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Amber's Funeral

Amber's Funeral:

When we returned home to Cartersville on the afternoon of July 7, 2003, we drove by several cemeteries in search of a gravesite for Amber. The first we visited was Providence Cemetery, which was owned and operated by The Church at Liberty Square (a.k.a. Cartersville Church of God). We were immediately taken with the beauty and serenity of this cemetery, and we liked the idea of a church cemetery for Amber, although the idea of any cemetery for Amber almost made us physically sick! Later, we visited two other cemeteries in Cartersville, but neither gave us the sense of peace and serenity that we had experienced at Providence, so we decided on Providence.

Our next task was to return home to our adjoining townhomes at Mountain Chase. Walking into Chip and Jamie's townhome and encountering Amber's empty room were especially painful realities. Amber hadn't come home with us, and she never would again. Her bed was exactly as it had been left on the morning of July 4th, with the exception of the removal of the pillow from the floor at the spot where she had suffocated. Chip and I had removed it from the floor at the foot of the bed on the evening of July 4th to spare Jamie that frightful scene.

Safety issues had always been a concern for Amber. When she was younger, we had tried taking her out of her baby bed and putting her in this same double bed with railings for a few months, but upon finding her crying and hanging from a railing by her neck, we had immediately put her back in her baby bed. She remained in that baby bed until she was over four years old, but when she had started getting her arms and legs caught in between the bars by turning sideways in the bed, we were forced to put her back in the double bed with railings to keep her from constantly bruising and traumatizing herself. And, to prevent her from getting trapped in the double bed railings again, Jamie and Chip had bought body length pillows, which they placed along the inside of each railing. They had also placed a few standard size pillows on the bed to try and prevent her from falling off in the night. But, when Amber worked her way around the railing on the morning of July 4th, she had apparently knocked one of those pillows off onto the floor beneath her, setting the stage for her suffocation after she got wedged between the bed and the wall, upside down.

Being functionally quadriplegic, Amber was unable to help herself when she got into trouble. Usually, she would let out a scream, and we would come running to help her. But, we were always worried about her falling off the bed and hurting herself by hitting the floor, face first, because she was never able to use her arms to break her fall. Consequently, we worried that a simple fall from the bed to the floor might prove fatal, so we had hoped the pillows and railings would deter her from getting off the bed or possibly break her fall if she did. Also, we had pushed the bed against the wall to remove the potential of falling from one side of the bed and to provide her therapist more room to work with her on the floor on her therapy days. Unfortunately, in her relentless effort to move around and get up, she got herself in this final predicament, where she was in grave distress, but never made a sound to indicate that she was in trouble.

After unpacking the cars, we discovered two, matching, white wreaths that our neighbors had placed on our front doors. There was also an envelope with cash that our neighbors had contributed to assist Jamie and Chip with the funeral expenses. As we finished unpacking and fed our pets, we began to discuss our need to eat something. For the past four days, we had been awake almost continuously, except for cat-naps, and we hadn't eaten much either, so I finally convinced Jamie and Chip that we had to go eat something! Since it was getting late in the evening, we couldn't think of anywhere to go, so we decided to go to a new Ruby Tuesdays restaurant nearby. None of us were really hungry, and the thought of going out in public, anywhere, was tortuous to us, but we went anyway, because none of us were really competent to fix a meal at home. And, the silence and loneliness of our townhomes was more than we could bear.

As we sat down to eat, the waitress noticed Jamie's tear-stained and puffy face, so, Jamie told her that their little girl had passed away that day. From that moment on, the staff at Ruby Tuesdays was most attentive in meeting our needs. Fortunately, the restaurant was almost empty, so we were able to sit quietly and force down some food in solitude. While we were eating, we overheard one of the waitresses saying, sympathetically, that she couldn't believe we were there. In truth, we couldn't believe we were there either, but you do what you've got to do in these situations. When my father died of a heart attack in 1978, the people from Calvary Presbyterian Church in Marietta, led by Bob and Alice Josey, had flooded our house with food for a week, they came over and washed dishes and took shifts cleaning the house for my mother. But, now that we were living in Cartersville and attending a much larger church in Marietta, we didn't expect anyone would be bringing food to us. And, in reality, things have changed a lot in society since 1978; in general, people are not as willing to offer a lending hand as they were back in those days. In 1978, people were more involved with each other at a deeper level; today, one is more likely to get a brisk, "I'll be praying for you" as even pastors and elders may avoid eye contact and quickly brush past you in the hallway of the church. When we finished eating and collected our check, we noticed that the waitress had given us her employee discount on our food, and we thanked her for her kindness as we left.

I awoke on the morning of July 8th when Pastor Mark Walker called to discuss Amber's funeral service on the 10th. We were having to postpone the service by a day because of the organ donation process, so Pastor Mark rearranged his entire schedule to accommodate an 11:00 a.m. service in the sanctuary of Mount Paran North Church of God. I gave Pastor Mark some personal information about Amber and mentioned to him that if I was composed enough, that I'd like to sing a chorus to Amber at her graveside  before her casket was lowered into the ground. I explained that I had written a song back in 1987 during a severe attack of asthma and sleep apnea when I didn't think I would survive the night. I also explained that Amber was one of the few people on earth who appreciated my singing, and I'd like to sing that chorus as my farewell song to her.

After talking with Pastor Mark, I got dressed and went to Owen Funeral Home to pick out Amber's casket with my sister, Judy. We also went to Providence Cemetery and picked out a gravesite in an area Jamie and Chip had requested. Before the grave was dug on Thursday, we had to come up with $600 to pay the gravediggers, so Mount Paran North Church of God sent a check to the cemetery by Federal Express to cover this expense. For the past two-and-a-half years, Chip, Jamie, and I had been in the midst of a severe financial crisis, and coming up with $600 by Thursday was virtually impossible for us. So, the church offered to help, and we were very grateful.

