On March 3,1997, a beautiful little girl was born to Jennifer and Jody Scharfenstein. She was the second little girl to bless this family and two more were to follow.
Savannah was a sweet child with a very compassionate heart. She was funny too. She made everyone laugh with her words and with the faces she made. She loved to play dress up then dance or put on a show for us. One of her favorite things to do was make movies with her sisters using our home video camera. She really did love life. She loved playing outside, riding her bike and swimming. We used to have a zip cord over our pool and she would strike a pose dramatically while gliding. She was the silly one. She loved her friends and being with them and she loved being with her family too. She gave the longest hugs. She was very animated and full of personality.
Savannah liked music and wrote a few songs on the piano. She especially loved to sing. Just one week before her accident she sang a solo in church for the first time.
She loved her cousins and loved to watch TV. The only thing she didn’t like was doing her school work. She was homeschooled and our routine was two subjects and a ten minute break. Before the ink was dry on her paper she was up and out the door for her break. She loved to swing her two younger sisters on the tire swing in our back yard.
Savannah grew up in a family where Jesus and His love for her was spoken of often. She loved Him and at a very young age realized she needed Him as her Savior. She was six years old and during a rather routine day was taking her vitamins. She went into the bathroom with her vitamins and came out without them. I (her mom) didn’t pay much attention to this, but after a week her older sister Kayla said to me, “You do know she is throwing her vitamins in the toilet?” So the next day I gave her vitamins to her as usual then watched what she was going to do. Sure enough off to the bathroom she went. When she came back I asked her if she had taken her vitamin. She said yes. Then I confronted her with what Kayla had told me. When she realized she had been caught she cried and confessed. Here was the teaching moment, I explained to her that although she thought she was getting away with lying to me, God knew the whole time and she was never hiding from Him. That upset her more that lying to me. It was that day that she, at six years old realized she was a sinner. She wanted to be forgiven by God. She crawled up onto her dad’s chair and prayed for God to forgive her and for Jesus to come into her heart and be in control. Some time later she began to ask us if she could be baptized. She was so young we wanted to make sure that her decision to give her life over to Jesus was indeed genuine. We didn’t want her to grow up believing that just because she was baptized then she was ‘saved’. (Jesus says “I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man can come to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6). Just after her seventh birthday she was baptized at FBC New Orleans where we were members at the time.
I tell you this story of Savannah’s decision to give her little life to Jesus because on December 10, 2006, her life here came to a sudden and tragic end.
Last Day of this Life
It was a beautiful day actually. We woke up and got ready for church like we do every Sunday. After a morning of teaching and music and worship. Our family was going to participate with about 70 adults and children from our church in our town’s annual Christmas parade sponsored by the Fire Department. We were promoting the up-coming upward basketball season by passing out cups, t-shirts, and candy. About 2/3 of the way through I (mom) was sitting on the trailer that was being pulled by our friends pickup truck holding our youngest daughter. Savannah and her friend walked over to the slow moving trailer to board it. When Savannah tried to get on, her foot got caught by the wheel and it rolled over her. I screamed when I saw her go down. I jumped off the trailer and screamed for my friend to stop the truck. It all seemed to be moving in slow motion but it was very fast. When he stopped, which was quickly, the wheel was still on her hand which was lying straight up above her head. I then yelled for him to go forward. Jody had her in his arms in seconds, begging for help from anyone. This was a fireman’s parade, remember, so the paramedics were already there. They ran over and were working on her in 30 seconds. I remember looking up to the sky and thinking she’s going to be ok. I said that out loud over and over. I was more afraid that she would die because she couldn’t breathe. There was blood everywhere. It was coming out of her mouth, her nose, and her ears. I felt that if they could just get a tube into her lungs so she could get air then she’ll be ok.
The ambulance got there and we went to the hospital. In a matter of 20 minutes the waiting room was filled with over 100 of our friends and family. The hospital staff had to move us to their biggest waiting room. The doctors had to give her 8 pints of blood to stabilize her body. When she was stable they wanted to move her to Children’s hospital. It wasn’t until a little after midnight, and after the neurologist at Children’s hospital examined her did we find out that she was brain dead. Shock, numbness, and disbelief are some of the emotions we felt. It was like we didn’t hear him right. There was nothing they could do. She was gone and there was nothing anybody could do.
Life had struck us with a fatal blow. Jody and I walked slowly out of that small room and got about half way down the hall and just collapsed onto one another and cried. This was a cry I had never experienced. It was more like a wail, a deep, deep, heavy moan. We got up and could hardly walk. Our friends who had made the trip with us to Children’s were waiting just around the corner. All I remember saying to them was, “She’s dead.” We tried to sleep that night. The hospital gave us a room. How could we sleep when we were living a nightmare? I remember saying to God, “Oh God, you’re gonna have to pick me up and hold me through this one.”
