The family of Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman marked the first anniversary of death of their youngest member Thursday, less than a week after what would have been her sixth birthday.
It was on May 21, 2008, that 5-year-old Maria Sue Chapman saw her brother, 17-year-old Will Franklin Chapman, pulling up toward the driveway of the Chapman home in Franklin, Tenn., as she played on the playground.
Maria "was ... excited that he (Will) 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," recalled Mary Beth Chapman, Maria's mother and wife of Steven Curtis Chapman.
After being struck in the driveway by the sport utility vehicle, Maria, 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.
One year later, the heartaches still remain and tears are still being shed – but not in vain.
"I believe that God has not wasted a single bucket of tears that have been cried for this brave little girl who so wanted her brother to put her on the monkey bars that day, and the brave young man that has chosen to allow God to begin to heal him and use him for His glory," remarked Mary Beth in her personal blog Thursday.
"While we prayed for two miracles one year ago today ... that Maria's life would be spared and that Will's life would be spared ... God obviously knew He needed a spunky little stinker named Maria with Him, while He needed a very brave heroic young man to begin to tell the testimony of how Christ is ministering mercy and peace to him. There is no doubt in my mind that God will change lives through Will Franklin's walk with Christ," she added.
Since news broke of Maria's death, the Chapmans' story of tragedy and healing has touched people across the nation, from believers to even non-believers.
The family has made numerous media appearances and Steven Curtis has also brought their story on the road with him, though the accident initially led him to consider the idea of not returning to the stage.
"We wanted to go forward and give him the opportunity to share his faith," Chapman's manager, Jim Houser, reported last year. "Faith is what he does. It's a profound, sad time ... But the family is clinging to their faith and the assurance they will see Maria again."
On Thursday, Houser said the Chapman family planned to mark the first anniversary of Maria's death with a small gathering and that after the tragedy, the family is "more sure than ever that the Gospel is true."
"And in Steven and Mary Beth's words, now that they as a family have stood at the door of eternity... they are more sure than ever ... [t]hat when you go to the darkest, deepest, ugliest place... to the Very Bottom. God is there. He is still there with you," he wrote in his blog.
"That it's all true. All the things that Steven has written and sung about all these years, it's true," Houser added.
In their comments Thursday, both Houser and Mary Beth Chapman thanked supporters for all the prayers to date and asked for continued prayers for the family.
"We know for certain that it is those prayers that we PHYSICALLY feel daily that is helping us get up in the mornings, and to simply breathe," Chapman commented.
"We love you all so much. Please don't stop!" she concluded.
Since Maria's death, the Chapmans have graduated two sons, married a daughter off, and married a son off.
Steven Curtis was also named the "Artist of the Year" by the Gospel Music Association.
In total, the Chapmans have had six children – three biological and three adopted from China.
Maria Sue Chapman was adopted two months after her first birthday from a Christian foster home in China.