Award-winning Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman and his family opened their hearts publicly to America for the first time this week since the loss of their youngest family member this past May.
On Wednesday, “Good Morning America” aired an exclusive interview with the Chapmans at their home in Franklin, Tenn., in which they recounted the day of the tragic accident as well as their path toward healing through faith and hope.
"The girls had been playing on the playground,” recalled Chapman's wife, Mary Beth, to GMA’s Robin Roberts. She described the May 21 incident that involved their youngest daughter, Maria Sue, and youngest son, Will Franklin, as a “complete accident. “
“And … she (Maria) was, actually excited that he (Will Franklin) was coming home. And he is so great with the girls. They just love him. And she was running to see him and, you know, ran, you know, into the path of the car," she said.
After being struck by the sport utility vehicle in the driveway of the family's Williamson County home, 5-year-old Maria Sue Chapman, the youngest of the six Chapman children and one of three adopted from China, was rushed to a Nashville hospital, where should would later die from her injuries.
In the GMA interview, Steven Curtis Chapman was asked to recall the words he spoke to 17-year-old Will Franklin Chapman as he was getting into his car to go to the hospital.
"I really don't remember this," the Grammy winner said. "It was actually Dave – Uncle Dave that told me. He said, 'You rolled the window down and just, very loudly yelled really... with as much strength as you could muster and just said, 'Will Franklin, your father loves you.'
"I just really had a deep concern in my heart that I wouldn't lose two children as a result of this because I knew what Will was struggling with," Chapman explained.
In GMA’s interview with Chapman’s three oldest children, Will Franklin described how the love and support from his family helped him get through the difficult time, beginning from immediately after the accident.
"I started running after the accident, you know, and started just running away from the house. And I remember Caleb (Will Franklin’s brother) was the first one to run and kind of just jump on me and hold me. And then Shaoey (one of the Chapman’s adopted daughters) was right there by him.
"To me, you know, that meant a ton,” Will Franklin continued. “I didn't really want to be at the house, I just wanted to be away. And I was just freaking out.”
What also helped Will Franklin and the rest of the Chapmans through the past couple of months has been their faith.
“[B]ecause of my faith, I know that she's completely whole and completely OK and I'm going to see her again,” said an emotional Mary Beth after confessing how much she wants Maria back.
Still, there are difficult times.
"I've gotten a stronger faith through all this, you know, and more faith through all this,” Will Franklin said. “But then there's those days, you know, that just hit you and you're just, like, 'Oh, man, this is just awful.' But – you just gotta continue to choose to live. And that's the faith that, that continues to keep me going, you know."
And with hope the Chapmans are getting through the tough times together.
"We have talked a lot,” said Steven Curtis. “And you will hear all of us talk about the process of grieving with hope. That's what has kept us breathing, kept us alive is that while we are grieving this process, there is a hope that we have, that we're anchored to in the midst of just what sometimes seems unbearable.”
When asked whether or not the accident brought them to question their faith, Chapman confessed that it did, “absolutely,” but explained to the GMA anchor that faith is believing without having all the answers.
"My son said the other day that, ‘You know, yeah, we are family – like people say – of great faith ... but we're a family with a lot of questions,’" Chapman said. "But that's what faith is. It's living with the questions. That doesn't mean you have the answers. That's exactly what faith is."
What the Chapman family is sure of, however, is that they will see Maria again.
"I'm going to dance with Maria again. I'm absolutely sure of that," Chapman said, referring to the song “Cinderella,” which he wrote before the accident to remind him to appreciate each moment with his girls before they grow up.
In the meantime, they’re looking to live fully each moment that God has given to them.
“These chapters that are still being written with my two little girls, Shaohannah and Stevey Joy. And Emily who's getting ready to be married, we need to keep living these moments, these living years – these moments that we have, we still – still need to be engaged in those," said Chapman.
"And I need to be dancing with my Cinderellas."
Prior to his appearance on “Good Morning America,” Chapman had been appearing in venues across America since first returning to the stage on July 11. But while he had spoken of the accident during the appearances, Chapman had declined interviews. He also canceled his international tours to stay close to his family.
According to Chapman’s media representatives, the decision to speak publicly on “Good Morning America” was not an easy one.
"Initially Steven talked about never doing any concerts or media ever again," commented Jim Houser, Chapman's manager, in a released statement. "But quickly God began to show Steven that if he ever believed the songs he was writing, singing and recording before May 21st and Maria's loss, that they must still be true now. It's the family's hope that these appearances will serve as a chance to proclaim to a watching world what they know and are deeply convinced of even in these difficult days, the Gospel is true and faith in Christ is our Hope."
Following the GMA interview, there will be a live interview from Los Angeles on “Larry King Live” on August 7 and an extensive feature in an upcoming issue of “People” magazine.
Chapman also has four more cities to hit before concluding his nationwide tour in Puyallup, Wash., on Sept. 20.
List of Remaining Cities:
August 9 - Hot Springs, AR (Timberwood Amphitheater)
September 13 - Ft. Worth, TX (Men at the Cross)
September 19 - Brentwood, CA (Golden Hills Community)
September 20 - Puyallup, WA (Western Washington Fair)