So flag day is around the corner. June 14th is a biggie on my calendar. In 2004 it became far more than a day to honor our country and banner of freedom; it became another date to honor and celebrate the life of a member of our family. We welcomed a treasure, a gift and beautiful little soul, our 5th child and firstborn son, Michael. We cared for him and loved him and doted on him and made plans for him and took a million pictures and passed them around like the proud parents we were.
Birthday celebrations in our house are usually disorganized and a little chaotic but we do our thing – decorate and have cake and presents. They are nothing special by most standards but in our family they hold a special place in the fabric of our traditions. We gather together (an increasingly rare phenomenon now that we’ve entered the busy teenager years) and joyfully celebrate the gift of the person we recognize and honor. For me it is always a time to thank God for Blessing us so richly and abundantly, for gifting us with these little souls that are constantly defining the meaning of Love. It is a time to celebrate the people they’ve been and are becoming through their accomplishments and goals.
This year Andrew will graduate from Kindergarten on Mikey’s birthday and surely it will be a momentous occasion and cause for celebration! I know we will enjoy it (we’ve been through a few already!) and be proud of our son’s performance but beneath the surface we will be aware of the birthday celebration that we should be having later that day but won’t… This particular birthday has become a time to mourn.
Instead of putting up festive decorations we will likely make our way to the cemetery to plant some flowers around the stone we had made with Michael’s sweet face etched on it. We put a lot of thought and time and effort into that memorial stone but truthfully it’s little comfort. It’s still just a stone. And it rests on the grave that contains earthly remains of a beautiful and precious life gone too soon from this mother’s arms. I find little comfort at the cemetery because everything I know and believe tells me that he’s not really there. In fact a man gave his very life to assure me of that truth and that same God-man gave his very spirit to continuously erase the doubts and convict my heart of it.
And therein lies the comfort, the hope, the grace to smile, the Joy in the everyday. In the midst of the cold and silent burial grounds arises the Promise of new LIFE – life everlasting. Jesus came – and died – so that we would have life and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10)
A dear friend recently related a story to me in which she was offering words of comfort to a friend who’s child was heading off to college. This friend of hers was distraught at the idea that her little boy was all grown up and leaving the nest possibly never to return. My friend’s words of comfort and wisdom went something like this. “Every moment of your life raising him has been geared to this moment of sending him off to be on his own”.
These are the same words of comfort my Lord and Savior offers to me. Every moment of the 4 years, 2 months, 4 days and 14 hours of being Michael’s mom had eternity as its ultimate goal. Furthermore our parting is only temporary, we will be together again. In the meantime he has a future and a hope and he’s securely ensconced in the arms of His savior, exactly where he belongs. And so I do this dance of healing and grieving all the while embracing Hope and Joy. I straddle the gulf that exists between navigating this world and the promise of smooth sailing in the next.
I can’t say I want Michael back or wish he were still here with us – how could I possibly when I know where he is? What kind of Love would wish a child of my womb out of paradise? But I miss my little Mikey for this time that we are separated. I miss what we had for 4 short years and grieve for what we never will in this life. But I also trust wholeheartedly in the providence and sovereignty of the God of the universe. He promised me, and all mankind, that He would be our God if we would be His people. I rely on that promise, even when it means trusting that the death of my son will ultimately be for my good. Even when it means that every day for the rest of my life I live without a treasured piece of my very own self. The truth of the promise and the Joy that it holds is beyond compare.
I’ve become a new creation in every sense, in every area of my life, in every way that I can think of. Tomorrow or next week or next month, by the grace of God, I will be made new yet again. In fact, every time that familiar ache surfaces and I flee to that most sacred of hearts for solace and consolation I am being re-created, formed and shaped like the clay in the potter’s hand. I have no choice but to surrender to the maker and creator and it’s a pretty great choice.
So my life will march on in the glorious splendor of birthdays and graduations and everything in between, but please excuse me for a moment while I grieve.
It will be but for a moment. The rewards will be everlasting.