So, the other night at the Town Center tree lighting, my husband and I were understandably a bit emotional. Beforehand, as we were doing a little dry-run of the words we were going to say, Ryan overheard us talking and looked up from what he was doing in surprise and hurt and said, “what? it’s already been a year? without Gavin?” and as he hid his face in his hands his tears started to pour out. Yep, it’s been a year.
Nicholas on the other hand, who is 10, doesn’t show tears as often, and not usually about Gavin. But I know he is holding it inside somewhere, even though we all talk about Gavin often and it is a given he is painfully missed by all of us. Painfully missed. So how can he not be?
But at dinner afterward, somehow the subject of being in the newspaper came up, and Nicholas started to lose it. Why was he crying, we wanted to know? After all, if we don’t know why he’s crying, we can’t help get rid of the reason. The reason he gave is “because he doesn’t want his picture to be in the newspaper anymore” and of course, at the tree lighting dedication there were photographers, right there in front of us, taking pictures of the family on behalf of the local paper.
Was he worried about creepers seeing his picture in the paper and trying to get him? Was he worried the kids would treat him differently at school? As we talked through it a bit, it occurred to me that the real reason he is probably not wanting his picture in the paper, is because it is one more, lasting visual reminder, that his life is not normal right now, he’s been through something awful, and having your picture in the paper is one more reminder of all the hurt and pain of the last couple of years, and even after having lost Gavin, the pain didn’t end there. All he wants, is for the hurt to end, to be a normal kid with a normal life and have something real to look forward to, and it is super painful to try to be ‘normal’ every day, yet constantly be pulled back into looking at a painful past.
This is where what I’m going to write today gets cringe-worthy – at least for me.
As I tried to put myself into his shoes so I could understand his perspective better, a very vivid memory came to mind. Yes, I remember being 10 years old. I remember thinking I had a whole lot of things all figured out. Yes, I’ve always been smart, and for some reason quick to figure things out. I remember the day of my tenth birthday, and my parents giving me a brand new Panasonic clock radio. I can still see it clear as day in my head! As the day went on, no other gifts came my way, and I had ‘figured out’ that this clock radio probably cost somewhere in the vicinity of $30. Today of course that is chump change, but back in 1979 it was not and in comparison to what I saw my friends being lavished with on their birthdays however, it was just a little token. In my view, the clock radio was nice, but what ELSE was there?? I actually remember saying to my parents, ‘that’s all?” and laying out my case that somehow there should be MORE. Oh, my… an intelligent person so deceived in life as to lay out a case for ENTITLEMENT! (see anyone like that on TV or at a university these days?) Oh, how someone should have laid it all out on the line to help me see my selfishness and ignorance!! Shallowness, sense of entitlement… you name it. But I’m sharing this embarrassingly detestable moment with you because these are the moments that teach the life lessons. The moments that stick with me and keep me humble because I realize what an ignoramus I used to be, and how far Jesus has helped me come, and the love and patience it must have taken in addition to my abject humiliation, because sometimes there is no other way.
Oh, I could tell my dad’s blood was boiling, but instead of giving me the belt for an additional birthday surprise, do you know what he did? he disappeared for a while and returned with something else for me. A pocket sized New Testament in which he had handwritten my name, the date, and numerous chapter and verse references in the Book of Romans. How’s that for a slap upside the head? And with the ultimate authority: the word of God.
At this moment I couldn’t tell you exactly which verses those were (as I can’t put my fingers on that little book right now although I know I just saw it somewhere)… but in reviewing Romans, those verses could have been some of MANY.
“… because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened… Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity… a depraved mind, unrighteousness, greed, evil, envy, strife, disobedient to parents, without understanding… ”
Man, whatever it was, slapped me upside the head, and hard. It shut me up good. For the moment anyway.
But anyway, what is my point with all this embarrassment of myself other than to show what God can do in a life which is EVERYTHING?? How God can strike the most horrible sinner down on the road to Damascus and turn him or her into the most faithful follower of Jesus on the planet, and the next Saul turned into Paul could be YOU???
My point was I guess to illustrate that even though 10 years old is enough to do many things, and they can appear to have it all under control, they still need your guidance, parents. There is still MUCH growth that is happening, and NEEDS to happen, emotionally and spiritually, and in every way. They’re still little, and they need love and attention. Keep them close and be involved in their lives. They need a solid foundation from which to blossom. Don’t leave them alone to do it, because the devil is counting on you to leave your kids alone and to find their own way in life. He wants to keep them away from God so he can lie to them and tell them they’re ‘all that’ and they don’t need God – but it’s not true. The devil is counting on you to be a friend to the world, to “let your kids decide for themselves about God, when they’re older”. So don’t be lazy about it, because if or when they’re fortunate enough to realize it on their own one day, don’t you see they’re going to hold you accountable as they put the pieces together, and wonder WHY you didn’t tell them the truth about life? That the important things aren’t the worldly things, but the things OF GOD? Not the clock radios of life, but the things of the heart?
Yes, we are no stranger to Jesus in our home, but we can do better. We can teach our kids to get closer to Him. With Jesus, our kids are safe – in an eternal way, which is all that matters. For what good does it do to gain the whole world and lose your soul??
As for Nicholas, I think the real reason he was so upset the other night doesn’t have to do with his picture in the paper… it has to do with the feeling that nothing has seemed ‘normal’ since Gavin died. Dan and I need to work on that around here. We asked him if that was the real reason he was upset and then the tears came heavier. Like a relief that we could finally help him with his worry – he just wants to feel he can somehow have a normal life again. Truthfully, we’ve been limping along as a family, trying to find our way through the clouds. But a family is led by the parents. Yes, there may be a silver lining, but to find it might mean letting go of Gavin. And Dan and I don’t want to, even though we know we will have to. Yes, we know he is no longer here with us, but we still don’t want to imagine being a family without him either. As a grown up, in many ways everything you look forward to comes through your children. And to lose one of them along the way brings indescribable feelings that sometimes aren’t able to be reconciled – just managed – and it’s lonely. For EVERYONE. And personal. And few understand. Yet ‘life goes on.’ Primarily, for everyone else but yes, for us too.
OK, I think I’ve RAMBLED ENOUGH for one morning. Thanks for listening to the ongoing saga of grief and gratitude and adjustment and reality of life in a family where one of our children has gone to Heaven long before the rest of us. It’s a struggle to balance one foot “in the world” and the other foot in forever. I share it because someone, somewhere might be helped by understanding they aren’t alone in whatever they’re struggling with, and that Jesus can help you through it.
By the way, to me, it’s been one year TODAY. I know it’s only the 16th, but I will always remember that Gavin went to Heaven on a Monday morning before school, and what it was like having to tell his brothers.
If you feel compelled, would you please say a prayer for our family? We’d sure appreciate it.
Who is the man who fears the Lord?
He will instruct him in the way he should choose.
His soul will abide in prosperity,
And his descendants will inherit the land.
The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.
My eyes are continually toward the Lord,
For He will pluck my feet out of the net.
2 Corinthians 12:9
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord… Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.