Today is Sunday, March 24. Next Sunday we will celebrate Easter/Resurrection Day. Then we will turn the calendar over to April. The date stares me in the face – the eighteenth. 18th. 18. One-eight. That combination of numbers used to intimidate me; however now they are no longer as daunting. I remember when I used to expect every 18th. Now, months can go by without noticing that another 18th has passed.
It hardly seems possible that over 23 months have passed from the day our lives changed forever – Monday, April 18, 2011. That year, it was the Monday before Easter/Resurrection Day. That day, our son Isaac suddenly passed on into the presence of Jesus. Now, as we remember the death, burial, and resurrection of the Son of God, we also remember the death and burial of our son Isaac’s body and promotion of his spirit into Heaven.
What has happened over these months and years?
The darkness and the fog of the first months and year have lifted. We don’t feel as heavy in spirit as often as we used to, as reflected in my early writings. We’ve experienced joy, happiness, and peace. We’ve also experienced anguish, sorrow, and regret. We’ve experienced healing and relief through sharing our journey with others and receiving encouragement from others. We’ve smiled and cried when someone shared a memory of Isaac (and those tears are healing and full of gratitude – so please continue to share!). Though we live with continued confidence in our Savior and the goodness of God, we still have a painful scar deep in our heart.
This experience has resulted in us being known in our local community. If we’re not careful, we can feel self-conscious in public as we imagine who may know us as “that family who lost a son”. Positively, our experience has opened doors to relate with others that may never have been opened any other way. We’ve been able to interact intimately with other parents who have “lost” children and other mourners. We’ve been able to witness to God’s faithfulness through the darkest of days, even when it seemed that He had abandoned us. We’ve tried to comfort others with the same comfort that we received. When we don’t know what to say, we’ve learned that our presence, a hug or a firm handshake, and/or providing for some material need can speak more than any words could have at the moment.
Personally, we are being tested to go deeper and be more honest in our spiritual walk with God. Our hearts have become more tender, especially towards others. We’ve reexamined our lives, wondering if God was seeking retribution for some past sin. Instead, we’ve comprehended more deeply the price that Jesus fully paid for us through his suffering both before and on the cross. The punishment for every sin that we would ever commit (past, present, and future) was laid on Him. I don’t see where Isaac’s death was God’s way of “getting us back”. Do we not realize that we all die at some time? We are all in need of repentance towards and faith in Christ. We are not God and therefore cannot understand all of His ways. We continue to believe that there are greater purposes in Isaac’s “untimely” death. We are experiencing some of these purposes now in how our relationships with others have grown deeper and richer. We expect that we will perhaps see more of these purposes, if not on this earth, then when we enter into Heaven. Don’t get me wrong – I would rather selfishly have Isaac here with us than go through this pain of separation. But I am content knowing that I will see him again someday – all praise and glory to Jesus Christ for that truth!
Some days are very challenging and difficult for me. I find it hard to handle some of the trials and challenges of everyday life. I have to remind myself that I am constantly serving God, even as I go to work. There is no area of my life that God is not interested in. He wants me to be a loving husband and father. He also wants me to be a faithful and diligent employee. I know that God will not give me more than I can handle, but these past two years have been very difficult. When will I learn to stop trying to handle things on my own and completely rely on His strength?
Overall, we have learned to take this grieving process slowly. One area that we are being deliberately slow is in addressing Isaac’s belongings. Although we have passed on a few items, we still have a closet full of memories that we have not yet addressed. We expect that, when the time seems right, we will decide what to do with Isaac’s creations and earthly possessions. For now, we will keep them tucked away behind the closed door.
So, as April approaches and Spring begins to show its signs here in snowy Central PA, we can also feel the budding of the season of Spring in our hearts. The long, cold winter seems to be behind us and our new lives are beginning to shine with renewed hope. Lord, please help us to walk in the beauty and newness of Spring in our hearts day-by-day.