland for being there with us to capture these final moments with ava. what an indescribable gift you’ve given us, my friend.

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68 Responses to shadows

  1. Kelly Avery says:

    This absolutely brought me to sobbing tears. :( This little girl was so so blessed to have been chosen by this wonderful family. And they were equally blessed to have been gifted with her. Rest peacefully beautiful baby girl. Jesus will hold you tight until your family is with you again.

  2. Sandra Veinote says:

    Such a beautiful story of love. The pictures are wonderful. Sam has his special angel watching over him. Prayers for the family. Thank you for sharing Ava’s story with all of us.

  3. Crystal Justice says:

    Oh my heart aches so badly for your family. I wish I knew more about God and had some amazing quote to write but I just don’t. I do see through the pictures the love and warmth you have for one another. I do hope the best for your family and will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. ❤

    • Suzanne says:

      You just asking to know more about him, just opened up your heart to learn. I don’t remember all of them either, but I know he loves my anyway.

    • Hope says:

      If you want to know more, it’s so very simple. Pray to him and read the Bible daily. If you pray before you read, he’ll give you understanding. God doesn’t promise a perfect life on earth. But he does promise a perfect afterlife with him.

  4. Sherry Brooks says:

    Your story is a beautiful one. There is a special place for the family that loved a child that others would have walked away from. Your daughter was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for allowing others to love her even if we never met her.

  5. susy jenkins says:

    I wasn’t blessed to meet little Ava but I’ve cried as hard as if she was one of my own. She fought a great race but God has other, better plans for her. Thank you sharing her short life with me and many others. Life is precious, live each day the best you can and wait til the day comes for us to meet Ava and all our loved ones in Heaven. God Bless you and your family.

  6. In the short time Ava was on this earth; her story has touched so
    many lives. Ava was blessed to have been chosen to be part of your family. She experienced love, kindness and now she is with our Father in heaven. Thank you for being brave parents and such an inspiration. My condolences on the loss of your sweet baby Ava.

  7. Jo-Anne Cook says:

    RIP RIH Ava Leigh, you have touched so many hearts here on earth and I for one, will never forget you. You are now sitting on the lap of Jesus. While you were here on earth you had a wonderful and loving family. Part of you will always live on in your twin brother and I pray that your mommy and daddy keep their fb page up so we can all see how everyone is doing. Love and prayers from Ontario Canada. You are another flower in God’s garden and a bright and beautiful star shining down from Heaven. Miss your beautiful baby smile…..

  8. Marilynn says:

    My heart cries with y’all!!! In those 176 days that sweet Ava was on this Earth, she was and is a loved little girl. She touched so many hearts! I don’t know y’all, but I can tell y’all this… God answers prayers, and I pray that HE gives you peace, comfort, understanding, strength for the days ahead!! Most of all, I pray that God gives you love. Love for yourselves, your other amazing children, love of life, and the biggest love of all.. Love of Him. When we lose someone we hold dear, we want to blame…. Thank God He gave you Baby Ava and all the love she had. Baby Aba is know seeing something we have never seen or heard here on Earth. She has made a beautiful perfect lil angel!!! Go rest high on that mountain Swwet Ava. Your work on Earth is done… Love to each of you.

  9. Robyn Cobb says:

    Bless you and your family. I have no words to express what your story has meant to us all.

  10. Julie Singleton says:

    What a beautiful family and such a bittersweet moment, Ava is with Our Lord , and together they are watching over you and your family. You have been blessed with the charge of a little life, if only for a short time, but you are now blessing others who have shared these moments with you. Thank you to you and your family, just for being.

  11. Sharron Schafer says:

    My heart breaks for your family but there are tidbits of blessings in the midst of sorrow – the light of Christ. I’m so gad JT was there to give you words of comfort and peace. Blessings and comfort to you all as only Our Father can give you.

