One week ago today, we celebrated the life of our beautiful daughter, Kamri Blaire Thomas. It was an overwhelming outpouring of love by many of those that have walked with us on this journey. To all of our friends and family (and we consider even those we had not met before to fall under that category) that were able to be there, thank you. It meant so much that you came to be with us on a very difficult day. To all of our friends and family that were with us and praying from a distance, thank you. Your prayers and thoughts lifted the burden of a very difficult day.
We wanted to share some of the pieces of the service with all of you, especially as some of our KamFam wanted so desperately to be there in person and were not able to. The day was beautiful- if we had to do it at all, this is how we would have wanted it to be. From start to finish, Mitch and I both agreed that our daughter could not have been honored in a more beautiful way. Sitting in a Sanctuary full of people who love us and love Kamri, worshipping the God that loves us all beyond measure was the perfect way to celebrate her life.
One of the harder parts of the service was the reflections that Mitch and I shared. We had gone back and forth, wondering if we’d be able to do it or not. In the end, we both felt strongly that we had things we wanted to share about our daughter. We had things we wanted to share about how we encountered God in all of this. And we had things we wanted to say to Kamri. With all of these things, we wanted to be the ones to say them. As hard as it was to speak the words, we can look back with no regrets that we fulfilled our roles as her parents (in terms of what that meant to us) every step of the way. Here is the reflection that Mitch gave:
Leslie and I are overwhelmed with the love and support we were shown by you all during this difficult time in our lives. Though we were at our lowest point and still are, having an amazing prayer and support base has kept us going and we are so grateful and thankful for each and every one of you.
I can truly say that for the 23 days that I got to know my beautiful daughter, Kamri Blaire, I never understood just how much love my heart could be filled with. In her condition, she may not have been able to make any noise or even be held by us, but the sole act of seeing Kamri’s beautiful dark blue eyes looking right into mine each day made me feel emotions I never felt before. I was quickly overcome by the greatest sense of being proud and true unconditional love every time I looked at her. Along with that, despite only being able to look at us, I have never experienced so much sass in my life, mainly displayed when I would come in and say good morning and see her eyes open and as soon as I came to greet her, she would close them and act like she was asleep. She was truly my daughter…
The crazy thing in life is that you never really feel or believe a tragedy like this is ever going to happen to you until it slaps right across the face. Within 30 seconds, Leslie and my happiest memory turned into our worst nightmare. Our minds and hearts were filled with such anger and fury towards God and at times we feel as though we are dreaming. It is a process that we will be dealing with for a long time to come and will be taking day by day.
Despite our daughter’s life being only 23 days long, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to get to know her and see the peace she felt when her mother and I stood next to her bedside and read to her or sang to her, “You are my sunshine.” Despite the wires, breathing tubes and circuits that our angel was connected to, when we were with Kamri, the only thing I saw was my beautiful daughter and my little fighter that didn’t ask for any of this to happen to her.
In the midst of our confusion and hurting, I recall a few months ago sharing a devotion with my co-workers about one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Daniel 3. In the story, three young men’s lives are threatened by their king to be thrown into a blazing furnace if they did not choose to bow down and worship the statue he created for himself and forsake their beliefs in their own God. The section of this story that always struck me and amazed me was when they answered the king, “We will not bow down and worship your statue as we believe that our God can save us from your blazing furnace.” That in and of itself shows an immense faith in God and His power. It goes on even further and takes this act of faith to the next level, “but king, even if He does NOT save us, we will not bow down and worship you statue.” The Even if NOT is a phrase that we admire, but never want to have to deal with ourselves. From the moment Kamri was born, Leslie and I found ourselves in the midst of the “Even if NOT” when we heard that it wasn’t looking good for her.
While I stand here today hurting that I am faced with the reality of not physically having the chance to do some of things that I was so looking forward to from the moment I heard I would be having a little girl; coaching her soccer team, dancing with her at her wedding and having her fall asleep on my chest each night, I stand here and proclaim that we serve a good and loving God that I love with all my heart and that blessed me with the most beautiful daughter I could have ever asked for. I will forever be proud of her fighting spirit, sassy eye looks and her stare that looked right into my soul and pierced me with more love than I could ever imagine. Through this struggle and tragedy, I have not lost my daughter, but she just has the blessing of stepping into the presence of our Lord and Saviour first and we will see each other again. I love you Kamri Blaire, you will always be daddy’s sweet girl.
Here is the reflection that I gave:
Good afternoon. I would like to echo Mitch’s thank yous to each and every one of you for being here today to celebrate the life of our daughter, Kamri Blaire Thomas. To our family that has waded with us into the hardest season we have and ever hope to experience, who has been there for each and every up and down and loved, prayed over, and walked with us through it all… thank you. To the brilliantly talented, dedicated, and loving medical staff we’ve been blessed with at every stage of this process, thank you. One of the hardest things in the world is to leave your baby behind every night, not knowing what the next day will hold for her. We have been blessed with people that have not only cared for and loved our daughter like we do, but have cared for and loved us along the way too. You will never know the impact you have had on our lives and for all of that, we thank you. Finally, to every single one of you- both those we know and have met in person and those who have adopted our little family as part of your own, despite never having met us- to all of you who have walked with us through the most life-changing experience we will ever have, thank you. Your prayers carried us. Your kind words lifted us. Your dedication to our family has humbled us. We have read every single comment, update share, message, email, and card that has been sent. We have been in the biggest battle of our lives, but God equipped us with the most beautiful army of support. All of you make up what we have lovingly called the KamFam and we will never be able to put into words how much we love and appreciate you all. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
Kamri Blaire Thomas was born on Wednesday, December 28th at 4:41pm… simultaneously the most beautiful and terrifying day of our lives. We had always said that she’d give us a run for our money and boy, did she deliver. You all probably know from our daily updates the physical battles that Kamri was up against from day one. What I’d like to talk about instead are some of the things we grew to love about Kamri as we got to know her and some of the things she taught us in her short life, here on earth.
