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
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
that we had experienced at Providence, so we decided on
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
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
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
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
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
North Church of God
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
service was conducted at
North Church of God and was officiated by
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
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
Nana) sang the chorus I'd written and called Safe Into the Arms of Jesus:
the arms of Jesus, safe into His arms I'll go.
There all sin and shame will leave me; grace and peace and joy
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
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
North Church of God. Our extended family members and friends
gathered to spend time together in fellowship and in remembrance
of Amber Lynn Cash.
Donít grieve for me, for now Iím
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
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
donít lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with meÖ
God wanted me now. He set me free!
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July 4, 2003
4 Days in ICU