  12. I could have written this myself for a friend and her Winter Rose we just buried Sunday. Prayers for you.

  13. Sonja Wood says:

    I’ve followed your story as Matt Mason has shared it on his timeline. As I read this entry, I could hardly breathe. Thank you for sharing your journey and may God meet you at every bend in the road, as He has to this point.

  14. God bless you for sharing your story with us. We will all meet someday in heaven and we will see Ava perfectly whole, healthy, and happy. May our Lord strengthen you for the days ahead and reward you for your faithfulness. It has been an honor to be able to read your words and see the pictures you have shared. You will continue to be in my prayers.

  15. Cassandra Hockings says:

    I have fallen in love with little Ava and the entire Lewis Family along with so many others all over the country and the world. I would like to send my condolences to the family and I have been praying for all of you throughout your journey. I have been truly inspired by your family. It’s quite rare to find a family that has truly given themselves to God, not questioning the trials, or in this case the mountain He had put before you. Just knowing that everything He does is done for a purpose. Your family has shown so many of us that miracles do happen. Just believe in the Lord and His love and anything is possible. May you rest in piece sweet Ava and bask in the glory of Heaven. Lewis Family, you are extraordinary and although I know you only through your Facebook page updates, I pray for all of you. Your Ava has gripped our hearts and we wish you all the best. Our thoughts and prayers are with you always.

  16. Sunshine Taylor says:

    this has me sobbing in tears n my heart in breaking in a million pieces for you an your family I know that you all are hurting in more ways then anyone could possibly imagine knowing that every where you go n look you will see you precious little Ava’s memories n that will put a smile upon your face but will also bring you tears too because for your sweet little angel will not be there to create many more memories with her dearly loved family n mommy n daddy whom she loved dearly … may god be with you all in this tragic time of sorrow n may n time your hearts be healed n Ava’s precious memories be forever lived on an shared amen .. continuing to pray for you an your sweet family

  17. Be ki says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with Ava. You have been such a testimony of sacrificial love.

  18. Denise says:

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful Ava and your family with all of us.

    As an adoptive mom of three, I know that each of our children were brought into our respective families for a reason. A reason that truly only God knows.

    Ava and all of you were blessed beyond measure. She was loved by you – her forever family for as long as she was on this earth. May your sweet daughter rest in peace in the arms of our lord. May your pictures and fond memories of her live on in all of you. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Lewis family.

  19. Kari Tobias says:

    What a beautiful story. I can hardly write through my tears. Ava was very, very lucky to find parents and a family like you. God will save a special place in heaven for you. God bless you all.

  20. Cindy says:

    God only gives us what we can handle and clearly you have handled this with grace and humility. I send prayers and thoughts as you have traveled this journey you shared of Ava and Sam. I will continue to pray for your family to heal over the loss of Ava and that you shall grow as a family in God’s love. You have shown us all what it is to love unconditionally. What a blessing you are to All. May God continue to bless your family.

  21. Laura Gagne says:

    Shemar Moore (actor, Criminal Minds) posted your story. I then read your post on your Web site. God bless you and your family. God meant for Ava to be with your family.

  22. gail frazier says:

    As I type this through my tears, I can only say that God Blessed that sweet baby with two wonderful parents who are unbelievably full of God’s love, spirit and are most giving wonderful people I have encountered in a very long time. You will be forever blessed for what you have done for all of your beautiful children. I worked in foster care in NYC for 20 years and believe me, to find loving parents who give their total unconditional love to not only their biological children but all children, are a very rare find. I just want to say thank you for loving and caring for your adoptive children as you love your biological children. That beautiful baby is happy and healthy in Heaven now, playing with other children who have also passed on. I asked my daughter who went to heaven 23 years ago at the age of 22 to take care of your little baby and I know she will. I was blessed to have her for 22 years and I know she takes care of all the little ones in Heaven because she had a beautiful spirit and heart. God Bless and Keep you and your family.

  23. Faith says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with your family. How beautiful that she was loved those 178 days and her life was one of acceptance & God’s love to your family. I am truly so sorry for her loss to your family. Every life has value and Ava’s life had value no matter how short it was. May your family have peace knowing, there will be a day you will all see her again… in her ultimate perfection! What God brings you to, he will bring you through.

