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Five Years

April 18.  This year, 2016, it will mark five years since Isaac’s death.  There is a popular saying that “time heals all wounds.”  I don’t agree with that statement, but I do believe that time provides perspective.

The first anniversaries of Isaac’s death were difficult to endure.  The first year we felt a need to get away for the day and try to focus on something else.  The second year was a much more quiet remembrance.  I really don’t remember the third and fourth anniversaries.

So why does this year feel different?  Maybe because five years marks a significant milestone in other aspects of our lives (i.e. marriage, employment).  Maybe because this year April 18 will once again land on a Monday, the same day of the week that it was in 2011.  I’m not sure which of these it is, or perhaps for some other reason, but this year the anticipation is slightly haunting me.

I mentioned earlier that I believe time provides perspective.   One way this is true for me is that the intensity of pain from losing a child has lessened.  The first year or two was just so difficult and painful, with so many thoughts and events triggering intense emotional responses.  As we have forged a new groove for our lives, we don’t carry the heavy burden of that pain or get lost in the cloud of grief.  We can remember good times with smiling and laughter and not focus so much on the events on and immediately after April 18, 2011.  We can focus on the eternal truths in God’s Word and look forward to when we will see Isaac again.

By God’s grace, we have moved forward with our lives.  We haven’t moved “on”, as if whatever happened before didn’t matter.  But we have chosen not to remain frozen in the past, where we could play out the “what if” scenarios in our minds (though this is tempting at times, but quite unfruitful).  Moving forward to us means that we still remember (how could we forget?).  We laugh, play, and work, while rejoicing in all these things.

Yet, while moving forward and rejoicing, there is a piece of my heart that is missing.  I am not always consciously aware of it, yet I feel that it is gone.  I can feel the void that Isaac’s passing has left.  It is difficult for me to describe that feeling.  I just feel like I am not an entire person.  The best physical analogy that I can think of is if one is missing a body part that they once had (which I’ve never experienced, so forgive me for taking the liberty of this analogy).  While I see (physical) and know (mental) that Isaac is not here, in my heart (spiritual) he is still with me.   These conflicting aspects of my being make me wonder if I am something less than a full person.

I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.  It is only through my faith in our loving, merciful, and just God that I can even stand where I am today.  I believe that Isaac is safe in His hands and I hold fast to the hope of seeing him again someday soon.  Yet because Isaac is there in Heaven and I am here on Earth, a part of me is missing.

May you be blessed this day and rest in the eternal hope we have through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Andy

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Some Measure of Normalcy

April 18.  It used to be that date would stare back at us from the calendar, taunting us with the memories associated with it.  Now it seems to sneak up on us.

Four years.  It is almost unbelievable that is has been that long (or that short) since April 18, 2011.  Sometimes, that day seems so near – the intensity of the emotions and the tragedy of the events so mark our souls that we can hardly escape them.  Yet, in some ways we have become so accustomed to our “new normal” that it seems so long ago that our dear son left our family.

Isaac.  The mention of that name pierces my heart, no matter where or when I see or hear it.  When that piercing comes, I try to smile and remember all the laughter and joy that he brought to my life and the lives that he touched.  It is my way to deal with the grief that is always with me, so that I don’t live in the darkness that so often accompanies it.

This year we don’t really feel like commemorating the day in some “special” way.  We really want to make it as “normal” of a day as possible, Lord willing.  Our weather forecasters are anticipating a beautiful day.  We have some garden and yard work to tend to, which we can tackle together as a family.  The children asked if we could tent outside on Friday night.  Oh, how I crave to be snuggled in my warm, comfortable bed.  However, Lord willing and weather permitting, we are planning to pitch the tent and bundle up under the stars tonight!  I guess this is our way of trying to redeem the time, keeping to our family and blog motto.

Is this a sign of healing, wanting to experience a “normal” day on the anniversary of the most tragic event in one’s life?  I don’t know, but it feels like a step in a positive direction.  Even so, I can feel the tears swelling just below the surface of my flesh, overflowing from that eternal hole in my heart left there by the passing of Isaac.

Today, I pray for those who are missing their loved ones.  I especially pray for those who are missing Isaac, that special boy whose contagious laughter and energy brought happiness to most everyone who knew him.

