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My best friends since I was 13 years old have been Marsha and Darrell Shepherd.  We’ve known each other for a life-time.  John walked into that friendship circle 41 years ago, so he’s been a part of this special bond for much of that life-time.

Marsha and I know each other so well that we can walk down the mall together, see someone ahead of us, and know what the other is thinking about that person.  It’s crazy!

We’ve laughed until snot flew out of our noses and we’ve almost thrown up.  We’ve  talked until the wee hours of the morning.  (Not so much anymore since we’re ready to fall asleep by 10:00!)  We’ve prayed together and counseled one another.  We’ve grown up together and raised kids together and celebrated together…and on and on I could go.

But 23 years ago today we did something else together.  We grieved together.  Grieved so deeply that it felt like we could die.  Because 23 years ago today their beautiful, precious, brilliant, kind, godly, gracious 19-year old Deanna died in an accident on a snowy Indiana highway.  Their little DeeDee was gone from this earth.

We walked through that together – praying, loving, sharing the pain.  It was heartache at its deepest level.  And comfort at its deepest level.  And friendship at its deepest level.

And then we walked through heartache together again in March as John and I watched our own little girl lying in a hospital bed in California, wondering if the same thing would happen to her, that she would be gone, too.  Marsha and Darrell understood that heartache as if it were their own because they loved us so much and they loved our little girl so much.

I sit here thinking about Kari’s accident and I can again feel the overwhelming sense of agony that overtook my life during those days.  I again remember the panic and the fear:  that Stella might not get to be raised by her mommy who loves her so much; that Josh might lose the love of his life and become a single parent; that Heather might have to figure out how to live without her darling best friend/little sister; that I might not get to see my precious daughter’s smile or hear her amazing laugh again.

I keep thinking how different this Christmas almost was.  How different this season would have been if the doctors and nurses hadn’t been able to bring about a miracle in her body that night.  How a part of me would have died along with her.

It’s hard to even write these words.  I’ve seldom expressed them outwardly.  It hurts so much to put the feelings into words.  But it just seemed like the right time to write them, today, 23 years after Deanna died.

I also wanted to share one more feeling I’m experiencing during this Christmas season.  I really, really miss our little Margot June.  I don’t know how you miss someone so much whom you’ve never met, never held, never kissed.  But I do.  I miss being able to see her eyes shine as she would have looked at the Christmas lights.  I miss being able to hear her attempting to say her first words (Heather’s first word was “tree” at Christmas and I wonder if Margot’s might have been, too.)  I miss the marvelous joy it would have been to watch Stella watch Margot at Christmas.  I miss the utter joy she would have given us, just like her big sister has done.

Today, I miss Deanna.  I miss Margot.

But I’m also so unbelievably grateful that I can call Kari tonight and hear her sweet voice.  And I’m so unbelievably grateful that deep in my heart I know some day I’ll see Deanna and Margot again.  And someday the holes in our hearts – and in Marsha and Darrelll’s – will be filled.

Merry Christmas, sweet Deanna.  Merry Christmas, little Margot June.  I love you.

(I’ve run out of room, but I want to mention that both my sisters have lost their precious oldest children.  Terry died due to a drunk driver and Matt died in a motor cycle accident.  Their moms and dads also know the heartache I’ve been writing about.)