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Maria Sue Chapman, R.I.P. (2003-2008)

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By Michelle Malkin  •  May 22, 2008 11:42 PM

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I’ve been thinking about this tragedy all day and ask you to set aside politics again for a moment. Contemporary Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s five-year-old adopted daughter, Maria Sue, died Wednesday when her teen-age brother accidentally ran over her as he backed the family’s car out of their driveway. Chapman’s music and life have been inspired by, and centered on, faith and family. His oldest daughter, Emily, encouraged Chapman and his wife to adopt after having three of their own natural-born children; the couple adopted three beautiful girls from China. They performed missionary work in Chinese orphanages and established a charity named after their first adopted daughter, Shoahannah. At the time the accident occurred, the family “was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman, and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman’s completion of high school. Now, they are preparing to bury a child who blew out 5 candles on a birthday cake less than 10 days ago.” Maria Sue had just graduated from church preschool.

Fans across the Internet and around the globe are sending sympathy and support. The Chapman family set up a blog tribute to Maria Sue here to share their memories. If you’re a parent of young ones like me, you won’t be able to watch this wonderful video–of Chapman and the adorable five-year-old daughter he must now bury as they washed dishes together and clowned around together in front of the camera–without breaking down and thinking of a gazillion goofy moments you’ve shared just like this with your kids:

And another:

Chapman’s latest album, “This Moment,” released last fall, is about the need to slow down, prioritize, and appreciate your God-given blessings in the here and now. Here’s Chapman in an interview a few months ago talking about one of the album’s hit singles, “Cinderella:”

“Cinderella” was the first song I wrote on this journey. I went to give my youngest girls a bath one night, and it was right around the time of big meetings with the record label where I have to play them what I had written up to that point. I was really stressed and needed to get back to writing, but also needed to spend time with the girls, so I was frustrated and irritated. I told them to take the bath quickly, but of course they wanted to play and I didn’t have much time. I finally got them into bed and told them to pray … fast: “Just pray for the immediate family and no orphans tonight!” (laughing)

So finally they got to bed, and once I was alone [in my writing room], it’s like God had just two words for me: “Emily Chapman,” my 21-year-old daughter who’s getting ready to graduate college. And my heart turned straight to guilt because I didn’t want to rush through these moments any more. I sat down that night and it was the easiest song I’ve ever written. The next morning, I brought it to the record company meeting, even though I didn’t think it was quite done. But after I played it and looked up, everyone was crying and sobbing. I guess it connected! I recorded the song just as I played it that day.

Chapman taped a special acoustic performance of “Cinderella” for adoption blogs and posted it to YouTube recently:

The lyrics:

She spins and she sways to whatever song plays,
Without a care in the world.
And I’m sittin’ here wearin’ the weight of the world on my shoulders.
It’s been a long day and there’s still work to do,
She’s pulling at me saying “Dad I need you!
There’s a ball at the castle and I’ve been invited and I need to practice my dancin’
“Oh please, daddy, please!”

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t wanna miss even one song,
Cuz all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone

She says he’s a nice guy and I’d be impressed
She wants to know if I’d approve of a dress
She says “Dad, the prom is just one week away,
And I need to practice my dancin'”
“Oh please, daddy, please!”

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Ohh-oh ohh-oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t wanna miss even one song,
‘Cuz all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone
She will be gone.

Well, she came home today
With a ring on her hand
Just glowin’ and tellin’ us all they had planned
She says “Dad, the wedding’s due six months away
And I need to practice my dancin’
“Oh please, daddy please!”

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Ohh-oh ohh-oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t wanna miss even one song,
(even one song)
Cuz all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone

Heart-achingly prophetic in a way he never could have imagined.

I have no personal connections to the Chapman family, but their plight–and Chapman’s message of living in the moment–resonate strongly with me. Last fall, when I was sucked into a whirlwind of non-stop work and travel that kept me away from my kids for long stretches, I got my own wake-up call and near tragedy. After rushing home one evening from one of endless TV appearances in D.C. to try and see my kids before they went to sleep, I pulled up into my driveway on a hilltop, dashed out of the car, and ran up to the house. My now-four-year-old son, who had been waiting and watching for me in the living room window, started jumping up and down, pointing outside. I thought he was just happy to see me. He was trying to tell me that the car was rolling down the steep hill. In my perpetually harried state, I had forgotten to put on the parking brake. By the time I reached the driveway again, the Subaru wagon had slid to the bottom and crashed into a tree–the only thing separating it from our neighbors’ driveway and front lawn.

Thank God–and I mean it, thank God–no one was hurt. The crash took out a huge chunk of the Subaru’s tail. I didn’t get it fixed; it’s a permanent reminder of What Might Have Been. It was also the moment I definitively re-ordered my life. As I mentioned to you in February in another reflection on politics, perspective, and priorities: “I’ve learned over the years to work to live, not to live to work. It took time to learn that lesson. And it required making some tough (and not so tough) personal and professional choices. Best decisions I’ve ever made.”

You can see why Chapman’s single, “Miracle of the Moment,” hits home:

The lyrics:

It’s time for letting go
All of our “if onlys”
‘Cause we don’t have a time machine

And even if we did
Would we really want to use it
Would we really want to go change everything

‘Cause we are who and where and what we are for now
And this is the only moment we can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
There’s a wonder in the here and now
It’s right there in front of you
And I don’t want you to miss the miracle of the moment

There’s only One who knows
What’s really out there waiting
And all the moments yet to be
And all we need to know
Is He’s out there waiting
To Him the future’s history

And He has given us a treasure called right now
And this is the only moment we can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
There’s a wonder in the here and now
It’s right there in front of you
And I don’t want you to miss the miracle of the moment

And if it brings you tears
Then taste them as they fall
Let them soften your heart

And if it brings you laughter
Then throw your head back
And let it go
Let it go, yeah
You gotta let it go

And listen to your heartbeat

And breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
There’s a wonder in the here and now
It’s right there in front of you
And I don’t want you to miss the miracle of the moment

And breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
There’s a wonder in the here and now
It’s right there in front of you
And I don’t want you to miss the miracle of the moment

Please pray for the Chapman family, if you pray. Better yet, take Chapman’s message and music to heart. On Friday morning, I’ll be savoring every moment of my four-year-old son’s preschool “graduation.” He’s performing a little violin solo and I’ll be the proudest, happiest mom in the room. This weekend, it’s more horse-riding for my seven-year-old daughter, another birthday party, a visit with friends from out of town, movie nights and a Wii Fit marathon with the family, and a pause to give thanks on Memorial Day to all those who have served and sacrificed for our bountiful freedoms.

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
There’s a wonder in the here and now
It’s right there in front of you
And I don’t want you to miss the miracle of the moment

***

You can donate to Maria’s Memorial Fund here.

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