Featured Image Courtesy of Dan Bammes, Alissa Parker
On December 14, 2012, Alissa and Robbie Parker lost their six-year-old daughter Emilie in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In a new book, Alissa shares her unforgettable journey to seek faith, hope, and healing. Below is an excerpt from An Unseen Angel:
People tell me it was a beautiful service, but honestly, I don’t remember much of it. Robbie spoke, as did our friend Mr. Checketts and Emilie’s cousin Caleb. A children’s choir made up of Emilie’s cousins and her younger sisters sang angelic music. Elder Quentin Cook, one of the leaders of our church, gave a sermon on the comforting precepts of the gospel – that Emilie lives and had been welcomed into the arms of her loving Father.
But his words hardly penetrated my mind until he paused and addressed them directly to me. He said, “I want to speak for a few moments to Emilie’s mother. The unique challenge for those who have lost loved ones, as you have lost Emilie, is to avoid dwelling on the lost opportunities in life. When we view through the wide and clear lens of mere mortal existence, we know of the great, eternal reward promised by a loving Father and His plan.”
That single phrase – “to avoid dwelling on the lost opportunities in this life” – jolted me to complete attention. Moments before, my mind drifting, I had been thinking over and over, This is not what I expected. This is not what I expected for her. I knew at that moment Elder Cook was a messenger whom God had allowed to see into my heart and to understand my personal struggles.
He continued, “Please understand that no blessing of this life, including those that would have been Emilie’s in her maturity, will be withheld from this precious daughter. The Savior said, ‘Let your hearts be comforted. Be still and know that I am God.'”
As we left the funeral and went to the cemetery, I continued pondering the words of Elder Cook. He had promised that no blessing of this life would be denied or withheld from Emilie. As I sat at the cemetery service, I made a promise to God.
I vowed then that I would try to follow Elder Cook’s advice. I would try to avoid dwelling on Emilie’s lost opportunities in this life. I would grieve for Emilie and feel the sadness of her loss, but I would work toward letting go of my own expectations, my own plans for Emilie’s future. I would try to trust that God had an even better path for her.
An Unseen Angel reminds us that the bonds of love continue beyond this life and that despite tragedy and heartache, we can find strength in our family and our faith.