I picked out a white casket with gold trim. Chip's dad and step-mom, Larry and Sam Cash, called to say that they were buying a white dress ensemble for Amber to wear that would arrive by Federal Express on Wednesday. They were also including panties for her to wear, since she had never been able to wear them in her lifetime because she was dependent on a diaper. Jamie cried tears of joy and anguish when she heard this news. Finally, I called Bobbie Pierce, my hair dresser and friend for over thirty years, and asked her to come and fix Amber's hair at the funeral home. Bobbie agreed, and she and her husband, Bob, came up on Wednesday afternoon at around three o'clock, so Amber would be ready for the public viewing, which was scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. at the funeral home.

We arrived at the funeral home at six o'clock on Wednesday afternoon for a private, family viewing of Amber, and I remember Jamie exclaiming, "Oh look, she's so beautiful!" And, she was; she looked gorgeous. Bobbie had fixed her hair in a pony tail and removed some of the makeup that had been applied by the undertaker in order to make Amber look more natural. She had also gone over to Belk's and bought a pair of lace gloves to cover the bruises on Amber's hands from the IVs. Chip and Jamie placed Amber's baby doll and blanket in her casket, and I stuck a small, heart-shaped, gold pin on the inside wall of the casket as a token of our love for her. The white dress with pink trim and the pink bow in her hair, that Larry and Sam had sent, looked beautiful on her.

Soon the room was filled with family and friends from all over the country. Pastor Mark was there, as were others from the church. For the next few hours, we gathered around Amber's casket and said our stunned and tearful goodbyes to our little princess. At nine o'clock, we went home to face our final night before the funeral.

On the morning of July 10th, we awoke and got dressed. Chip and Jamie wanted to drive, but I insisted that they ride with me to the church. I also insisted that Jacob ride in the front seat with me and that they sit together in the back seat as a couple. We stopped at the funeral home for our final visit with Amber before her casket was permanently sealed. It was so hard to say goodbye to that lovely face, that beautiful smile, that precious spirit. Amber was disabled in her body, but in her mind and her spirit, she was divinely enabled, through love, to be a most cherished member of our family. And, words cannot describe the sense of loss that we each felt as we kissed her cheek that final time. As the casket was closed, we left the viewing room and got into my car to follow the hearse to the church, thirty miles away in Marietta.

On the trip to the church, our conversation in the car was strangely normal. At one point while we were talking, Jamie pointed out that we were following their daughter's hearse; somehow, that reality seemed difficult to comprehend. When we finally arrived at the church, everyone was already there, and I hurriedly gave a box of personal, remembrance brochures, that I had printed on my computer the night before, to the ushers as we headed for the choir room, where our family had already gathered. Within a few minutes, it was time to go to the sanctuary.

Amber's funeral service was conducted at Mount Paran North Church of God and was officiated by Pastor Mark Walker. Family members from around the country had traveled to attend the funeral. Music was provided by Pastor Brad Moffett, who sang: Jesus Loves Me, In the presence of Jehovah, Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this Place, Jesus Loves the Little Children, and If I Could Only Imagine; and also by our friend, Jacob Olds, who sang Amazing Grace.

Click Here to Listen to Amber's Funeral Service  

As we sat through the funeral service, Amber's little brother, Jacob, quietly played on the floor in front of us. Chip and Jamie clung to each other for support, occasionally embracing as tears would overwhelm them. The service was sweet and appropriate for Amber's life, and the music was beautiful. Her fourth birthday picture sitting on a table beside her closed, white casket, with its blanket of flowers my sister, Judy, had arranged, was a lovely memorial to our little girl. As the service ended, we quickly got into the car to follow the hearse to the cemetery. Due to the distance involved, we didn't plan a funeral procession, so we had asked the ushers to hand out maps with directions to the cemetery. Our car, alone, followed the hearse to Amber's final resting place.

At the graveside service at Providence Cemetery in Cartersville, Pastor Mark Walker spoke a few words, and I (Margie Cash - Amber's Nana) sang the chorus I'd written and called Safe Into the Arms of Jesus:

Safe into the arms of Jesus, safe into His arms I'll go.
There all sin and shame will leave me; grace and peace and joy I'll know.
When this pain-filled life is over, and my Savior calls me home;
Then, I'll touch the face of Jesus, and safe into His arms I'll go.

© 1987-2004 Margie Cash (Amber's Nana)

When we returned home to our townhomes at Mountain Chase, a large, bar-b-q dinner soon arrived, compliments of Mount Paran North Church of God. Our extended family members and friends gathered to spend time together in fellowship and in remembrance of Amber Lynn Cash.

Iím Free

Donít grieve for me, for now Iím free.
Iím following the path God laid for me.
I took His hand when I heard Him call.
I turned my back and left it all.

I could not stay another day,
to laugh, to love, or even to play.
Things left undone must stay that way.
I found His place at the close of day.

If my parting has left a void,
then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss.
Ah yes, these things, I too, will miss.

Do not be burdened with times of sorrow.
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow!
My lifeís been good, I savored much.
Good friends, good times, a loved oneís touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief;
donít lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with meÖ
God wanted me now. He set me free!
(Author Unknown)

Amber Lynn Cash - 07/03/03

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Amber's Life
July 4, 2003
4 Days in ICU
Amber's Funeral
Christmas 2003
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