The problem, or difficulty, I’m having lately seems to be with perspective. Life perspectives do not change easily.
Expecting someone to be standing at your graveside when you have died after living 80 or so years is a normal life perspective.
Standing at that person’s graveside, after he lived a short 25 years, is not normal. It doesn’t fit in with our normal life perspective.
I was sad when my grandparents died. But I expected them to die before me.
I was sad when aunts and uncles died. But that still seemed to be the norm.
This past year, I lost two beloved friends, both from cancer. One was barely into her 50’s. This was extremely sad and affected me deeply.
But neither friend was my child.
We don’t expect our children to die before us. It isn’t normal and it doesn’t fit into our normal life perspective. I think it happens more often than we care to think about. But, still, we don’t expect it, so we don’t prepare for it. In fact, we pray desperately that it won’t happen.
My husband and I have often said, since our middle son passed away unexpectedly, that we can’t reconcile this. It simply doesn’t fit; we don’t have a grid in our brains for functioning after child loss. It is so out-of-order, so non-normal.
Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend here, so I went to our son’s grave to clean it up a bit and place the wreath I bought awhile back. The mowing crew didn’t clean up the grass growing around the base of his headstone, so I knelt on the ground, with clippers in hand, and proceeded to chop away. As I was kneeling there, a thought I’ve had a few times in the past 3 years occurred to me again – I was kneeling on ground that is a few feet above a steel box that holds the lifeless body of a person I brought into this world. When you bring someone into the world, you expect them to be around when you exit this world. You don’t expect them to leave before you.
I was talking with my husband yesterday about where we are emotionally lately and he put it quite succinctly – we are far enough into this experience of child-loss that we can no longer deny the reality of the fact that our son is really gone. At the same time, we cannot yet accept this reality. So we are stuck in a hard place; a lonely place; a place one has no understanding of unless they, too, have been in the same place – trying to learn to live with the truth of a beloved child never coming home again.
On a happier note, my brother posted a picture on Facebook this morning and it reminded me so much of the first time I saw my son in his dress blues, it made me smile inside.
It was the first time we picked up our son at the airport. He had just finished 9 weeks of boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, and then 8 weeks of “A” school in Pensacola, Florida, and was coming home for his sister’s wedding and a 3 week leave before he left for his station in Japan, working aboard the USS George Washington. He had his dress blues on when he got off the plane. He was so handsome, and I was so proud, that I could hardly stand still. After our normal family greetings of hugs and kisses and “I missed you’s”, we headed over to the baggage carousel to retrieve his duffel bag. There were a couple of older men dressed in business suits in front of him and one of them turned to see who had just stepped up close to him. Upon seeing my son in his Navy uniform, he stepped back slightly behind him and motioned with his arm closest to my son to step in front of him and get his luggage before him. It was an amazing moment for this stay-at-home mom. I imagine for my son, as well.
Here’s a picture of him dancing the chicken dance at his sister’s wedding in his dress blues. What a precious memory this is for me and my family.
So when I’m needing a change in life perspective, what do I do? What is a correct life perspective? Is there a correct life perspective?
I look to the Word of God, is what I do. I’ve struggled with my understanding of God and His Word since our son passed away three and a half years ago, but I still believe in and love Him and His Word.
A few days ago, I turned to Ecclesiastes “by chance” and began reading at the end of chapter 8 and then chapter 9. I love the book of Ecclesiastes, as it just tells it like it is – it is real and honest, never mincing words about life or spiritual things.
Shortly after our son passed away, I remember searching for scriptures that would comfort me without sugar-coating my new reality. One of the ones I pondered was Ecclesiastes 7:13-14: “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.”
God has made the one as well as the other.
And He doesn’t tell us which one we are going to encounter, or when we might encounter it.
While reading the book of Ecclesiastes, I did what I often do and perused through the introduction before the book, searching for assurance of the author. I learned that the author is actually unknown. I’ve always thought it was King Solomon, but that is not a certainty, it seems.
Anyway, in my perusing, I found what I was really looking for, even though I didn’t realize I was looking for it – the reason the book of Ecclesiastes speaks to my heart. The writer of the introduction to the book sums it up perfectly:
“Life in the world is under God – for all its enigmas. Hence what begins with ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ (1:2) ends with ‘Remember your Creator’ (12:1) and ‘Fear God and keep his commandments’(12:3).”
That, in my opinion, is correct perspective.
Life is meaningless. But we must remember our Creator, fear Him and keep His commandments.
“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear Him.” Ecclesiastes 3: 10-14