|Photo by Cindy LaJoy, April 23, 2011|
There is darkness, there are times when we walk through valleys barefoot and naked, our souls seemingly uncovered...exposed...without the protective covering of cloth-like propriety. We wretch, we scream from our guts, we repel from tenderness for fear it will be the single word or touch that will break down that last vestige of strength that is helping us make it through. In those bleakest of moments, the chaotic winds of emotions have us both yearning for connection and crying out for solitude.
There can be no pain that cuts as deep as having a child precede us in death. It is out of the natural order. To give life only to stand by helplessly at a hospital bedside as that life force gradually takes leave forever alters our understanding of life and death, our perception takes on a clarity previously unknown.
Our nephew's death has left a Jake-sized hole in the heart of his family. Nothing will ever fill it, we all know that. 24 years of memories were strewn across the hearth in the form of family photos, mementos, stuffed animals...tangible pieces of a life well lived, never to be forgotten.
A mother sits at a table, supported in her sorrow, surrounded by those other sons who have entered her life through marriage as a guitar strums, songs gently carry on the desert wind as her voice lifts in praise of a God that still...even still...is with her.
A father, shoulders bent with the burden of occasional doubt and aching for the loss of his ever-present companion, swings aside his brother, both grown and graying, each so very similar in their undying love for the children God has entrusted them with. They speak softly of the things men speak of at times like this...the "doing", the "did", the "should have's".
The sisters curled up close on the couch, silent in their togetherness, drawing comfort from the familiar that harkens back to childhood. Amidst the drums and the weights, there in their brother's domain they seek out the assurance without a word. We are still family, we are still here, we are still one...and his spirit still remains.
There are the other players, the aunts and the uncles who've traveled from afar, whose presence is a temporary distraction from the finality that is approaching, the day when they lay their baby to sleep under a blanket of God's good earth. The honesty, the willingness to laugh while tears still stream unchecked, the certainty that Jesus holds their child now that they can not, all of it is a testament to the One Love that has always tied this family together. God is, God was, God always shall be. Forever. When their ground has been shaken with a trembling unlike any they have ever felt before, they find solid ground and safety in that.
I leave you with Jake's favorite quote from his Facebook page. If only the world could see the God he saw and now resides with:
"Many people think that the mark of an authentic Christian is doctrinal purity; if a person's beliefs are biblical and doctrinally orthodox, then he is a Christian. People who equate orthodoxy with authenticity find it hard to even consider the possibility that, despite the correctness of all their doctrinal positions, they may have missed the deepest reality of the authentic Christian life. But we must never forget that true Christianity is more than teaching - it is a way of life. In fact, it is life itself. "He who has the Son has life," remember? When we talk about life, we are talking about something that is far more than mere morality, far more than doctrinal accuracy. " - Ray C. Stedman
Jake lived that life, his family lives that life, and even in their darkest hour, they have a peace that eases their bruised and battered souls. As I sit here gazing into the sleeping faces of the five we hold so dear, I know that they too are God's. We will hold them close, we will guard them with all our heart, but they are not ever truly ours, they are God's. Cast aside all arguments about doctrine, denomination or dogma...for in the end, none of that is as important as knowing you are God's beloved.