It’s been a crying day today. Actually, it’s been a crying month. And, as usual, I condemn myself over not being farther along in this grief journey than I am. Yesterday, though, Dan “just happened” to run into a fellow grieving parent who unwittingly – or maybe wittingly – encouraged us in our journey. She lost a young-adult son some 23 years ago – more years ago than she had her son with her – and when Dan told her it has been a little over 4 years for us, she said, “Oh, you’re just getting started”.
This is the second time in the past 4 years we’ve been told this exact statement.
The first time, just a little over 2 years after our son unexpectedly and suddenly left this earth, it was a bit disheartening. This time, though, 4+ years into trying to survive the loss of one of my precious children, it helped me let go of the self-imposed, and sometimes other-imposed guilt and condemnation and just let life be what it is – sometimes joyful; sometimes grievous; always full of love and gratitude.
I think the guilt comes from knowing I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams – I married the love of my life and have stayed married and in love for coming up on 39 years; after a few short years of trying unsuccessfully to start a family, I was blessed with 5 healthy and beautiful children; having been married to a very motivated and talented carpenter, I’ve lived in some of the most beautiful and well-maintained homes; and I’ve loved every minute of it all.
“I’m so blessed. How can I be mourning the loss of one of my children?”
That is my stupid way of thinking sometimes.
I’ll tell you (me, actually) how I can be mourning the loss of one of us.
Each member of our family holds a unique and exclusive place in my heart; a place carved out for them and them alone. No one else can ever fill the place that has been carved into their exact shape in my heart. No one.
I was thinking about this a few days ago and thought, “I know the Lord can fill this hole in my heart.” But then the thought came to me that I have a unique and exclusive place in my heart for the Lord, too, and He fills that place. But the place for my son in my heart is for my son alone. I believe the Lord comforts and consoles me when that hole in my heart aches with longing. But I also believe He respectfully and tenderly leaves that hole there, only to be filled again when I pass into eternity, as my son has, and see his beautiful face again; feel his lanky arms around my shoulders again; hear him say, “I love you, Mom” once again.
Tomorrow will be my son’s 30th earthly birthday. At 11:12 pm on March 25th, 45 minutes before the start of Easter Sunday, he came into this world, making his dad and I the very happy and proud parents of a child the Lord told us, earlier that same day, to name Israel.
I remember that day, and the day each of my children were born, like it was just a few days ago. I remember the struggle, the concerns, that amazing moment, the smell of his beautiful blond head, the relief in the doctor’s voice, the look of love, pride, joy and relief in Dan’s eyes, the joy bringing a new life into this world lavished upon my heart. I remember it all vividly.
Strangely similar, though on the opposite end of the spectrum of feelings, I remember the last day, as well. It is a memory I hoped with all my heart I would never have. But, I do. And, oddly enough, I cherish it, just like I cherish the memories of the beginning.
So, we are “just getting started”. What a thing to know 4+ years into the walk of grieving the loss of our son. I don’t know where this road leads, but I trust the One leading me, just like I trusted Him when I brought the most beautiful blond-headed, blue-eyed baby into this world.
Here are a few pictures of our beginning with our amazingly wonderful middle son, a few of his birthdays, and a couple after he left us for his eternal home. I love and miss him so much. I’m thankful, though, for the years we had with him and for the promise of an eternity together.
In the hospital Easter Sunday morning with our oldest, Kimberly.
Dan, with Joseph on his lap holding Israel, and Kimberly doing the most natural thing in the world – feeling his downy-soft little head.
I can still hear Joe saying, “Bebe” as he reached up to the top of Izzy’s crib.
All my kiddos on what I’m guessing was Izzy’s 8th or 9th birthday. (He’s the one stretching up behind his older brother to be sure he is in the picture!) The dark-headed girl to his left (at the far end of the table) was a neighborhood girl Izzy was sure he would marry.
Home on leave for his 22nd birthday, and blowing out his candles with his niece, Ellie, on his lap.
Releasing balloons at the cemetery on his birthday a couple of years ago.
“Visiting him” at the cemetery on his birthday last year. From the right – Dan and I, our oldest, Kim, and her husband Ryan, our youngest daughter and son, Elizabeth and Timothy, a girlfriend, Hollie, and our oldest son, Joseph.
We will love, miss, share, hug, laugh, cry and honor him on his birthday again tomorrow. And we will thank the Lord for His goodness in our lives.
Happy 30th birthday, my precious son.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12