Kamri was the most loving, attentive girl I’ve ever met. And although I know we’re biased, I have never in my life met a more beautiful baby. Some of our favorite things about Kamri were her mowhawk and bow combinations, the way she would squeeze your finger with her little hand, and one of the best… her scrunchy face. Because of the tube between her vocal cords, we never got to hear her cry, but she would pretty clearly commuincate when she was angry or uncomfortable or just plain “over it” by furrowing her brow and scrunching up her whole face. As Mitch already said, there was no shortage of sass with our girl and we’d have her no other way.
By far, the most amazing interactions we had with Kamri was the way she would look at us. Kamri had this way of staring right at you so that you felt as though you were the only one in the room. This is the biggest lesson that I learned from my daughter. So often, when we look at people, we try and look anywhere but into their eyes. Kamri taught me what it feels like to really be seen by someone because she never looked anywhere but. She was the best listener I’ve ever met. For the first time, I learned what it means to look at someone the way God looks at them. I will never forget that, Kam, thank you.
In the midst of all of this, we have learned about and experienced God so deeply. There has been a lot of hurt, anger, questioning, and deep, deep sadness. There has also been moments of peace, comfort, hope, and deep, deep love. We saw God at work all throughout this journey and although we would never wish this experience on anyone else or ever choose it again for ourselves, we know that God has been at work. We’ve always prayed that God would use our marriage, our ministries, and our family for His purposes. Never in a million years did we think that He would use our daughter to unite thousands in prayer and lead hundreds to Christ. In our darkest moments, the light of Christ still shines.
In the last hour of Kamri’s life, we stormed the gates of heaven for a miracle. We wake up every day to realize that we still live in the nightmare that our daughter is no longer here with us. It would be easy to say that God turned His back and withheld his miracles, but that’s just not true. Kamri’s whole life is a miracle. She should never have survived the helicopter ride from Chester County Hospital to CHOP. She should never have revived after her heart stopped the night she arrived at CHOP, never should have made it long enough to be put on ECMO. After studying her lung biopsy, the doctors said they were surprised she was even alive, let alone survived for the 23 days she did. When we removed her from ECMO that last night, she lived and breathed on her own for a full 25 minutes. God was with Kamri from day one and the biggest miracle of all? He used her to bring thousands of people closer to Him and then allowed her to come home into the arms of Jesus for eternity. Make no mistake… God’s miracles are still alive and abundant.
One of the things that Mitch and I got into the habit of doing (and we don’t quite know how it started) was listening to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” most nights on the way back to my brother’s house after a long day at CHOP. We always said that this would be the song we’d bring Kamri home to when her journey at CHOP was over. During her last hour on earth, we have a sweet, sweet memory of our whole family singing along to this song as Kamri slept in Mitch’s arms. It’s hard to think that we never got to bring her home, but the knowledge that God brought Kamri home for good to the loving arms of Jesus on roads made of gold makes our hearts happy, or at least at peace. She is at home with our Savior and because of the hope we have in Christ, we know that someday, we’ll get to spend eternity with her when we come home too.
Kamri Blaire, my sweet, sweet girl. I will love you forever. I will never forget the way you looked at me, never forget the way you squeezed my hand, never forget your beautiful head of hair. You have taught me so much. It has been an honor being your mom and although I would give anything in this world to hold you, kiss you, and watch you grow up, I know that you are in the most perfect place and that someday, we will get to be with you forever. I can’t wait. For now, I’ll just say the same thing that I’ve said to you every night since we met. Hi, my little love. Mommy’s right here. Daddy’s right here. I am so proud of you. I think you’re so brave and you’re so strong and you’re so kind and you’re so smart and you’re so important and you are so, so loved. Mommy loves you. Daddy loves you. And Jesus loves you so much. Out of all the little Kamri’s in the world, I’m so glad you’re mine. I love you, sweet girl.
After the reflections, a video of “Kamri’s Story” played… we are so thankful to my brother for creating such a beautiful keepsake of our baby. We know that it was not easy for him (just like our entire family, he is grieving the loss of Kamri too) to interact so closely with the photos and footage, but his act of love means that we get to share our girl with so many people. Here is the video that played during the service:
My Aunt Jennie, who married us over three years ago and baptized Kamri on the day she passed away, gave the sermon. It was beautiful and filled with remembrance for Kamri and the hope we have in Christ in all of this. We were blessed by her words. Family friends of ours, who also did the music for our wedding, led us in worship during the service. It was stunning. To hear hundreds of people who love Kamri singing praises to God is something we will never forget.
The service ended with one of the most beautiful and memorable moments… one that we will cherish forever. For the Postlude, we chose “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Normally, the family exits the Sanctuary during the Postlude, but Mitch and I wanted to stay. We wanted to sit and sing the song that walked us through this journey. In her benediction, Aunt Jennie encouraged, as per our request, that everyone sing along. In a moment of brilliance, my brothers turned on the camera and propped it up against the piano in front of their pew. As a result, we have a video of the magic that happened in that moment, a snapshot of the love that was shared during that song.
We never could have pictured a better way to honor Kamri. We never could have pictured a more beautiful way to say, “We love you, sweet girl, and we can’t wait to see you again soon”.