Forever In My Heart

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Every year I think it will be different. I really do. But here I am again with that restlessness in my heart that longs for reunion. The feelings are nothing new ~ they have been my companion along life's journey for almost 20 years. Perhaps it is because February is the month of love. Most likely it is because this short month is characterized by separation and loss for me. I am well aware that if you choose to love, you choose to grief.

And I chose to love, so my heart still grieves the losses marked in these short days of February. I look forward with hope to the blessed reunion with my son, my mother and my father, all of whom entered their eternal rest during the month of love.

I find great comfort in the words of Scripture. The passages which are truly a healing salve to my hurting heart are those that embrace the pain of separation and the reality of loss as part of our journey. As this month draws to a close, I drink deeply from the following words of comfort.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. –Psalm 34:18
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle; are they not in your book? –Psalm 56:8
Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. –Lamentations 3:19-23
Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. –Hosea 6:1

Perhaps the words of St. Paul speak best for me today. It is true these precious losses are part of who I am. Although I grieve the fact that my precious family members are no longer here in person, I know that it is indeed a short time before we will see them again, face to face.

Since we were torn away from you for a short time ~ in person not in heart ~ we endeavor all the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face. –I Thessalonians 2:17

Until then, they remain forever in my heart.

Clinging to Hope

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Bye Scott. I love you. See you at the game.

Bye Mom. Love you too.

I woke this morning with these words echoing in my head. Little did I know on that rushed morning in February 1996 that these words would be our last conversation. Just a little over four hours later,  Scott was airlifted to the regional trauma center, and sixteen short years became the length of his days.

Today begins a hallowed time for our family. Although sixteen years have passed, we remember every detail of these dark days with great clarity ~ as if it were yesterday.

Today I feel my grief in every cell of my body.

Today I long to hear Scott say just.one.more.time – Love you too.

Today I am reminded that no matter how dark and difficult the journey, the God of all Comfort has been my faithful companion. It is He who draws near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit. It is He who replaces ashes with garlands and clothes me with a garment of praise. It is He who has placed eternity in my heart so I have a hope.

Today I cling to hope ~ hope that made it possible for me to take my first steps along this journey of grief. Hope that is rooted in the confidence that God will use my deep pain to glorify Himself and draw others to His Kingdom. Hope that promises to redeem the future.

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out. –Vaclav Havel

The Last Thing We Talked About

I vividly remember the last day of my mother's life. As a family, we sat vigil around her hospital bed. Although she experienced few moments of consciousness ~ when we were aware she was really with us ~ we shared precious words of love and gratitude for her life well-lived. We knew it was her last day and these would be the last things we talked about with her, as her body finally could no longer support life. It was a precious time ~ a holy time ~ to be present as she left her broken earthly tent and enter her eternal rest.

I also remember the final twenty-four hours of my son's life. Scott wanted to hang out and talk about something he had on his mind. We never in our wildest dreams would have thought that it would be the last thing we talked about.

Scott sat in the oversized chair in the living room, his long legs swung over one armrest, and his hands cradled behind his head. He asked a most profound question ~ So, where was Jesus between Good Friday and Easter?  I know his body was in the tomb ~ but where was HE?

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We spent time looking at Scripture. We talked about the Apostles' Creed and the hope that is in us. We talked about Holy Saturday, those hours between His Death and Resurrection. We talked about the Harrowing of Hades when many believe Christ descended to break down the gates of Hell.

Little did we know that it would be the last thing we talked about ~ for the next day, Scott himself would enter his own eternal rest.

Today is Holy Saturday ~ it is the day between the grief of Good Friday and the hope of Easter. And I find myself reflecting upon that final conversation with Scott. Did Scott somehow sense his own mortality? Did the Spirit place these thoughts on his heart, knowing that in God's sovereign plan, Scott's life would soon hang in the balance?

Whatever the reason for that conversation that night, the last thing we talked about now brings a smile to my face and joy to my heart. For it was during these hours, when Christ's body lie in a cold, stone tomb, that Scott's future, my future, indeed, the future of the world, was truly redeemed.

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him ... For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. –I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Mary Did You Know

Good Friday always finds me pondering the sorrow of Mary as she stands near the cross and watches her son in anguish. The weight of grief she carried as the life of her first born slips away. It is perhaps not so strange that during the holiest of weeks I hear the words of that modern Christmas song echoing in my head ~ Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

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As a mother who has laid her son in the arms of God, I lament with Mary. I grieve for this mother who bore a son only to have his life cut short. I weep with this mother who longed to wrap her arms around him one.more.time and tell him how much he is loved.

