We love to see majestic oaks and drink in the beauty of the curving branches and sit beneath the shade of their spreading canopy. It takes decades for these mighty trees to grow large enough to command attention. Harsh weather forms the branches into lovely shapes pleasing to the eye.
They stand as a testimony to endurance and strength.
Thirteen years before Dominic’s accident and death, God gave me this scripture when naming our farm-Isaiah 61:1-3:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
At the time, I focused on the glorious picture of finished oaks of righteousness.
In these months after our son’s death, I have begun to understand that the path to displaying the splendor of the faithfulness and father-heart of God is one of mourning, ashes and despair. Unless I am willing to die to my idea of what life should be and what God should do, I can’t be transformed into the fruit-bearing vessel of grace He intends me to be.
It isn’t easy. I’m still working to embrace this every day-I continue to rail against the fact that this is my life-but grace is seeping into the broken places.
I trust that God will continue to sustain me by His unfailing love and that one day I will be able to stand as a testimony to faithful endurance and the power of His strength.
No child grows up in the SAME family because the addition of another child CHANGES the family. So does the subtraction…
We all miss him.
But each in our own way.
A family isn’t just the sum of its parts.
It isn’t a simple equation that can be worked out on a chalkboard or around a dinner table-this person plus that person equals two persons.
A family is an organic mixture of personalities, relationships, strengths and weaknesses that exponentially influence one another.
I always joked that our family was a ready-made committee. Wherever we went we brought a fully staffed, action-ready army of six that spread out and triumphed over whatever challenge we faced.
The last great task we conquered together was burying Dominic.
Our family has been diminished by more than one person.
We have lost the unique relationship that each of us had with him, lost the added strength that those relationships wove into the fabric of our lives. There are gaping holes everywhere.
Some people say that on earth we can only see the ugly underneath of the beautiful tapestry God is making of our lives.
That’s probably true.
But I long to get a glimpse of what loveliness is to be wrought from these threads.
Sundays are both good and hard…good because I am with other people who believe that this life is not all there is and hard because to many of them it is still only a belief, not the lifeline they cling to for the next breath, the next heartbeat and the next step.
I’m thankful that in our country, relatively few parents bury children, but burying mine has put an invisible wall between those that can quote “all things work together for good” because they found a parking place close to the store in the rain, and me-who will have to wait until I reach heaven to see the ultimate good of my son’s untimely death.
The ugly truth is that while I wait in hope and with faith, I want my son back. I want my family restored. I long to see all four of my children once again around the table-laughing, fussing and sharing life together.
I trust in the Lord’s promise of redemption and restoration.
But the valley I walk in the meantime is hard and lonely. His Word sheds light on my path but does not fully dispel the inky darkness of grief and pain. I walk in half-lit places, stumbling on, clinging to Him. I long for the sunshine of heaven.
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
Just a few months before Dominic was killed, this hoarding homeschool mama decided that it was time to finally give up some of the thousands of pages of handwritten, color-crayoned papers stacked in the attic, the storage building and floating in corners and crevices throughout the house.
Four children and twenty-two years of teaching them at home had produced a mountain of memories. I began to sort through the ones I deemed “most important to keep” and “everything else”.
Several loads were taken to the dump and tossed unceremoniously onto the trash pile.
It felt like freedom.
Now it feels like regret and longing.
Because what I have left of the physical presence of my son is represented in the scraps I have kept-the clothes, the notes, the scribbled comments in the margins of his notebooks and college texts.
I hear his voice in the tweets– his wit and wisdom, cynicism and societal critique.
Sometimes I hold them and think of the boy,the teen,the man who wrote them.
Sometimes I hurry past because thinking of who he was and feeling the absence of who he would be right now is too great to bear.
I wish he had left more voice mails-
I don’t erase them anymore.
From the start, if you didn’t want Dominic to do something, you couldn’t let him see you do it. One glance and he memorized the steps to turn on the TV, the computer, the video player (yes, he was a child of the 90’s). If he saw his dad use a hammer, the first chance he got to lay hands on one found him pounding away. He was always up for being first.
I never thought he would be the first to get to heaven.
On April 12, 2014 my third born child, in the prime of his life, fit and healthy, strong and lovely, died in a motorcycle accident.
No warning. No good-bye.
Here one instant, gone the next. He was twenty-three and less than a mile from his apartment.
There are no words for the moment when your world is changed from what you imagine it can be to the unbearable reality of what it is. The ache that begins in your gut and spreads to edges of your soul. “My child is dead.” You must repeat it to yourself because it cannot be true. But it is.
I am a bereaved mother and join the millions of women who have buried a child. It is no place for a mama-standing by her child’s grave.
This is not the life I would choose but it is the one I have been given. I am learning to walk this new way, with this burden of grief on my shoulders. God is still God and I will choose to remember that.
“Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him;” Job 13:15