We all have dates during the year that are memorable. Some are for good reasons like wedding anniversaries and birthdays. For me, one of those days is getting nearer. As of August 9th approaches, it brings me to another day of remembering. Another year and another anniversary. This year is a little different as I will not be able to personally stand at Josiah’s graveside and look down at the marble marker giving the details of his brief life. Instead, I will be looking at the pictures of the grave marker on my phone and thinking about the past and what could have been.
The reality is, this is the closest I can get to what was my son. The only part of his precious self left here on earth is in a little box under the ground at the base of Mt. Prevost.
Josiah, there were times when I visited you that I would question myself and God and think of the reality of what was underneath me. Standing there, I would stare down at the marble imbedded in the grass, and then close my eyes and look up to the sky towards Mt. Prevost and remember you… and the twenty-four hours we shared together.
Although I do not have any regrets about the things that have happened in my life, I wish I could turn back time, and relive those twenty-four hours again and allow myself to absorb every moment and detail more fully. In your short time, I watched you fight for every breath and today all I can do is treasure them in my heart. In your short time on earth, you did not just make an impact in your mother and my lives, even more, your short time here on earth helped transform us and helped us to become the parents and grandparents we are today.
Looking back, I wish I could remember all of my thoughts and prayers I had for you when we heard you were coming. Like every parent, I had dreams for you and for us as a family. How different my world became on August 9th.
Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been if you continued on your journey here on earth with us. I wonder what your voice would be like today. I wonder if you would be musical like your brother and sister. Would you have been tall? What would you be doing now? Would you be married? Would you have your own family?
And with those questions, other questions about my own life would arise. Where would I be? Would I be still at my old job or would I have taken the steps to go into ministry? Would we have had more children? All these questions with no answers. That is life.
As I write these words, it is amazing how much has changed and how many of those dreams I have forgotten. I think I have written some of these things to you before in my journaling, but today, I cannot remember what I penned. Oh well. Most parents have a tendency to forget things and repeat themselves. Like a Dickensian character, I am destined to visit and revisit these ghosts of the past.
They say hindsight is 20/20. I am not sure how true that is, but if I could relieve that day, some things would have been different. It is not about regret, because the past cannot be changed, but looking back on that day, there is a sense of loss. I might have done a couple of things differently. I would have held you in my arms more than I did and would not leave the room just before you left this earth to find rest for my tired body. I want to feel you in my arms again and hear you breathe.
I wish I could pick up my cellphone and give you a call and see how you are doing. Are you enjoying heaven?
Sadly, I am losing you with each passing year. My memories of that day are becoming greyer and greyer. Many of the details of that day are lost, even the fading memories too few. In a way, I am tired of looking at the same photos frozen in time.
I have my comforts. Your mom, your siblings and your niece and nephews bring unspeakable joy into my life. Others who, like me, have said final goodbyes to a loved one, they help in the mourning and grief. By conversations and in books, and of course the Scriptures, they have poured into my heart. I realize I should be stronger by now. Missing a loved one is part of living in this world of waiting, of being caught between the already and not yet.
C.S. Lewis had this beautiful poem inscribed on the tombstone of his wife, Joy. He wrote: “Here the whole world (stars, water, air, and field and forest as they were reflected in a single mind) Like cast-off clothes was left behind In ashes, yet with hope that she Reborn from holy poverty, In Lenten lands, hereafter may Resume them on her Easter Day.”
When you stop and think about life, it is a strange, wonderful, and frightening journey we are on. For some of us, we are headed to a destination that will be the best reunion imaginable. And all the days we have missed… well, they will not feel painful at all, but only serve as fuel to make the welcome of heaven even more blissfully wonderful than it would be had we not suffered the pain of losing that person.
Sooner or later, we must realize that there are really only two options. You are bereaving someone or you yourself are being bereaved. Jesus prepared us for this reality when He said in John 16:22, “Now you have sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
Son, it is because of this, I can lay down my “whys.” Questions are replaced with hope and assurance. There are times my mind is numb and my heart almost past feeling. But whether I can see or not, I will choose to worship. And wait.