I just read a tutorial for bloggers suggesting reader-centered-what’s-in -it-for-me writing. Usually that’s what I do, but not today. Instead this will be a window into the state of the heart of the Cave family. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
This last year has been the most emotionally challenging of our lives. A year ago this time everything was pretty normal, with two girls off at college, Annie gearing up for her senior (high school) basketball season, Michael finishing his first year of JV/Varsity football, and all the busyness of a big family at a fun stage of life.
You never know what a day may bring forth. Last November 14th, 2010 our family went to church, drove to Columbia, S.C. to have a picnic lunch with my wife’s cousins, career missionaries, before they returned to Kenya and Ethiopia. The second cousins enjoyed playing football after lunch, the picture of health and happiness. The next day Michael, just shy of age 15, was ill with what appeared to be a virus; the next day was in the local ER, and then in Children’s Hospital; by Friday night he had died from hemolytic anemia.
Neither Beth nor I worried about his destiny, for he looked to Jesus in faith from a young age. Had such not been the case, he had as much opportunity for last minute preparation as for fastening his seat belt after impact. He was in an induced coma the last two days. We were not prepared for Michael’s death but he was. In a journal entry in middle school he wrote that if he could meet and talk to anyone, past or present, he’d like to meet Jesus!
I love that boy whom Beth described as one who had all my strengths without my weaknesses. Part of that is due to rose colored glasses through which we view those who have passed; part of it is parental pride; part is that image-bearers of God reflect the Creator. When we hosted dinner guests and the meal was over, he always stayed for the adult conversation. His pallbearers were two men with whom we hunt, his football coach, his youth leaders, and a mechanic with whom he had done “car care Saturdays” for single moms since a boy.
He was very mechanical, a great wing shot and gifted soccer player, had outstanding reading comprehension, and could speak well. He related well to everyone and routinely took initiative. He loved his mother. He left a big hole in our family…a big, big hole.
A midwife friend, who delivered most of our children, pinpointed the grief: “Our children are our dreams and aspirations”. Children are, “the message we send to a generation we will never see”, the means by which we touch the future. But which future? Before, the “future” was limited to the future of this current earth and generations that will occupy it. But now I see a horizon beyond the horizon. (Motivated by wanting to know more about where this precious boy is, I’ve studied Heaven, by Randy Alcorn.) It has raised my vistas from the temporal to the eternal in a way that could have never happened otherwise.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. II Cor. 4:16-18
We’ve got a consolation that’s a dream come true. Unless Easter and all the Church stands for is the greatest hoax ever foisted on humankind, we’ve only got a hiatus. Because we have a Savior, “I haven’t lost him (I know where he is) rather I’ve lost contact with him” (Alcorn)…and even that, but for a season. There’s going to be a very noisy day in our future when the “cells dissolution will be reversed, the molecules be reknit, and the amino acids be rekindled” (John Updike). Michael’s spirit will reoccupy his resurrected body and we will have our first reunion in the sky. I Thes. 4
Before Michael’s death, I anticipated an annual camping/hunting trip which always had to end. Now I’m anticipating exploring a new heaven and new earth, similar to but far superior to this sin-scarred earth, Eden-like without sin’s taint. The best is not behind us; it is yet to come.
So we still cry, but we grieve with hope, not despair. My tears are pretty brief these days before hope’s infusion pushes them away. I’m now one year closer to hugging that precious son again. This earthly life will never be the same for me. Before, most of my treasure was here. Now I’ve got more treasure in heaven, and a big part of my heart has followed.