Our last Christmas with Joey, 2007
This is the fifth Christmas since my son went to Heaven. It doesn't seem possible. I still miss him every day, and long for him to be here with us as we celebrate our family traditions. His loss is still a knife in my heart. I make myself go through the process now, but there is a gaping void where he used to be.
After he grew up and left home, he was always the surprise package on Christmas eve. Joey would tell us he couldn't come home for some credible reason, and then he and his dad would secretly set up plane tickets. On Christmas eve, my dear husband would think up some excuse to leave the house, make a quick jaunt to the airport to pick up Joey, and Voila! Surprise! there he would be on my doorstep. I miss the big arrival scenes, the joyous laughter, the big wrap-around hug, and the adventurous stories of how he got there after all.
Joey, apres-ski relaxing
And he always had a story. One year, on the plane home, he had a rather large woman with an unruly child sitting in the window seat next to him. He said the woman squeezed into her seat, put her headphones on, closed her eyes and unofficially turned the childcare over to him for the flight! The child sat on his tray table, ate his food, climbed over his shoulders, thumped the people in front of them, and trampled the laps of the other strangers around them --as the mother resolutely slept through it all. I am sure there was plenty of non-verbal communication between him and the flight attendants, because they kept a sympathetic eye on him throughout the flight, bringing him whatever would help ease his pain. As he disembarked, they patted him on the back, consoled and congratulated him. They were obviously impressed by the fortitude of this young man. When he got home, he took a deep breath, and poured out this story, including all the gory diaper details and facial expressions. We loved every drop of it.
When Joey was home, it was as if the lights went on. He was a charmer, that boy of mine, and an entertainer, a comedian and an agent of good will-- a happiness bringer. He was attuned, aware, alive, and a giver. He was something special and wonderful. And we all knew it.
We ruled the world then. Everything was good. We thought life was manageable and in our control. We thought it would be an endless stream of successes, happy vacations and surprise parties. We had not met crushing loss then, nor deep unremitting sorrow; nor had we known the heavy darkness of night weighing down on us, making it difficult to breathe.
It was the world "before", and now we live in the world "after". Perhaps we were lucky to have such a shallow view of suffering, but I am pretty sure we were not better people for it. Are we better now? I hope so, and wish it to be so, but I will not guarantee it. We are still a work in progress.
2012 has been the most difficult year for us since 2008. Just when we thought we were getting steady in our boat, we have been hit by wave upon wave of loss and disappointment this year. And with it, the attendant discouragement, frustration, stress, powerlessness, and struggle. We have wrestled with stubborn circumstances far beyond our ability to control or influence. And we seem to be our same old weak, frail, human selves, and not the exemplary overcomers we wish to be. Alas.
In our quest to redeem suffering, to be wiser than before, to be beyond weakness, we find ourselves still very much in need of a Savior. But the good news is: He is there. Our "Beautiful Savior, King of Creation. Son of God and Son of man" is there. Arms open wide, gracious, reassuring, strong where we are weak.
Our hope at Joey's death, and our hope in this year of great travail, continues to be our Beautiful Savior. Though we cannot bring back our son, and we cannot bring back the "before", and we cannot control our circumstances, or others or even ourselves at times, He can and will do it all.
He is our Hope. Our Christmas wish to you is to find the same hope we have found in our Beautiful Savior.
Romans 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.