I met Joy when our boys were entering 1st grade. I remember her, standing in the classroom alone, a face beautiful, but also a raw pain to her. A sadness. My friend Lori and I didn't know her ... but the three of us would soon share a deep friendship as we maneuvered our boys through elementary school and the shenanigans that entailed.
We met Joy that day, before the school year began and she shared openly the loss her family was walking through. A month before her world changed forever. She changed me that day.
A family of four. Two boys and two girls. Taylor the oldest had been born with severe special needs and they had just lost him. He was the oldest. The first. The closeness of this family was remarkable. I would learn that Joy loved deeply and did nothing half way. She loved her family well and also her friends.
As we became closer I began to understand the loss of a child, through a mother's eyes. I remembered as a six year old, losing my four year old brother. I knew the the impact this loss would have on the family for years. Forever. My own mother, still finding it hard to talk of the loss, instead, trusting in the future, the hope of Christ and reunion. I get it. The more days I breathe, I get it.
Taylor would never be independent, communicate like others, have a wife or live on his own. Taylor was beautiful and his value was not in what he could give back, but in that he was a child of God, a gift, a human in need of love and care. As we all are.
Life became sweet again for Joy and her family, adding another beautiful girl to their family. Grace is her name. Rob. Mama Joy. Grace. Olivia, Cidnee and Christian... the other son. The one who became friends with my Dan. Christian, who loved dinosaurs... so much! The one who had a gentle kindness to him. The one who was bright. Really bright. The one who was funny, really funny. The one you could not be mad at. The one my husband would say, "Hey little Christian Sheehan!" Christian would respond in his husky little boy voice, "Hey, little Bobbie Coleman!" The boy who slept at our house more nights than I can count. The boy who grew up and offered that kindness and hope to all that he met. The one who had plans...
And then... sorrow came calling last week.
My heart grieves. Gulp. Tears. A wailing cry that sometimes is so deep it cannot be heard from his mama.
It was Saturday before Easter. Bob and I were reading the Easter story. The true story of Hope. I had a vision as he was speaking... this life is a vapor. I know that. I see our kids as little ones and now adults. I know we have been afforded extra time with them, a closeness I thank God for. Some parents do not get this. I know. I also know the days are numbered as we follow our paths. I am okay with this. It is how it should be.
Bob and I are talking Jesus and I speak, "Someday, in the blink of an eye, this will be over and you and I will meet again in heaven and we will be rejoicing." He nods. He gets it. I mention the foolishness of the things we concern ourselves with, the worries. He nods again. He knows.
We finish our devotions. We pray together. He leaves the room. My world shifts as a friend from the home on the prairie we raised our children and grew deep roots calls. There was a fire early this morning, sobs, Christian was in that house. The house he rented. No! Sobs. Bob hears. No!
Joy! God... why?! Why God... how do you expect her to do this?! Really God?! I don't understand!
He has not answered. He has given no reason. He is God. He knows things we will never understand and He calls us to Him, for trust, comfort, the peace that passeth all understanding. He weeps with us. He is still a Good, Good Father.
But... grief is hard, long, heavy and some moments, unrelenting.
The husband, son and I go home to them and we cry and hug and pray. Grief comes in waves... it is not measured by days, but in breaths. I have come to the conclusion that life is made up of glimpses of joy, tucked among the tragedies. We must handle with care, celebrate the joys, but hold loosely.
We watch and listen as friends speak the beauty of Christian's life, his kindness. He has left the world a better place... that is clear to all. We have witnessed God at work through this, and the ache has not left. The loss will always be there... and always theirs. His mom, dad and sisters. I do not understand this...
But I tell you one thing I know... This is not the end of the story! This is not Christian's end of his story. It is his beginning. On that Saturday morning before Easter. Before we celebrated the greatest gift ever given to humankind... Christian arrived home. His true home. Not one of make believe, pretend, gee, I hope its true!
No, he arrived at the destination he was intended for, in the arms of his Father God. A place where he will truly live in complete freedom. Heaven is real my friend and God lives there and He invites all of us to come and dine and live with Him. That is the hope that is real.
"But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” 1 Corinthians 2:9
We believe in a God of complete authority, grace and love for His children. A God who has a plan that is good, even when our humanity questions it. We know deep down that He is a Good, Good Father. It's who He is... even when we are face down in our tears. Our doubts and trembling do not diminish His love or plan for us. He is bigger than our fears.
"My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14: 2-4
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children." Revelation 21:4-7
My friend Joy is in pain. Not a pain for Christian. She knows the Truth of God's Word. A mothers grief runs deep, but God is more powerful than anything known to man... even that! So we shout from the rooftops, the words of John 10:28 "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."
At Christian's service, we sang Jesus Loves me, It Is Well With My Soul, Amazing Grace and at the very end... Dancing in the moonlight by King Harvest, which was his favorite and is also my all time favorite song. Amidst my tears, it made me giggle to realize Christian loved this old song. Bob looked at me and smiled at the song... he knew.
Christian... until we meet again my friend, we will continue to dance in the moonlight and think of you, sweet boy. We will love your parents and sisters well and remind them to keep looking up as we know you are dancing with Joy.