    Blessings & heartfelt love,

    Faith

  24. Christine Harte says:

    My heart is heavy for this family! Tears fillies my eyes and rolled down my cheeks as I read this. God bless this family and watch over them as they grieve this terrible loss and let them rest knowing this little girl is in a better place.

  25. Sharon says:

    Ava was so blessed to have a wonderful loving family to care for her while on this earth. It takes a special kind of love to care for Ms. Ava the way you did and still do. I’m sure she is perfect in heaven and will continue to grow and be loved. Thank You for allowing God to use you with the grace he has given you.

  26. Lindsay D says:

    You were the perfect family for her as she was the perfect daughter and sister for your family.
    What a beautiful gift you gave each other. So much love crammed into such little time yet the love you all gave was so much more than what some people ever get to experience in a lifetime.
    Be comforted knowing that she is at home with the Lord, free and happy, patiently waiting to greet you when you’re called home.
    God bless you and thank you for sharing your inspiring journey.

  27. courtney says:

    I read your story online and it led me here and I just ache for you. Seeing it has been a couple weeks since you said goodbye to your precious girl or see you later really, I just imagine how hard these weeks have been ND just want you to know from one mom to another I am praying for you, for your husband and your children, that the Lord will sustain you, be near, meet you at every turn, make His face shine upon you, give you rest and comfort you all in your grief through each other and His presence. Sending you so much love from NY.

  28. Lucciana says:

    Beautiful story god bless all your family

  29. Lucille Worley says:

    May God bless you and ease your pain. Such a tiny and precious little girl was Ava. I loved her beautiful smile. God gave you a wonderful gift. And you have given God a wonderful gift by loving his beautiful creation. I honor you , your husband and your other children for loving her so much!!

  30. William cline says:

    I don’t normally read post like this but something kept me coming back to it, I’ve been away from God for awhile but when I seen that beautiful face and beautiful smile it warmed my heart so much I lost it , because that was a look and smile of pure Love, Ava receiveing , and you guys giving. I started crying and talking to God with feelings I’ve bottled up for a long time!! Ava’s beautiful smile of Love has given me something back and need back in my life, Love thank you Baby Girl for your Heaven sent smile. And thank you Lewis Family for giving the Love that made her smile and thank you God for bringing the love together for this to happen!! May God always Bless the Lewis Family

  31. wanda smith says:

    you broken my heart sweet beautiful baby girl AVA very precious and loved cared for even in death very truelly missed in very special way of the heart with happy thoughts one day see Ava as a pretty little angel in the sky clouds of heaven on a warm sunny day,thank you for sharening both Ava and also her beautiful baby twin brother so sweet i sure wish him a good life ahead healthy happy wealthy job of our future present day protected from dangers of this war and world love kisses and hugs and i wish you a happy birthday every year-wandasmith

  32. In the short time Ava was on this earth; her story has touched so
    many lives. Ava was blessed to have been chosen to be part of your family. She experienced love, kindness and now she is with our Father in heaven. Thank you for being brave parents and such an inspiration. My condolences on the loss of your sweet baby Ava.

  33. Celia says:

    This is so heartbreaking :( I am so sorry for your loss. I was reading your story and was hoping with all my heart that the doctors had got it all wrong until I saw that your baby girl has passed away :( I have a baby girl myself and I could not imagine how devastating it must be to have to let her go. My heart goes out to you all xxx ❤️

  34. Pearl says:

    God picked the perfect parents for Ava. Live on know i g that you are well deserving family and that you gave this precious little one all the love parent should. Ava will forever live in your hearts. Smile, rejoice for your little Ave is in the house of the Lord where she will live forever. Amen

  35. Linda Kim says:

    God bless you and your entire family for your kindness, compassion and love. By sharing your story, you have touched more people than you will ever know. You are role models at a time our country so needs them. Bless you in your continued work in raising your family and sharing God’s grace with everyone you come in contact with.

