Eleven years ago if you had asked me if the holidays would come and go without an aching in my heart the reply would have been, “Surely not.” I definitely would not have considered then what it means to choose thanks-living now!
That first Thanksgiving after Justin went home to Heaven felt immeasurably raw and painful. I could not imagine then that the looming absence of my six foot two-hundred something pound son would ever cease to remind me of his death. But, thankfully, today there is joy unspeakable in our lives. Our lives are truly full and we – for the most part – have weathered the storm of grief without any permanent disabilities. Yes, we feel banged up and splintered – even fractured at times. Still, somehow the pain has healed and comfort has come in the most unexpected ways.
As I look back on the last eleven years – I find myself grateful. Strike that. Exceedingly grateful… Grateful. Yes, I said grateful.
Many parents have lost children before me. Sadly, many more, I am sure, will make the journey behind me. Tomorrow morning a mother and father somewhere in the world will awaken to what feels like any other ordinary day until something unthinkable happens and their child – born or adopted – will be transitioned from this life into the hereafter with the twinkling of an eye. An adult child, a teenager, an adolescent or an infant – the wash of shock and denial will overwhelm and the first year of waiting for the cry, the front door to burst open or the phone to ring will begin. These parents and families will have to make a choice. To press through, to find comfort and healing, and to grieve. As much as I pray everyday that no other parent will have to experience the pain and loss that comes with the death of one’s own child… I know that reality will come to someone even as I write these words. The enemy continues to come and kill, steal and destroy…
I have come to view my loss as a sacred trust. A trust between God and I. He promised to be faithful in times of joy and in sorrow. He promised to bring beauty from ashes, the oil of gladness from mourning and praise from utter despair. He promised to be strong when I am weak and peace when I am in the midst of the storm. He promised to comfort my heart when it breaks. Yet, He only asks one thing of me… Trust Him. Trusting Him leads me to follow Him, taking up whatever cross I find to bear and move into the destiny He has for me. Gives a whole new meaning to the words of Jesus, “To whom much is given, much is required.”
Those who grieve much will also offer much comfort when others around them grieve – the key, learning to grieve well. Indeed, a sacred trust.
A sacred trust, like that of Mary, the mother of Jesus. He reminded me that Mary was simply a mother, a human woman – not divine – as some would make her. She, too, lived a fragile life – prone to error and sorrow. Her heart could be broken. She had a son… A perfect Son… who died. She had the comfort of His resurrection, but she also lived the remainder of her natural life without the physical presence of her firstborn child who went to Heaven’s Throne Room, to await the trumpet call and His return.
Mary felt pain much the same way we did. She made a choice to live on in the legacy of her firstborn son and the Good News of his birth, death and resurrection. I choose to live in this legacy as well. Choosing to allow my firstborn’s legacy to be a mark of redemption and hope. The promise of a Gospel that provides comfort to parents with aching hearts.
He also reminded me that for us grief starts with death of someone we love, but for God His grief over the sinful state of mankind on earth ended with the death of His only Son. And by that death the power of resurrection came. This power of resurrection ushers in healing. Sorrow may indeed linger for a night, but it is the joy of the Lord as our strength that comes with the morning.
So tonight as I ride alongside my husband and our best dog, Pogo, I find myself ever more grateful for the loss we’ve endured and overcome. I am grateful for a God so real to me that I know His heartbeat and catch a glimpse of His glory in every sunrise and sunset. For my family, a good man to call my husband, and four magnificent children all grown up. For our Brittany’s always new journey getting out there and working it out in a world that sometimes seems to be falling apart – her passion and her reflections inspire me. For our Taylor’s beautiful heart and the life she lives before the Lord, a good steward with strong faith and a tremendous love for those around her. I praise God for her sweet husband, Logan, who shares the same birthday as my son. For Travis, and the man he has become. Working through life a day at a time, finding his way. For Megan who has her Patrick, and a big heart for kids – and the way she pushed through college to find life and success. Her pluck and determination inspire me. I am grateful for extended family that lives close and supports us. I am especially grateful for times like Thanksgiving when we reflect on all the blessings and benefits in life being a child of God. I am grateful He has given me this life – all of it – every moment from the depths of sorrow to the soaring of joy. Thanksliving indeed.
Today, and from this day forward, I choose to be more intentional about living thankfully every single day rather than waiting for a week in November to reflect on those things that I have been blessed by God to receive. “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” ~ Job
Have a blessed Thanksgiving and may the Lord supply all your need this Holiday season in the glorious riches of our Lord Jesus.