And yet, I find my own grief overcome with joy because, unlike Mary, unlike those who stood near the cross that day when the sky darkened over Golgotha, I know with assurance what Sunday brings.

In the midst of my longing to fill the void left by the death of my own son, Scott, I find comfort in the words Jesus speaks to his mother from the cross. In his own anguish, he sees her tears and looks down from the cross ~ to meet her in the form of her need, to fill the deep void now created in this mother's heart. The account of the events of Good Friday found in John 19 tells us:

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

As I bend beneath the grief of Good Friday, the hope of Easter lifts me. I embrace the power of the resurrection that brings a glorious reunion with those who have gone before. I hold firm to the promise Jesus taught his disciples about his Kingdom, ushered in by his very death.

You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of me.  John 16:22, 23

May I stand today in awe of the One who sees my sorrow, wipes away my tears, and saves our sons and daughters. May I bow as the Centurion beneath the cross and say ~

Truly this is the Son of God who redeems the future by his sacrificial death, even the death on a cross.

--

Photo: The Pietà (1498-1499) is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture by Michelangelo, housed in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

Redeem : Repair : Restore : Renew

re·deem

verb \ri-‘dēm\

  1. ato buy back. b: to get or win back
  2. to free from what distresses or harms: as ato free from captivity by payment of ransom, b:to extricate from or help to overcome something detrimental, cto release from blame or debt clear, dto free from the consequences of sin
  3. to change for the better: reform
  4. repair, restore
  5. ato free from a lien by payment of an amount secured thereby, b(1)to remove the obligation of by payment, (2)to exchange for something of value, cto make good fulfill
  6. ato atone for expiate, b(1)to offset the bad effect of, (2)to make worthwhile retrieve

Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

What comes to mind when you hear the word, redeem?

One childhood memory immediately comes to my mind. Back in the day, I would redeem my soda bottle for a nickel at the store. I returned the bottle to be reusedrecycled, and refilled again.

 

 

Another image is my mother used to redeem S and H Green Stamps. She redeemed her booklets filled with stamps for free merchandise from their catalog.

Many thoughts come to mind from my faith tradition ~ from the verses in scripture and words of hymns that tell of being redeemed ~ a price paid to free me from the wages of sin and death.

When I started this blog almost three years ago, I knew I would call it, Redeeming the Future. As I looked at the events of my life, I did not want the lean years to devour the rich years. I realized that, like me, there were others who may one day find themselves on a similar journey ~ on a difficult path filled with obstacles that obscured their hope of ever experiencing peace.

What truly comes to mind when I hear the word redeem are two powerful words that are signposts along my journey:

  • HOPE: a strong belief that there is a pathway through difficult times that can bring us to a healing place; a place where we can once again know the joy of experiencing peace
  • TRANSFORMATION: the decision to not be destroyed, but to be transformed by those things that seem to be quite literally more than I can bear

I am not just another Pollyanna ~ an excessively or blindly optimistic person. The message of Redeeming the Future is not a pie-in-the-sky kind of gospel. Redeeming the future does not take away the reality of the pain, loss, and disappointments of the past or the present. But that simple six-letter word ~ redeem ~ provides a new lens through which I can look back at the difficult times with hope, knowing that I can be transformed; I can become stronger in the broken places.

I love the following quote by author Maria Robinson:

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.

And that, my friend, is all about Redeeming the Future.

So, what comes to mind when YOU hear the word, redeem?

Grief's Grip ~ God's Grace

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Today I feel the grip of grief. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to escape its clutch upon my heart. And yet, my soul is not anxious to find a place far from this shadow of death. For it is truly in this dark place, in this wilderness of my soul, that I find God to be so near.

I am no stranger to grief's hold. I have known it now for fifteen years. And over this past decade and a half, I have come to realize that I must eventually surrender to my grief.

In one sense, I find myself asking this today ~ Has it really been 15 years? And then I hear my heart ask ~ Has it really been ONLY 15 years?

I recall so vividly that phone call, fifteen years ago this very hour. I remember the thirty hours of waiting with hope only to be forced to reconcile my heart to the horrific reality of brain death.

