Christmas Without You
In May of 1996 my oldest son died just before he would have been 26 years old. It was a devastating loss coming only six weeks after losing my mom to a stroke and eleven months after losing my dad to lung cancer. Somehow their deaths were more bearable, but losing my child was testing every ounce of faith I had in my Heavenly Father. Christmas was approaching and I was not anxious to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child with my own child no longer with me.
I tried very hard to keep things as normal as possible for the other six children but I wasn't having much success. My heart was so broken that it was nearly impossible to be filled with Christmas joy. My daughter-in-law, Laurie graciously let me have my grand-daughter Gabby for several days before Christmas.
That particular year our church Christmas pageant was based on all the symbols of Christmas. Each of the symbols were placed at the altar and the children were to read passages of scripture referring to the symbol. Evergreens represented eternal life, snow represented purity and red roses represented the blood of Jesus that was shed to provide salvation and forgiveness of sins. We supplied a dozen long stemmed red roses for the service that were placed in loving memory of Jay. After the service we brought the roses home to eventually place on Jay's grave.
It was shortly before I was to leave and take Gabby home to Delaware that I suggested we take the flowers to her Daddy's grave. Being almost three, Gabby didn't want to just lay the flowers on the grave - we had to 'plant' them. We dug holes and she 'planted' each of ten roses. Now you must picture this grave. Being on the top of a mountain in Central Pennsylvania it had very little grass and was mostly covered with shale and rock. There was only the little identification marker that the funeral home had supplied because his headstone couldn't be placed until the spring thaw. And amidst the dirt, shale and rock were ten long stemmed red roses standing tall and proud scattered all over the grave site. As she was beginning to tire of 'planting' I suggested to Gabby that we place the other two roses on the ground over 'daddy's heart' and it would be like her and mommy when they used to snuggle on the couch together with her daddy. She liked the idea and placed them in the appropriate place.
I stood there for a while, overcome with grief and when I composed myself said, "Gabby, it's time to tell Daddy good-bye." I had been unable to lift my eyes from the grave but at the word good-bye had glanced up at her to check her reaction. Expecting her to look down at the grave I was startled when she tossed her long red hair back and gazed up into the sky. With the biggest smile on her little face she began to wave at the Heavens and called out, "Daddy! Daddy? I'm going to go now! Good-bye Daddy! I love you! I'm going to come to Heaven when I die so I can be with you and Jesus! Look at your grave Daddy. I made it pretty just for you cause I love you! Bye Daddy!" And with that she blew him kisses.
As I stood there looking at this adoring child gazing Heavenward toward her Heavenly Father and her Earthly Father I heard the voice of God say to me, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen." I realized that I had been looking for Jay where he wasn't to be found.
Filled with peace and awe at my Heavenly Father's love for me, I took Gabby's hand and we went home to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.