“I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
And with those words, as my daughter’s body went underwater and emerged a second later, Elizabeth symbolically died to her old life and was born again in Jesus Christ.
As her father, I’ve never been prouder.
I’ve spent the last two and a half years raising my children. I love them dearly, but there is only so much I can do as a single parent. I cannot fill in the gap that their mother left behind. I cannot be their mother.
So I do what I can, and trust God with the rest.
Every night for the past two years before going to bed, I have prayed that Elizabeth would come to know Jesus, that God would send people into her life to train her up in the way she should go, that she would desire a close and personal relationship with the One who loves her so much that He died for her.
And God answered my prayer.
Elizabeth’s journey these past two and a half years has been tumultuous. She had her first day of school without her mother. She lost her first tooth without her mother. She experienced three birthdays and two Christmases without her mother. And, ironically, she came to know Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and Savior because she is without her mother.
On May 25, 2015 (Memorial Day), Elizabeth asked if we could visit her mommy’s grave. Of course I said yes, and around 7 p.m. that night, the three of us hopped in the car and took off for the cemetery. What follows are my recollections of that evening, which I recorded in my journal.
We were at the cemetery for about an hour. It didn’t take very long to put the flowers in the vases and arrange them the way we wanted. …Elizabeth wanted to look at some other graves, so I showed her the ones of the children and babies that are near the swings. I would ask her how old each person was when they died, and she was shocked to discover babies who didn’t live past 1 or who even died on the day they were born. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for her, as I could tell she was gaining a lot from just being there and studying the graves. We stayed for a little while longer, meandered the paths around the graveyard–even played “eye-spy” which was fun on Memorial Day with all the red, white, and blue flags—and then left.
As we were leaving, Elizabeth pulled out her iPod, which used to be her mommy’s. She commented that there were a lot of Christian pictures on it, of crosses and scriptures and things like that. I told her that Mommy really loved Jesus, and that I know she’s happy to be with him now. I think I said something about looking forward to the day we’ll all be together in heaven, and Elizabeth said something like,
“Well, we don’t know for sure that we’ll go to heaven, you know.”
That was when I explained to her that we can know. If we ask Jesus into our heart, ask for forgiveness for our sins, and serve him all the days of our lives, then we can know that we will be with him forever.
Elizabeth wanted to know how to do that. I told her just to pray, confess your sins, and he will be with you.
She wanted to know if she needed to pray out loud right now, and I said that she could pray whenever she wanted to. All it takes is a simple prayer.
Elizabeth sounded excited and began to pray:
“God, I hope so you’ll forgive my sins and all the bad stuff I’ve done, and I hope that Jesus will come and live in my heart. I love Jesus more than anything, and I can’t wait to be with you in heaven. Amen.”
The very first question Elizabeth asked me after she finished her prayer was, “When can I get baptized?”
I cried under my sunglasses. Elizabeth was so happy at home. She was beaming. It has been an amazing day! Thank you, Jesus!!
I never would have imagined that a trip to the cemetery to visit Kristen’s grave would be the spark that ignited Elizabeth’s passion for Jesus Christ. Elizabeth’s story reminds me of Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Even from the grave, Elizabeth’s mother continues to have an impact on our lives, and I am grateful for new life after death.
You can watch Elizabeth’s baptism on YouTube at the following link: Elizabeth’s baptism.