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Harper Rodden

Harper’s story started like any other day when she arrived at the home of her child care provider.  She played with the other children, had lunch and then took a nap.  It was a sunny July afternoon and after everyone’s nap all the children played happily in the front yard and driveway waiting for their parents to pick them up.  This was just a normal summer afternoon for the child care provider who always kept a watchful eye on the children.

This is where the story gets real.  Anyone who has been around children knows to always expect the unexpected.  That warm July day was no different.  Many unforeseen events were about to unfold in the blink of an eye that would change so many lives forever.  As a grandfather approached the child care provider’s driveway in his pick-up truck, his grandchild ran toward the street side of the truck to greet them.  The child care provider was holding Harper, but realized the other child was in danger.   She put Harper down so she could quickly retrieve the other child from the street.  The child care provider returned with the child to the grandfather’s truck to help her get in the back seat.  As the child care provider was trying to open the door, the grandfather simultaneously moved the truck forward.  What no one knew was that Harper had followed the provider down the yard and was standing near the truck.  Unfortunately, Harper was too close and as the truck moved forward she was pulled under.  She was not able to survive her injuries.  Harper went from the loving arms of her child care provider to the loving arms of Jesus before anyone knew what happened.

Is it sad when a child, your child dies? Yes, sad, heart wrenching beyond comparison when you lose a child, your child!  Does it make you feel angry that this happened?  You bet!  You feel more anger than you have ever felt in your life.  Do you have regrets, could you have done something to keep this from happening?  Of course, we always could do things a different way had we only known the future.  Do you ask yourself why?  The “why” is always there, haunting you.  Do you think this is just a bad dream and you’ll wake up soon?  It must be, right?  This can’t really be happening to us, can it?

For those left behind it is critical to find that place where you can feel joy again and heal your soul.  You will never, ever forget what you have lost, but you will realize that through your loss you can find a way to move forward and to have your loved one’s memory carry on.  You will see that the life lost can still make a difference for others.

Harper’s story continues now through this website and through the Harper’s Hugs project. In the months following Harper’s death it became evident that our family was desperate to find a way to carry on, not move on, but to carry on, with Harper still part of our lives and in our hearts.  It was then that we realized there was a plan, a big plan.  In fact, the “plan” started many months earlier, we just needed to let it all come together.

The plan began with Harper.  Anyone who had ever held her knows how completely she would give hugs.  Harper had a way of letting you know she loved freely, with her whole being.  Her hugs would just sink into your soul.  Harper hardly knew a stranger and would give anyone who needed a hug that little extra squeeze as if to say, “I’ve got you. I love you!” Harper’s brother Cole reminded us of those hugs and his memories when he spoke about them at her memorial service.

There was also a bear in the plan.   There was a larger than life bear at church that became Harper’s favorite thing to play with anytime she was there.  We were reminded of that bear a few months after Harper’s death.

Another part of the “plan” was revealed as we remembered the beautiful memorial message by Pastor Claire, talking about a bear family going on a hunt.  Along the path the bear family met up with some scary things.  They couldn’t go around them, under or over them.  They just had to go through that scary stuff.  Pastor Claire shared that’s what it would be like for us.   Just like the bear family, we have to go through the scary stuff to be able to see God’s plan.  By going through the scary stuff, we can still see Harper, just in a different way.

Harper’s Uncle Greg spoke at the memorial service about knowing that Harper’s love (and hugs) can still be with us.  He quoted a poem and the last few lines seemed to be a part of the plan; “When you see a child playing and your heart feels a tug, don’t be sad mommy and daddy, that’s just me giving your heart a hug.”

God teaches us to see His plan, the big picture.  His plan is that through Harper’s baptism she became child of God and through her death will live with Him eternally.  But, we also believe there is a smaller plan.  The plan that began with Harper’s hugs, her love for bears, the bear hunt and the scary stuff, and the need to share her hugs to make a difference in the lives of other innocent children.

A few months after Harper’s death the plan all came together.   The Harper’s Hugs project was created to honor her life by sharing her hugs with other children through teddy bears. In fact, the plan grew bigger than life with over 1,100 Harper’s Hugs bears being delivered all across the U.S. and several countries.  Each bear also carries a message to raise awareness for child safety. Please visit the Commission a Bear link for more information on how you can be a part of this amazing project.

The purpose of this website is to ensure that Harper’s story never ends.  Our prayer is that it will provide valuable resources to help those also struggling with loss.  We hope that by sharing our thoughts and ideas, providing educational materials and other resources that the website will help us raise awareness of the need to create a safe environment for our precious little children.

Harper’s story and her life mattered to so many people, especially her mommy and daddy, her brother and sister, her grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.  But also to many others who were affected by this tragic accident.  This was made evident by the countless number who reached out to our family in love and support as we began the journey of grieving and trying to make sense of such a senseless event.

No child’s story should ever end.  Fortunately, for all of us there are many things we can do to make sure children are kept safe and live a carefree childhood.  We love that you have taken the first step to visit this website and read Harper’s story.  We would be extremely honored for you to join us and become an advocate to help ensure her story never ends!  Just click the link below to get started! Commission a Bear

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