July and August bring more birthdays to our family, namely our middle son, Travis, who was born on a beautiful summer morning, filling my heart and life with sunshine. Except for his full head of strawberry blond hair and his sky blue eyes, he looked remarkably like his four-year-old brother, Aaron, who could hardly wait for Travis to be old enough to sleep in the same room with him. That never came to pass.
Within three months of that glorious summer day, I stood at my son’s graveside. No one anticipated his death, not even doctors. It was sudden, numbing and the most heart-wrenching thing I have ever experienced. The days that followed were like a fog. It was as if someone else was walking around in my body, doing what had to be done. One of my lifelong friends attended the funeral and I barely recognized her. Death of a loved one does that to you.
It also brings out our ability to offer comfort. I don’t remember much of what others said to me, but their actions are etched in my heart forever. One friend came to my home, hugged me, then asked, “Do you want me to fix your hair?” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized my hair actually needed to be washed and combed. She gently tended to my needs. Others brought food. Some just sat and cried with me. Most embraced me and said, “I love you.” That was enough.
That’s what comforting others is about. Many of you reading this understand because you have traveled that sad and lonely road. Oh, your story is a little different. Your child may have been younger, older or even grown. It doesn’t matter.
Whatever the age, it is never a natural thing for a parent to bury a child. It’s not supposed to happen that way. Yet it does. Everyday. A car wreck, accident, illness, war… many things take the lives of our children and we join a unique fraternity of kindred souls without our consent.
There was a time in my grief when I wondered if life could go on—if I would ever be happy again. For those of you whose grief is raw and are wondering the same, the answer is yes. Not only can life go on, it can actually be productive and joyful.
You will miss your child forever but the grief will become more bearable. Will you find answers as to why this happened? Probably not. I never did, and eventually, I quit asking.
That’s when I found peace. When I was able to place my pain, anger, bitterness and tears in God’s hands and say, “I don’t understand but I choose to trust you anyway,” then life changed from black and white to color again. Over the years, I have found purpose and real happiness and God has even used me to comfort the hearts of others through my writing and speaking.
So, on my son’s birthday, you will find me singing “Happy Birthday” and launching a bright colored balloon toward heaven with a message that says, “Travis, I Love You!” Maybe you would like to do the same for your loved one. As the balloon soars toward heaven, let it lift and carry away some of your grief and pain.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3 (Holy Bible, NIV)