(I love you buddy and miss you so very much.  Love, Dad)

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Blessings,

Andy

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2015 in Grief, Spiritual and Emotional

 

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Where’s the fire?

How many times have I intended to write a post, only to not find the determination to follow through?  I even started several of them, but could not seem to find the proper words to bring them to completion.  Being frustrated with my lack of passion to write, and wanting freedom from the duty to try to complete my earlier thoughts, I recently cleaned out my “draft” posts and decided to start afresh.  So here we go…

Spring is almost here.  It is the time of year when the earth brings forth new life and we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior.  It is also the time of year when a dark cloud hangs over the anticipation of a particular date – April 18.  It will be almost three years since our beloved Isaac passed on into heaven.  Even after the long cold winter we experienced, it is still difficult to be fully excited about the change in season, at least until we pass that day.

So, how am I?  Well, I wish I had some fire lit under me to tackle my callings in this life (hence the title of this post).  Most days I feel as if I float through life.  The enthusiasm that I had the first and even second year after Isaac’s death, to turn around the experience to help others, has diminished somewhat.  I still want to share with and help others who are grieving after the death of a child, but it is not my driving force and passion.  Everyday life has returned to – well – everyday life.  I go to work, Brenda home schools the children, we gather together in the evening, and we wrap-up our day.  Then we do it all over again.  Were we supposed to return to this hum-drum routine?  Or, rather, should we not be serving our Lord joyfully through the “normalcy” of everyday life (and not considering it “hum-drum”)?  How long do we have to endure this life?

I think there are really only three things that keep me going these days:  God’s word; the unconditional love and support of my wife and children; and my relationships with close family, friends, and brethren in Christ.  The word of God has been my life support.  If there is one positive from this experience, it is that I have learned to cling to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ, especially when the world offers other means of false comfort and peace.  I realize that there are things about God that I don’t understand, and I am trying to be OK with that (do I really have a choice?).  I wish I had answers to my big questions.  But if God didn’t give Job the answers to his big questions, then I should be content with the same.

Lately, some annoyances in my life have really been getting under my skin. I have been impatient with others and harbored bitterness over some perceived injustices.  I know the Lord calls me to forgive (up to 490 times right?), but doesn’t that only apply to my “brother” and doesn’t he/she have to apologize first?  You see how I rationalize my anger?  Oh yeah, I can be angry, as long as I don’t sin, right?   Anyway, I’m not liking that stinky attitude coming out of my heart.

I hope you don’t mind me just being honest about where I am spiritually.  We could really use your prayers.  I wish I could share some great spiritual insight and breakthrough with you, but it seems that I’m just wandering through the desert land.

On a lighter note, I did want to share a recent family “selfie” below.  Yes, we do have a new dog.  His name is Stride and he appears to be a collie/German shepherd mix.  He is a little over a year old.  We adopted him near the end of 2013.  We have been challenged to get used to Stride’s energy and personality, but things are improving and we are learning to accept each other.  Our previous family dog, Mikey, died suddenly in early October 2013 while we were away on vacation.  That was a very sad experience for us.  Also, our two cats that Brenda and I had from early in our relationship died within a short time frame.  So, the last half of 2013 was a little rough for us as the older generation of our pets all died within a short period.  For us, losing a pet is not nearly the same experience as losing a child, but it is sad and difficult.

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Well, I think I will actually close a post for now!  If a fire kindles underneath me, maybe I will write a little more often in the future (no promises though).

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Andy

 

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Today we remember…

…Isaac’s first life here on earth – September 22, 2000 to April 18, 2011

Isaac "I'm Free"

If I could communicate with Isaac today, I would share something like this:

Hey buddy.  Wow – we really miss you.  We miss your smile and contagious laughter.  We can’t imagine the joy that you are experiencing now.  Though we miss you badly, we rejoice that you are free from the burdens of this world.  Your mama is healing, especially the latter part of this second year.  Your sisters and brother remember you often (especially Isabella :-)).  Your friends and extended family also miss you and offer great encouragement to us even as they grieve.  We really appreciate when they mention your name and share a memory of you.

