Grammy-winning Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman and his family suffered a profound loss on May 21 when his 5-year-old daughter Maria Sue was accidentally hit by his 17-year-old son, after she ran into the path of his SUV in their driveway. Maria later died at a Nashville hospital.
The Chapman family gave an exclusive interview to "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts in their Tennessee home, discussing the accident, their faith and family strength in the wake of their tragedy.
For 5-year-old Maria Sue Chapman, singing was a family gift that came easily. After all, her father was a multiple Grammy and Gospel Music Association award-winning megastar.
The 45-year old Kentuckian and his wife, Mary Beth, were already the parents of three biological children, yet they were encouraged and inspired by their daughter Emily to visit and adopt three little girls from China -- Shaohannah, Stevey Joy and their youngest, Maria Sue.
The experience of adopting the girls would lead the Chapmans to found Shaohannah's Hope, a nonprofit that seeks to ease the expense of adoption. As of July 2008, the group has provided grants to over 1,700 families wishing to adopt orphans in the United States and worldwide.
Chapman described the moment he knew they were destined to return to China to adopt Maria, an orphaned girl he met while on tour there. He said an e-mail containing photos from his previous trip changed their lives and lead them back to Maria.
"As it [the e-mail] opened, it was this picture of me kissing Maria goodbye in that parking lot in China about two weeks earlier," said Chapman. "And it was instant. I knew that that was a picture of a daddy kissing his little girl. It wasn't just a guy with a little child that needed a home, it was a daddy and a little girl. It was just so clear when I saw it."
After Maria's adoption, the Chapman family was complete, and Maria grew into her role as the baby girl of this loving family.
"We knew from the get-go that she was a firecracker," said her adopted mother, Mary Beth.
That same animated spirit would lead her to run toward her older brother as he neared home.
Mary Beth described what happened: "The girls had been playing on the playground and -- complete accident. She was, actually excited that he 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."
Chapman, who immediately got into his car to go to the hospital, had the presence of mind to roll down his window and speak to his inconsolable son Will before leaving.
"I really don't remember this," he said about the moments directly following the accident. "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.'"
Chapman continued to describe the moment immediately after the tragedy: "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."
He described the struggle to grieve the death of a child, while at the same time supporting the ones who lived on.