Yet, as I reflect on my journey of grief, I can truly say that I am grateful for God's unlimited provision of comfort, grace and peace. He has remained faithful to His Word ~

He keeps count of my tossings and put my tears in His bottle.
Psalm 56:8
He draws near to my broken heart and saves my crushed spirit.
Psalm 34:18
waited patiently for the Lord; He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth,a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:1-3
How blessed I am when I mourn, for I will know God's comfort.
– 
Matthew 5:4

I can rejoice that He does not waste my sorrow. That through the things He has taught me along this path of sorrow, I can say of Scott, as the author of Hebrews said of Abel ~

Though he be dead, he still speaks.
Hebrews 11:4b

And if I can trust Him with this great loss, I can have confidence in His promise of reunion ~

But I do not want you to be uninformed, Bonnie, 
about those who are asleep, 
that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 
For since you believe that Jesus died and rose again, 
even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him 
those who have fallen asleep. 
For this I declare to you by a word from the Lord, 
that you who are alive, 
who are left until the coming of the Lord, 
will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven 
with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, 
and with the sound of the trumpet of God. 
And the dead in Christ will rise first. 
Then you who are alive, who are left, 
will be caught up together with them ~ with Scott 
in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, 
and so we will always be with the Lord. 
Therefore encourage one another with these words.
– 
I Thess. 4:13-18

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Photo: Christ in Agony by Michael O'Brien

Happy Birthday, Scott

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Dear Scott,

Today is your birthday. I remember the day you came into this world on November 23, 1979.  I could never have imagined then that the day would come when I no longer had the joy of your presence in my life.

You would be thirty-one years old today, Scott. I wonder how you would look as a man. What would you be doing with your life? Who would have won your heart and be your wife? How many children would you have? Oh, how much I long to have you still be present in my life.

I remember a few weeks before you died, you came home from babysitting Ciera and Matthew Fry.  You sat down on the couch, put your hands behind your head, and with such an air of confidence, declared, I can't wait to be a Dad!

You loved to spend time with children ~ to play with them, share your faith with them, and teach them things you knew how to do. I remember another night about that same time when you babysat so Dayn and Kati could go out. Garon could not get to sleep that night. You told me you just sat next to him on his bed, rubbed his curly-haired head, and sang Alleluia, because  that is what helped you go to sleep when you were his age. You would have been a great Dad, Scott!

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You have been gone from us for almost fifteen long years. So many years to wait to see you again, and yet, so much time to cherish the memories of your short sixteen years of life. Memories are where the proof of life is stored.  I treasure my storehouse of Scott-memories. I thank God that you left so much proof of your relationship with Jesus Christ that we wait with an assurance and a hope that there will be a blessed reunion, we will see you again.

Your are loved and missed by not only Dad, Amy and I.  You are missed by Jeff.  The song he wrote ~ The Brother I've Yet to Meet ~ shares his desire to have known you and have you be a part of his life now.  Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack miss you ~ we share our memories of you with them, and they love to hear and tell Scott stories.

Kaitlyn asked me yesterday, How old is Uncle Scott going to be tomorrow? I loved that she asked me in the present tense because although you are not physically part of our lives, you are forever part of our lives as we have transformed our relationship with you from one of presence to one of memory.  Kaitlyn knows with confidence that although your life on earth has ended, you are more alive today than ever in His presence.

Perhaps the words of the song by Mercy Me captures the content of my heart today ~ If home is where my heart is, than I'm out of place ... I've never been more homesick than now.

Happy Birthday, Scott.

Love,
Mom

Birthday Blooms

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Last November, for Scott's thirtieth birthday, we added a new plant to Scott's Memorial Garden in our backyard. When we went to the local nursery to make our selection, one of the things we wanted to be certain of was the hardiness of the plant.  Would it withstand the drop in temperatures as fall and winter settle into our valley?  We chose a Camellia Sasanqua with semi-double white flowers and ever-so-slight pink edges. It made a lovely addition in the corner of the garden.

It is November again. Scott's birthday is just a few days away. And fall has finally arrived over night with a wonderful gift of rain. I walked out into the garden this morning to see how the various plants had survived the downpour.

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There in the corner of the garden was Scott's birthday bush ~ covered with blooms, and many buds waiting to open! Little did I realize that this hardy plant was going to bloom each November (as I am really just a poser when it comes to gardening).

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What a wonderful surprise to know that every year on Scott's birthday we will have a display of flowers to say how very much Scott is loved and missed by us all. What a beautiful image as the chill of winter settles in that we have a blessed hope of a glorious reunion.