It is hard to fathom that two years have passed since you left us.  So much has happened.  It is true (as you know now clearer than any of us) that God does work all things together for good to those who are His children.  Not that we are worthy of any of His blessings – it is only because of His mercy and grace.  Though that day and the following months and even the first year were the worst of our lives, we’ve purposed to “redeem the time” for God’s glory.  We’ve formed new friendships and enriched some current ones.  We’ve met other people who are part of a community that nobody would volunteer for.  We encourage each other as we share our grief, memories of our departed loved ones, and learn to trust in God.

We continue to see how much of an impression you left on this world and its people during the short time that you were here.  In your honor, we’ve continued to support the Children’s Bible Clubs so that other children can believe in Jesus just like you did.  We remain inspired by how you sacrificed so that those children could be reached with the Gospel.

These past two years I’ve realized how proud of you I really am.  I don’t know if I adequately told that to you.  I am learning to surrender my regrets to the Lord and learn from them.  I want this experience to mold me into the best Christian, husband, and father possible.  Besides my desire to serve Jesus, I am motivated by my hope to see you again.  We all anticipate that glorious reunion – soon.  As the Good Book says:

“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev 22:20)

I love and miss you,

Dad

Recently, somebody sent this image to us in an email.  After living with grief for two years, I have come to realize this:

Grief Quote

 

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Almost Two Years

calendarToday 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.

Blessings,

Andy

 

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One month ago…

…it was Monday, April 18, the day our lives changed.  That morning, I decided to take the afternoon off of work to finish drying out the basement from torrential rains that occurred on Saturday, April 16.  I thank God that, in His providence, I was home at the moment our lives changed.  On my morning commute to work, I stopped at Lowe’s.  I remember praying in the parking lot for God to provide me exactly what I needed.  When I walked through the doors, there was our pastor!  Once again, God’s providence intervened, for we would come to lean on the support of our pastor and his wife during that evening and the following weeks, including today.  After a brief conversation, I proceeded to the appropriate aisle and found the very last air mover on the floor.  I purchased it along with a new dehumidifier and proceeded to my job.

While I was at work, Brenda and the children enjoyed a good day at home.  They completed their morning school work.  After lunch, while “the littles” were napping, Isaac and Isabella had some “free” time.  Isaac sat in the education/family room drawing pictures.  On the Internet, Brenda found an old radio broadcast titled “Son of Man”.  On the broadcast, four different personalities read the four gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Again, the providence of God that these were some of the last words that his heart meditated on this side of eternity.  Isaac listened to them as he drew and colored some ships.  He wrote the word “dock” on his picture, however he wrote a “b” instead of a “d” (he was known to reverse his letters).  Brenda kind-heartedly pointed out to him that his brain had that “blip” again, to which he chuckled.  Isaac then noted how all four of the gospels said the same thing even though they were written by different people at different times.  Afterwards, he listened to a brief audio version of “Robinson Crusoe” which likely sparked his adventurous imagination.

When I arrived home early afternoon, my wife and children were excited to see me (and I them).  Isaac, Isabella and I then drove over to our neighbor to load wood from a tree that he cut down.  We then unloaded the wood at our house.  Afterwards, I remember seeing Isaac carving on a branch with the utility tool that his friend Aiden gave to him on Saturday.  I unloaded my Lowe’s purchases into our kitchen and unpacked the air mover while Brenda prepared supper.  We looked out the window and saw Isaac climbing the tree adjacent to our playground.  He yelled “look at me” and I replied that “I’ll have to help you down from there.”  I then told Isaac that we had a big box for him to build a castle that he wanted to build, to which he replied “alright.”  Sometime shortly after that exchange, he got down from that tree and made his way to his hideout in one of the pine trees at the top of the backyard.

During the next several minutes, I took the air mover down into the basement and got it set up and running.  The children were between playing in the house and the backyard while Brenda and I were also in and out.  I then decided to run an errand and called for the children.

That is all I can write about it.  I am getting that knot in my stomach again.

We are thankful that the Lord blessed us with a good morning and afternoon together.  We are thankful that some of the last words Isaac heard were the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are thankful that Isaac believed in Jesus Christ with the understanding of a ten-year-old boy.

Still hoping (Rom 8:24-25),

Andy

PS:  We miss you buddy.

 

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