On February 18, 2018, my beloved daughter died.
I love Blakely, I miss Blakely, I want to be with Blakely – right now. I want to feel Blakely’s hair and look into Blakely’s ocean-blue eyes. I want to feel Blakely squeeze my finger and I want to kiss Blakely’s chubby cheeks. There is so much that I miss… so much that I want. We (Emily and I) are left in a moment of want, but with full knowledge that our want will not be met. We are simply broken.
Early morning on February 18th in St. Petersburg, Florida, I watched the sun come up in between long, sleepy blinks. As orange rays of sun peeked into Blakely’s room, we both knew that it was the day. It was going to be our hardest day, but Blakely’s greatest.
We met with sweet doctors and went over the plan. The sun was beautifully beaming and the sky was clear and the hospital seemed at rest. It was as if creation itself was offering comfort for us – I thought to myself frequently, what a beautiful day for Blakely. It seemed funny for the day to be so pretty, but I like to think that it was all for Blakely.
God gave us peace with the decision to let Blakely go, but we still felt wrecked. There were copious amounts of machines and wires all over Blakely, and as we looked at her sweet body we were stung with grief. We cried over her and prayed over her and whispered sweet nothings into her ear. We rubbed her legs and arms and fingers and toes. We kissed her over and over and over again… we even smelled her (laughing out loud). Millions of mommy-daddy tears sprinkled her body. I kept looking at her and thinking about how I never want to leave this moment – I could stay in it forever… just me… Blakely… and Emily… together.
In the later morning, family and friends flooded into the room, which at this point was full of sunshine. It was warm and there were funny stories being told and tears being cried. It was a smorgasbord of joy, sadness, darkness and hope. It was comforting and intimate. It felt like home… it even felt heavenly or other-worldly.
Then we began a worship service. We played music and sang songs about God with Blakely (she loved music). We read scripture with her and we prayed with her and we all shared about Blakely before her presence. It was beautiful. It felt just like the day when she was born – sacred.
This is how Blakely lives – she worships – she is a worship leader – she draws people closer to God. Jesus was front and center from start to finish in my daughter’s life. I am proud. What a beautiful and holy and glorious way to live.
As the service closed we began the process of saying goodbye. Loved ones after loved ones drew near to Blakely and adored her and loved her for long periods. I guarantee you that no one wanted to leave her – we were all willing to stay with her – we all would have stayed with her, but Blakely was ready to leave. She was sweet to let us have her, to let us be with her, to let us know her and to let us see her. Even though she was broken to pieces – even though she was at the end – she emanated love – she filled the room like the rays of sun with hesed love (www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/loyal-love-hesed).
I still remember more and more people leaving and feeling the moment overwhelm me. I couldn’t handle this kind of love – I couldn’t handle this kind of God. I couldn’t believe that God was so good to me – to give me Blakely. I was un-raveling, I was drowning, and I was falling apart before a Holy God who gives good gifts. I couldn’t believe that I had to let her go. In my mind it felt backwards that loving Blakely was saying goodbye, but in my heart I knew that this was my gift to her. I knew that to be her daddy – to lover her – that I had to say, “goodbye”. I knew that to love her I needed to kiss her for a last time, to shampoo her hair for a last time, to rub her head for a last time… to say “I love you” for a last time. Last times are not meant to happen.
Once everyone had left, except for our parents, we surrounded Blakely’s crib. We laid hands on her and we prayed for her. We gave her up to our Father in Heaven. It felt just like the moment before she was born when we (parents and I) surrounded Emily and gave Blakely up to be used for God and His Kingdom. It was powerful.
I remember as our parents left and the hospital room door closed, it was just Emily, Blakely and I. The sun had started to set and the room was a little more dark. We let the doctors know that we were getting ready, but we wanted to do a few more things. We loved on Blakely in her crib. We just kept loving her and loving her and loving her. We both would say, “I don’t want to do this,” but then say, “She is ready – she wants to be home”. We did this for a while. It felt really quick to us, but I am sure it was a long time. We would at moments sit in the quietness and just listen to the machines and feel are daughter’s warm skin. At some point I remember thinking, “It’s getting dark… I don’t want her to pass when it’s dark… I want it to happen in the light… I want her to not be scared”. It seems silly, but one of my last daddy decisions was making sure she got to be in the light.
So we told the doctors that we were ready, but that we wanted to give her one last shampoo. So we got hot water and warm cloths and soap and we washed her hair. Blakely loved getting her hair washed and so we washed her hair as best as we could. We dried her hair off and stepped away from the crib. The doctors took off all the stupid stickers, wires, buttons and tape that wrapped around her body. They got to the ventilator tube and pulled it out and behold there lied our beautiful Blakely.
We picked her up and sat by the window before the orange-ish setting sun. We played her favorite worship music and we rubbed her head and gave her kisses and we told her over and over again, “Blakely, we love you”. We held her as tight as we could and then, we let her go. At 5:15pm, Blakely Elizabeth Puckett was born again.
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”