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Friday, January 4, 2013

The Celebration of a Life

  • Inspired by the song, "Go Rest High on that Mountain" by Vince Gill

His son was sick from what seemed like infancy.   When Thomas’s son had been born, tears flowed freely from his eyes.  The day he took his son home from the hospital was a marked occasion.

Barely past the time of infancy, seemingly shortly after the time his son learned to walk, a sickness surfaced which would debilitate his son for the rest of his time on Earth. 

One weekend, when he was home from work spending time with his wife and son, the onslaught of his son’s illness became apparent.  Joshua had learned to walk and had begun to speak.  The heart-wrenching love which Thomas felt for his son represented a feeling of love so deep that he had never imagined that he would feel.  He pushed his son on a bicycle in their backyard, relishing the smile on his son’s face.  He and his wife savored the love for their son in a way young parents usually do.

The sky was overcast that day.  There were no eminent storms threatening, but the gloom of the day blocked out the sun.  It was a contradictory backdrop to what they emotionally felt to be a serene day.  He pushed his son’s bike and his son sped slowly away for five or ten yards and fell off his bike.  It would have been an innocuous memory if not for the startling revelation that it brought to light.  As he lifted his son off the ground, he noticed a bruise that was far too pronounced for the minor fall.  At the time he did not let himself be preoccupied from the incident.  Although the bruise seemed much too distinct, he lifted his son off the ground and placed him back on top of his bike.  They continued their play activities for a short time to come without significant emphasis put upon the event.

Thomas and his wife cherished their son Joshua.  The precious love that they felt for him was almost more than they felt for each other.  Thus, when the bruise did not go away after a few short days, they became very concerned.  A week passed and another week passed and the contusion, which had barely left a mark, worsened.  It began to swell and puss.  They concern turned to worry and they thought it best to take their son to the doctor with what they prayed was only the nervousness of new parents.

In the waiting room they noticed many other parents with their children.  Some were there with a stuffy nose or flu symptoms while others were there for their shots.  Their worry lessened in their hope that the minor bruise that would not go away would soon be discovered to be trivial in nature.

The startling revelation which shocked and invoked pain and fear to their souls would soon be pronounced.  Their son was facing childhood leukemia in a progressed stage.  Although there was a chance of survival, the chances were not good.  The doctor said, with the requisite demeanor, that their son could expect two, maybe three more years of life.

The tears flowed freely.  The emotions got the best of both of them.  They did not know how to tell their son of less than five years and they were not even sure that he would understand.  As the doctor said the words, “Two, maybe three years can be expected” they let their tears fall in a dignified manner.  The doctor recommended medicine and chemotherapy, but acknowledged that these treatments would not cure Joshua’s disease; they would simply prolong his life.

That night, when they got back to their house, they put their son to bed quietly and with care.  Thomas and Julie had a very important conversation.  They were not wealthy, but they both worked very hard and they were well-off. 

“If Joshua only has three years left, I want to make them the best for him as they can possibly be,” Thomas told his wife Julie.  They whole-heartily agreed on this point, but did not know how to make the three years as special as they would like.

“I can quit my job so I can spend more time with Joshua,” she said.  “But, we need to have at least one of us working.”

They discussed the subject all-night.  They decided to put all other aspects of their life on hold as they celebrated their son’s life.  Thomas would work, but spend every weekend with his son.  He would take advantage of every vacation day and sick day from work to rejoice in the life of his son.

Two years later, his son was in a short stage of remission.  They lived in Seattle, but they decided to take the trip to Southern California to visit Disneyland in what they agreed would be a highlight in the life of their young son.  Thomas was able to get a week off of work to mark the occasion with a three day pass to the park and a survey of other tourist attractions in the area.

As they walked their son down Main Street in Disneyland hand in hand, he looked up at them with a grin of glee and amazement.  The smile on their young son’s face once again almost caused tears to escape from their eyes.  They rented a room in the nearby hotel so they could share with Joshua every attraction of the park.  They rode all the rides with him and they enjoyed his enchantment from the lights of the Electrical Light Parade

That was three years ago.  His son had proved the doctor wrong by two years, but such triviality of thinking did not make the wounds lessen. 

They sat with the rest of their extended family in church that day.  The preacher welcomed Joshua’s soul into heaven and their tears did not subsist.  The rest of the family, not nearly as close to Joshua, also expressed sentiment for the occasion. 

Nearing the end of the ceremony, after the preacher had concluded his memorial, and after Thomas had spoken words in remembrance of his son, Julie stood in front of the church to say goodbye to their son.

“Nine years ago,” she began, “Our son was born into the world.  To Thomas and me the occasion was momentous in itself.  The heart-wrenching emotions we felt were more than we had ever known.  From his first smile, our love for him grew stronger.  With his first step and first word, the love was palpable.”

She continued, attempting to not let the emotions take control of her.  “Barely longer than four years into his young life, we learned that God was going to take our child from us.  Rather than feeling resentment, we took it as an opportunity to celebrate a life.  It was with this outlook that we faced our son’s illness.  The time that Thomas and I were able to spend with our son will be close to our hearts forever.  It will not be a memory of bitterness, but a memory of joy.”

She concluded her words about their young son.  As the crowd walked out of the church, Thomas and Julie realized that it was truly a celebration of a life.  Their young son was indeed in heaven now with God.   Joshua had died far too early in life, but the feelings of adoration for him would never die.


Rebecca Mealey said...

This is a very touching story. Sadly, I am sure it will sound familiar to too many. It is bittersweet in the way that the parents knew he be dying. Great writing!

Sandra Tyler said...

hard to swallow. I have a nine year old. I worry most about something happening to me. You don't think about things happening to your children. but they do.

Anonymous said...

First of all I really like Vince Gil and that song.

This made me think about all the children that were murdered at Newtown, CT and what their parents must be going through.

Thank you for sharing.

MaryA said...

Loved the story, very well told and touching. My only question, who is Anthony who died. I thought the son was Joshua.