This was going to be the ultimate test of this faith that I’ve proclaimed all these years.
As we drove home from the hospital, I don’t remember how many, if any words were said. We pulled into the driveway and everything was just as she left it. Her bike was still out front from riding it on Saturday. The little bird that she had made as a craft was sitting on a branch on the azalea bush out front right where she placed it. “How are we going to do this?” I thought. Our house was full of friends and food. The simplest act of love, my friend Robin standing at my stove stirring some chowder she had brought over. Other friends and their children quietly bringing in groceries they had bought for us. Still others just sitting there with us, not knowing what to say but their presence was enough.
The whole week leading up to the funeral was full of people in and out. God used His people to be His physical arms around us. As we made plans to bury Savannah, God was giving us the strength to glorify Him on that day. I knew in the hospital that I needed to sing at her funeral and Jody knew he needed to speak. That whole week Jody kept asking me if I was sure that I could sing. He said, ”If I start crying I can stop talking and regain my composure, but you can’t stop in the middle of a song.” I assured him that I would be OK and that singing is what I had to do. I just knew God was going to give me the strength, His strength, to get through it and He did. As I stood on that stage with my daughter’s coffin in front of me I prayed that God would sing through me. I thought about Savannah and the voice she has now to sing praises to Him face to face and I just wanted Him to let me sound like her. As I began to sing How Great Thou Art, He allowed me to focus on those words and just join Savannah in praising God for who He is and for the promise of eternal life with Him.
The next few months were a roller coaster of emotions. We were so incredibly sad as were our other daughters. It’s hard enough dealing with your own pain but it was especially hard, and still is, when Savannah’s sisters cry. I heard someone say that grief is the price you pay for loving someone. If there were no love , there would be no grief. Thank God for tears. There is so much to share about how God, through our relationship with Jesus, has and continues to sustain us in the midst of this tragedy.
I’ll begin with the week before the accident when Savannah said to me through casual conversation, ”Mom, sometimes I wish I could go to Heaven just to see what it looks like.” We had been studying Heaven during our school time. That was going to be our Biblical focus for this school year. That alone was a God thing. Why did I choose Heaven? A few months befor that I had ordered a CD from Grace to You ministries entitled “What happens when a Christian Dies?”, just because I wanted to know. God was preparing us for this. God says that He will never leave His children or forsake them and He hasn’t but I have a choice to make every day. Do I walk away from Him and blame Him or do I cling to Him for dear life?
In the beginning the days were very long. I would wake up in the morning only to long for the night when I could go back to sleep. God granted us rest at night. For a little while the pain disappeared but the morning always came and the pain was right there waiting for me. Actually, Satan was right there waiting for me. He is the one I hate. He is the reason that death even exists. He only wants to destroy God and His children. I had to wake up every day and put on my armor which is the Word of God. Every morning I was on my face crying to God to give me His strength to make it through this day, and He did. I spent time reading scripture, it is the only source for true comfort, and I needed a new supply every morning. God’s grace is sufficient for me. Jesus doesn’t just let us walk through the valley alone while standing on the mountain saying “Come on, you’re almost there.” No, He walks with us, holding on to us even, carrying us when we can’t walk. He knows how we feel.
Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Philippians 2:6-8
Jesus, the King of Kings, left Heaven to come to this less than perfect world. A world filled with pain, sorrow and suffering to make a way for us to have eternal life instead of the eternal death we all deserve.
I remember taking out the trash one day and looking up to the sky and saying, “God, help me to trust you again with the safety of my children.”
Before I had finished uttering those words, His spirit whispered to me, ”How much more safe could she be?” He was right. That’s not what I meant but He was right. I miss Savannah terribly but I don’t worry about her. She is living the life that she was created for, her real eternal life. I will see her again because my real home is Heaven. Jesus paid the price for my sin and I accept that gift. When He rose from the dead three days after His murder, He defeated death and hell and Satan. Praise God!!
So often when I’m at my saddest and I question God, he reminds me that He had to watch His son die too. God had the power to not allow Jesus to die but:
God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world throught Him. John 3:16-17
God loves us. Savannah’s accident didn’t surprise Him. I believe Jesus was right there on the road with us picking Savannah up to take her to her real home.
Our uncle who is a pastor said to us in the hospital, ”God’s Sovereignty is more important than His power.” Sure God had the power to restore Savannah to what she was before, He’s powerful enough for that, but His Sovereignty, what He wants to accomplish in and through us and her death, is more important. God is more concerned with the eternal picture rather than what is temporary.