  36. Brianna says:

    I dont even know what to say. I’m sitting here, bawling my eyes out. The strength and love your family has is absolutely amazing. As I sat here reading your story, I hugged my lil boy a little closer, and thanked the lord for the blessing of my children. I suppose it’s not something you would normally think of, I wouldn’t anyways, but after reading your story I feel so very blessed.
    My prayers are with your family.
    R.I.P. little Ava. The love your family has for you will be eternal.

  37. Pam Hesz says:

    My Sorrow for loss of a living Angel. She plays with the Angels above. Rocked in the arms of loved ones and is in the glorious presence of our Lord and Savior. Jesus.. All of our love from North Carolina..

  38. Ingrid says:

    Glory to God and God Bless Ava and her twin bro and family. It is through her parents’ love that they are teaching their children, and all of us other “God’s Children” what LOVE really means. I am just learning of your story of joy and pain right now, and I am sobbing…. Thank you for sharing and for teaching me what is truly important in life! YOU are an inspiration.

  39. Arlene says:

    What a lovey video!

    Please remove those pictures of the shovel and ofhef digging tools. It seems as though you. Logging about the burial of the family cat vs a human being. I have no idea what you were thinking showing that!!! And the guy with soil on his denim pant leg.

    • allison says:

      hi arlene – thank you for your comment but i was curious…did you read the post that went along with the pictures? the specific photos you’re referring to aren’t disrespectful to my daughter’s life, death, and burial in any way. they’re actually one of the sweetest parts of the story and show how deeply my family loved and cared for both her and me.

      • LINDA LOWDEN says:

        Allison,
        Just saw the adoption video story & my word when my husband gets home from work he is going to think someone in our family passed. I am BAWLING !!!
        I didn’t even realize this was all so close to me until I saw that her burial was in Montevallo. I’m in Alabaster. SMALL WORLD!
        Ava sure was a beauty & now a very beautiful.
        God Bless all of you & please try to ignore ignorant comments !!! I think all the pics are just stunning & it shows how much she was loved !!!

    • Morgan says:

      This story is so sad and to think someone like you can just open your mouth without even thinking twice about how it would effect the family. You know what you can do is PRAY FOR THE FAMILY AND THEIR CHILDREN WHO HAVE NOW EXPERIENCED THE DEATH OF THEIR LITTLE SISTER. AND ALSO PRAY FOR FORGIVENESS FOR YOURSELF FOR YOUR OWN IGNORANCE AS I WILL BE PRAYING FOR YOU!

  40. […] of that large worship room – the very one in which we’d recently held the service to celebrate ava’s life – and felt the familiar welling of hot tears as i learned what she was walking through with […]

  41. Serena singh says:

    Beautiful story. God bless you and your family. Rest in peace sweet angel.

  42. Petra says:

    I’m reading the story of Ava and her brother. I’m overwhelmed, that they have get so wonderful parents! I feel with them the pain of this great loss.
    Kindest regards from Germany, Petra

  43. Rose says:

    You gave her love and to your family Ava will always be a beautiful star in the sky, an angel by your side and a memory to last forever. Blessings to you and your loving family.
    Sending love from Australia <3

  44. Rosa says:

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful testimony of love and faith in spite of the challenges. God has gifted you with an angel for few months on earth and forever in heaven. I am deeply touched by your story. Blessings for you all.

  45. Toni says:

    You have brought me to tears. I have no children but still can feel your pain. The love you gave her and the joy she gave you will carry on in this life and the one after. Thank you for sharing your story.

  46. shirley moline says:

    This breaks my heart and lights it up with love at the same time. You are flying and singing with the angels now, Ava!!

  47. Eileen says:

    As a Paediatric nurse for over 30 years, I have been privileged to step into the short lives of many beautiful children like Ava.
    The one thing I always believed,and would share with the wonderful parents is my belief that God had carefully selected them for this ‘ special job’, because this is a role that not every parent can carry out.
    But as Edna Massimilla says in her poem, “Heavens very special child”
    Soon they’ll know the privilege given
    In caring for this gift from heaven,their precious charge,so meek & mild, is heavens very special child.

