I have been blessed with four children-one of them severely handicapped. Her name was Tiffany, and she was severely autistic. Although she couldn't speak, Tiffany only knew how to love people.

Every day my father would come over just to take her for a walk by the creek. She loved to throw rocks into it and watch the ripples. She would giggle so hard--it was almost like she had her own connection to God. One weekend when Tiffany was 12 years old, we went to watch my oldest daughter Becky's baseball tournament. That was the most beautiful time we ever had with Tiffany. She never once hit herself--an upsetting symptom of her form of autism--and she just showered love on each and every one of us.

At the end of the tournament, the officials handed out awards on the field. Becky won the MVP trophy. Suddenly Tiffany walked out to the pitcher's mound.

Everyone watched because this was very out of character for her. She lifted her hands above her head and started twirling around in circles, laughing so hard that it became contagious. We were all full of joy.

The really strange part was that tears were rolling down her face. It was such a beautiful moment, and it touched so many people. It was the first time that we had ever seen her shed a tear out of joy and not out of hurting herself.

I had no idea what was to come...

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  • After we all came home and I had put the kids to bed, I thanked God for giving me such a beautiful time with her and the other children. Then I fell asleep. I actually slept the whole night for one of the first times in the 12 years of Tiffany's life.

    I had no idea what was to come.

    The next morning I went into Tiffany's bedroom to get her ready for school. I found she had died in her sleep. I was devastated and didn't understand why God would allow this to happen to me again (I also lost a son in a drowning accident a few years before).

    All of a sudden I was struck with a revelation. When Tiffany went to that baseball field and put her hands to the sky and spun around laughing, she was telling God that she was ready to come home. He allowed me to have that last, most beautiful memory of her, filled with love and joy, where she was not suffering and hitting herself.

    Tears streamed down my face as I reflected on my last day with her. I thank God every day that he allowed me those memories. I know in my heart that her death was only the beginning of her life. She was so beautiful at her funeral. I know that God was letting me see that she was whole now. All the pain and suffering had left her face.

    I felt so much peace because God gave me that gift of witnessing my little girl say goodbye the night before.

    So please cherish your children always, because no one is promised tomorrow. Make every day count, and hold on to those precious moments. Not one day goes by that I don't miss and think of Tiffany, but I thank God for her life.

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