With laughter and tears, Grammy-winning Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and his family said goodbye Saturday to their ‘cuddle bug,’ daughter Maria Sue. The 5-year-old died three days earlier after being accidentally struck at their Franklin, Tenn., home by a reversing SUV driven by her brother.
In a two-hour memorial service at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville that drew more than 700 mourners, Maria was remembered for her love of drawing flowers, playing in the water, snuggling with her family – and doing dishes “buck naked.” She “loved, loved, loved to be naked,” laughed her mother, Mary Beth. Maria, the family’s youngest, was one of three daughters adopted from China by the couple, who formed the charity Shaohannah’s Hope (Shaohannahshope.org) to help other families wanting to adopt.
The couple, along with their three older biological children and their two other adopted daughters, Shaohannah, 8, and Stevey Joy, 5, were all barefoot during the service as a mark of reverence to ground made holy, they said, by the loss of Maria. Standing in front of the tiny white coffin covered with pink flowers, they took turns holding the young girls in their arms and embracing the son whose car hit Maria. Tears streamed down the 17-year-old’s face and he wore Maria’s pink security blanket around his neck throughout the service. In a letter Shaohannah had written to God and her lost sister that her father read aloud, she asked for prayers for her brother. “He has been sobbing,” she wrote.
The family raised their arms as they sang songs of worship and sought comfort in their faith. “We had talked [with Maria] about what it meant to be with Jesus,” Chapman said. “I had no idea how soon it was going to be, but we know she is in His amazing house, playing in the water.”