Grab a tissue.
You'll need it before reading this heartwarming — and heartwrenching — obituary.
On its front page today, The Tennessean reported on the death of 5-year-old Pearl Joy Brown.
The Nashville newspaper notes that the little girl "defied the hardships of a rare medical condition and survived past birth."
And the story absolutely nails the crucial religion angle (not for the first time). Forgive me for this longer-than-usual blockquote:
"Pearly never spoke, she never got up, she never did anything with her body," her father, Eric Brown, said. "Yet somehow God did more through her than anyone I know is able to do."
Doctors diagnosed Pearl with Alobar holoprosencephaly at her mother's 20-week ultrasound. The rare genetic condition is almost always fatal, and a specialist advised her parents to end the pregnancy.
But having seen the heartbeat, Pearl's parents, Eric and Ruth Brown, persevered — prepared for the reality that they may not bring her home from the hospital.
Pearl, a tiny 4 pounds, 3 ounces, was born in the early hours of July 27, 2012.
Her brain development had stalled the first weeks in the womb. The genetic disorder created a cleft in her upper lip. She had seizures and respiratory issues, and she had an inverted nose and, as her father remembers, a beautiful three-lipped smile.
She also had brilliant blue eyes and a bright burst of red hair.
Pearl was the third child of Eric and Ruth Brown, and her parents believed everything about their daughter was part of God's plan.
"When it seemed as though God was wanting Pearly to thrive, we supported her," Eric Brown said Monday, just a few days after his younger daughter's death.
"And when it came time to send Pearl home, we had to support that, as well."
Wow, what faith!
Go ahead and read it all.
And when you're done, check out the original amazing piece that former Tennessean religion writer Bob Smietana wrote on the family back in 2012:
NASHVILLE — Eric and Ruth Brown believe nothing about daughter Pearl Joy's life is a mistake.
They say God gave Pearl her bright red hair and wide blue eyes, as well as the genetic disorder that created a cleft in her upper lip and caused her brain's development to stall in the first weeks in the womb.
"Things didn't go wrong," Eric Brown said. "God has designed Pearl the way he wanted, for his glory and our good."
That belief has sustained the Browns during the past six months, ever since a routine ultrasound halfway through Ruth Brown's pregnancy revealed that Pearl, their third child, has alobar holoprosencephaly, a rare genetic condition that's almost always fatal. A specialist told the Browns she would probably die in the womb and advised them to end the pregnancy early.
It's one thing to talk about God's will when life is good. It's another when a doctor is saying your baby won't live.
Yes, feel free to go ahead and read it all, too.
GetReligionista emeritus Mollie Hemingway first highlighted Smietana's story in 2012, praising it for giving "some much-needed encouragement about professionalism on the Godbeat."
I'll close with the ending to today's Tennessean obit.
Last week, in the final days of her life, the Brown family welcomed an artist into their home to take prints of Pearl's unique smile — and her special kisses.
"Pearly has taught me the beauty in being weak," Eric Brown said. "It is the better way to go through life.
"When you are weak, everyone puts their hand in the air and says, 'I, too, am weak.'
"And you end up with a wonderful community of people."