  48. Mary Dean says:

    Won’t the Reunion be a wonderful joy! I believe the LORD can give us the desired of our hearts, and one of my desires is to someday meet your family, and to see your beautiful Ava, healed and whole. Blessings to you for sharing your story of love and faith with others. Praying for all of you, and for the birth mom, also.

  49. Virpi says:

    RIP little Ava, God bless the family and give strength. It is hard to loose a child. I just came from the graveyard where my little one is. It is Christmas time and many candles where beautyfully lightning dark Finnish night.

  50. Sara Gillard says:

    You are a truly amazing family when I read this my heart torn into pieces to adopt a baby and then for that baby to die I feel for your whole family. I don’t know you or your family I have only read on social media the story Xxx ava will love you and your family for giving her the short time she had. My thoughts are with you at this sad time Xxx fly safe little ava and keep warm and look after your family from up above x yours sincerely Sara Gillard from great Britian. X xxxx

  51. […] for a while and shot life exclusively with my phone, and we eventually spent a warm, breezy day placing our baby’s body beneath the ground. i’ve said it countless times before, but i really do have the best clients in the world. […]

  52. Alison says:

    What an inspiration you and your family are – every single one of you. Thank you for sharing your story and most of all for sharing your faith. What a wonderful God we serve – which of us knows what He has planned for us, but we know that He will give us the strength and courage that is needed to face every storm and to find beauty in the midst of tragedy just as He did for you all.

  53. Joni Bushmire says:

    God chose you both to be Ava’s parents, what a gift. God knew that you could walk the path he placed in front of you, he knows how strong you both are. Even though Ava was only on this earth a short time she has made a difference in a lot of lives. Hopefully your story of unconditional love will inspire others to give their children that same kind of love. To kiss and hug their babies a little tighter. Children are a precious gift for our Lord and Savior. Ava is now an angel in Heaven, flying high without pain.
    Your story brought me to tears in the first 3 words. I will love and appreciate my family even more than I already do. Time is so very precious. As I look forward to 2017, I will count my blessing even more because of you. Thank you for telling your story.

  54. Penni says:

    I’m a Paramedic and as I often think when I hear of a baby passing on, Jesus needed one more Rosebud in his Garden of Love…..and I know Ava is just that. GOD BLESS !!

  55. […] are what have sustained us through the storms of the last year. no, we can’t be happy that our baby died a few days before she was six months old. but we can believe god when he says that he’s using […]

  56. Tracy says:

    Your story broken my heart , I am so sorry for your loss .. But yet I am happy to know that this sweet little girl had such a loving family ..

  57. Sue McCarthy says:

    Words cannot express how deeply your story touched me. You are an inspirational family and whilst the story was heart breaking it was so beautiful to see how much love little Ava got to see in her short life. Thank you for sharing.

  58. Linda Rubano says:

    I cried for you when I found out you lost your child. Whatever time she had on this earth, you made it wonderful. Bless you for taking her into your home and your heart. You have touched me in a way I can’t explain. Even though she was only with you a short time, it made all of us better people hearing your story.

  59. Penny Kelley says:

    May God continue to bless your family. Such courage to open up so publicly on such a heartfelt matter, from the phone call asking if you wanted to adopt to the moments following the burial. Pray that the journey you are on will be full of discoveries & joy for the entire family.

  60. Dee Vaiano says:

    As I look back on this day many years ago. I feel the pain you all have gone through. I buried my son who was less than a year old this day on April 3rd. I find it your article by accident and I think God wanted me to know how much I am not alone with those who lost their little ones. Run sweet children and sit upon Gods lap until we can be with each other again. Bless you all

  61. Aimie Foster says:

    Sending Prayers, Love and Light to Ashley and all of her loved ones. God Bless You, Little Angel. You are SO loved!

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