We are gathered to remember the life of Bella Joy, our beloved daughter, Caroline’s little sister, and family and friend to so many of you who have blessed us today with your presence. And yet, the thought of remembering her seems to somehow miss the point. I was trying to remember the last time I felt her kick against her momma’s tummy. I think that I’ve convinced myself that I remember my last physical interaction with Bella, but in the honesty of my soul, I know that I really don’t.
It’s hard to remember someone who we’ve never truly met. But, as I look out among a dear community of family and friends who are here in person and who are here in spirit, I can literally feel the love that you have for Bella. As her proud father, this means so much to me. And, I know that Brittany finds strength in knowing that her angel has left an impact upon this amazing world.
So, what is it that makes us all so love this slumbering infant? My 90-something-year-old grandfather served in the Army during WWII. He had numerous business connections in the DC area. He must have made a million friends during his remarkable life and, yet, when he passed he was memorialized by only a small handful of his closest family.
Bella graced us with a hint of life—a touch of unrequited promise. Yet, we have seen an overwhelming outpouring of support from our community—locally, throughout the country, and across the seas. Surely, this is not for anything that Bella did. Instead, I suspect that this intense love is for what Bella might have done.
As I wrestle with these emotions, trying to believe that I can recollect the last time my hand pressed against her tiny kicking feet, I can’t help but acknowledge that I once held that promise. I was once an untold story, pure and innocent. And, as I am humbled to my knees giving thanks to Our Savior for sending my beautiful daughter into my arms, I am reminded that this promise has no expiration date. Our hearts do not need to break for the love that Bella might have brought into this world. Instead, let’s use our hearts as vessels of that love, letting it radiate out among our community.
Because 2000 years ago, in this Christmas season, God also sent another infant into this world. He brought a message of joy and love that even the darkest of our days cannot overcome. And He brought a promise of redemption. We may feel tainted and jaded by our journey in life. We may wonder why the eyes of this innocent baby have closed. As I consider Bella, I am determined to rediscover that innocence within my soul. On account of God’s gift of His Infant, this innocence is ours for the taking.
I can be a better father. I can be a better husband. I can be a better friend. I can be a better Officer. I can let my love upon this earth resound as an enduring testimony to Our Lord’s gift of Bella.
So the next time I go for a run, I’ll run a little harder. The next time I read Caroline a bedtime story, I’ll animate my character voices with a little extra theatric effect. The next time I embrace my wife, I’ll hold her a little longer. And as I do all of this, I’ll remember my love for my dear Bella.
Bella is in the best of care as we struggle amidst the confounding mix of joy and pain that makes this life so incredibly worth living. As our eyes are regretfully glued upon this uncomfortably small casket, let’s deepen our resolve to offer more than our share of joy to this world. This is what Bella Joy would want. More importantly, this is what Bella’s Father in Heaven would want.
I have shed more than my share of tears for my little Bella. Fortunately, as a graduate of this fine academy, I am not bound by the same honor code that bound me as a cadet, because I have told my cadets that I am incapable of tears, and I see some of these same cadets sitting among you. But, I know with un-equivocating conviction that when I meet my angel in Heaven, I will understand that these tears were always tears of joy. After all, in the grand scheme of things, this is a love story. This is about our love for Bella, this is about our love for each other, and this is about the abounding love of Our Father.
I may not remember your last kick, but I love you my dear little Bella Joy. I love you with all of my heart and with all of my strength. I am so thankful for the chance to hold you and kiss you goodbye. Thank you for being a part of our family. Thank you for being a part of our lives now and forever.