moving on


Posted on November 24th, 2008 by Abby.
Categories: Our Journey, Our Journey (chronological).

A week and a half ago John and I picked up the document stating that James’s cemetery site was paid for. We were very close to his spot, but we didn’t have time to visit him because I had to meet someone at my new school so I could move into my classroom. It felt wrong to rush off to the next thing, and ultimately it feels like a betrayal to be leaving him behind at all. Going back to work is like turning my back on our time together. It feels like I am walking out on a vigil I am supposed to keep. I loved teaching, and I missed it when I left, but I didn’t want to come back to it like this.

The day before I went back to work, John and I spent time at James’s site for the first time together since we chose it the day after he died. On that day the tropical storm had refreshed the lakes and created new pools all over the cemetery, and I had cried so much my contacts had clouded over and I could barely see. This day was sunny and cool, and the tears still came, but they aren’t the continual stream they used to be. I think my vision has cleared, too, and not just my eyesight.

We snapped off the pansy seed pods, brushed the dirt off his photo, and talked to him a little while. John remembered his beautiful smile and his ready laugh of “Hmmm!” Lizards stalked stiffly along the shady crevices of the marble slabs. I thought how James would have enjoyed them.

Recently I read that one of James’s HPE blog-buddies turned five this month. Hopefully everyone reading this can appreciate what a milestone that is! Ryland has the same degree of HPE that James had, severe semilobar, with a new problem of possible seizures. Ryland’s mom described her idea of a wonderful day, and I could completely identify: seeing him smile, not being in the hospital, watching him learn something new, or hearing a doctor’s good report.

That was my life, too. It felt so limited at the time, but there was a heightened joy and hope and thankfulness that was the flip side of the sadness and pain of disability. I miss that life. That complicated, exhausting, intense, but beautiful life of singleminded service.

I don’t want to move on, but I have to.

garden of reflections


Posted on November 10th, 2008 by John.
Categories: Meditations on Scripture, Our Journey, Our Journey (chronological).

There seems to be less to say these days, for the same reason our camera seems to have less pictures on it. We still remember things vividly, especially as annual events cycle past (our big church picnic, Halloween, a friend’s daughter’s birthday party) and we reflect on how things were so different a year ago. The memories are fresh, but a lot of the zest is missing from the present. We go through the motions of our former lives, but without James or Dora, things feel more subdued.

In truth, it isn’t because we have nothing more to say that we haven’t been updating the blog very recently. Abby is trying to write a book about our children and some of the things we’ve learned. We don’t know a thing about finding a publisher or anything like that, but God has clearly indicated that she’s supposed to be doing this, and we believe that the rest will follow. One of the most recent confirmations is a check we received in the mail on Friday. It was our payment for allowing one of my early blog posts to be published in a compilation volume. We’ll put up a link when the book is in print.

On October 27, all of James’s grandparents came down for a special time of remembering James at his graveside inurnment service. Although it is just a physical place, and not really where James is right now, James has a little blue box inside a niche in a shady section called the Garden of Reflections at All Faiths Memorial Park a few miles from our home. Something about seeing the caulk applied to the niche to seal it shut before the marble wall was bolted on was difficult for me; I can’t explain why. It was so final. I know he’s not in there, but it seemed so sad nonetheless.

Abby’s dad planted some pansies in a planter which we were able to put in front of the niche – white to represent the innocence of an infant, and blue to represent a heavenly home we believe he is resting in. Adorning the planter are a plastic bee to stand for one his first toy friend, a plastic truck to stand for one of his later toy friends, a little jack-o-lantern to remind us of how photogenic he was this time last year. Also we placed a little picture of James, because it seemed incomplete without a smile.

I wish I could remember all the things the grandparents shared about James. I know they talked about how engaging he was, how courageous, and how attentive. How his sweet character and focus on others was so unusual for a child. They shared some favorite memories, and we all cried because we missed him so much. When there was no more to say, we read these scriptures and tried to focus on the hope of eternal life, the goodness of God, and his love for those like James:

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
“See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 19:13-15, 18:10

 [Jesus said,] “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. 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.” – John 14:1-3

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. – 1 Corinthians 15:42-44

 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
      for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
      for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called sons of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:3-10

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. – Isaiah 40:10-11

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. – Romans 8:18-21

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:28-32  

The overall theme that we wanted to convey during the service and the lunch we shared afterwards was from John 12, when Jesus tells his disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Not that we mean to compare in any real way the death of our son and the death of the Savior of all mankind, but our hope, just as we’ve hoped ever since we started this blog, is that something about James and our testimony as his parents would be a seed of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ for anyone who is searching for one. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

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