I took the shirt out of the dryer.
I shook my head with a half-smile/half-smirk on my face and thought, "the one thing that hasn't changed in the last seven years is a tee- shirt. A twenty dollar tee-shirt."
I bought the shirt for Ethan a couple of months before he was hurt. It was the color of his eyes.
He loved it, or else he would have never have worn it. He's always been like that. Only wearing what he loved. Only wearing what felt good.
Ethan wore the shirt the Thanksgiving before. Ten days before his life, and our lives, changed forever.
Standing in front of the dryer, holding the shirt, my breath was taken away as a flood of loss swept over me. I was drowning in one wave after another. Each wave had in it something that had been lost in the last seven years.
I couldn't breathe. I was drowning.
And then I remembered Psalm 103:2.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not His benefits."
I remembered His gifts. I remembered to give thanks.
Hurt has the potential to blind us to the blessings given in the loss.
Gratitude removes the scales from our eyes so we can see. So we can count His gifts.
Counting His Gifts in the Loss
That Thanksgiving, seven years ago, Ethan stood beside his brother with his arm around him.
Ethan stands now, but only when his dad lifts him from the chair and holds and supports him.
Father, thank you for Ethan's dad. Thank you for the love he has for his children and for me. Thank you for his faith, for his strength. Thank you that he never gave up on You or Ethan. Thank you that he trusted You for a miracle. Thank you for his strong back and his good health.
The Thanksgiving picture of Seth and Ethan sits on an antique hutch in my kitchen. Not the kitchen I had seven years ago. A different kitchen. Someone else now cooks in my old kitchen.
Father, Thank you that we were able to sell our home and that such a precious family bought it. Thank you for a one-story place to live. Thank you that you have supplied every one of our needs. Thank you that we have neighbors that love us. Thank you that You have surrounded me with Your Beauty and that You speak to me through it.
Ethan drove his Jetta home for the holidays that year. The Jetta has been sold. Ethan doesn't drive anymore.
Father, thank you for all the times you protected Ethan when he drove his car. Thank you that he had the experience of driving, of being independent. Thank you for the memories of the day we surprised him with his car on his 16th birthday.
Seth and Ethan played Frisbee in my parent's front yard that Thanksgiving Day. I fussed and fretted as they wrestled on the ground.
There's no more playing Frisbee for these two brothers. No more wrestling on the ground.
Father, thank you for the love my boys have for one another. Thank you for the joy it brings my heart. Thank you for all the laughter I hear. The loyalty I see. Thank you Father. For all these two have lost, love, which is always the greatest gift, has remained and not only remained, but grown and multiplied and spills over to all who see it. Thank you Father.
Tragedies were something that happened to other people. To other families. Our befores and afters had always been marked by happy times . . . life's celebrations, a wedding, a new baby, a high school or college graduation. Not anymore.
Thank you Father that You were there when the tragedy came. Thank you that You did not hold our rebellion and sin against us. Thank you that You ran to meet us as we came home to You. Thank you that You covered us with Your Grace. Thank you as we now mark our time with a new before and after, that we also mark it, as when we came to know Who You Are and the Love You have always had for us.
We had dreams and visions of how things were going to be. Uncertainty wasn't a dirty word. Uncertainty only added anticipation and excitement to the good things we knew were right around the corner.
Dreams were shattered. And uncertainty became the monster in the dark that brings dread and fear.
Father thank you, that in all the shattered dreams You are our healer. Thank you that, in all the uncertainty, You are our Hope and our Security. Thank you that when we don't know what is in our future, that You do. And not only that You know it but that You have planned it, and that it has already been redeemed for your glory and for our good. Thank you that Your Perfect Love casts out fear. Thank you for the peace and the rest that only You can bring.
Before, there was time to tend to relationships. Time to give to the ones we loved. There was time to listen and really hear. Time to step into the world of others, and time to invite them to share in ours.
After, many relationships have died for lack of tending. For lack of time. Others are bruised or wilted. They are in need of God's healing.
Father, thank you that You are the Healer of relationships. Thank you that You have the power to breathe life into death. Thank you, that in our loneliness, we know that You will always be with us. Thank you for the promise that You will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you that solitude makes Your Voice easier to hear, and Your Presence more difficult to deny.
The only time I remember a wheelchair being in our home was when my sweet elderly grandma was able to come and celebrate her birthday with us.
We now own three wheelchairs.
Father, thank you for the insurance that has paid for Ethan's wheelchairs. Thank you for the technology and the wisdom that make them safe and comfortable. Thank you that You have made my son so strong, that he would rather go out in a wheelchair and live life, than stay home and hide his disabilities. Thank you for all the years he could walk and run and ride a bike. Thank you for all the miles he skied on the water and for all the miles he walked on a golf course. Thank You.
Our lives were built on the love we had for each other, memories from the past, successes and achievements, financial security. Temporal things. In other words, our life had been built on "sand."
The sand shifted.
Father, thank you that in all the changes of life, that You never change. Thank you that our lives can be strong and secure when You are our foundation. Thank you that we can stand through disappointments, pain, and confusion when we stand upon You. Thank you that when we can't stand, Your Arms hold us up. Thank you that Your Mercies last a lifetime. That Your Love is forever. Thank you that You are our Refuge, our Rock, and our Salvation.
Rugs pulled out from underfoot.
Thank you Father, that in all the change, I found You.
Loss is part of life. I wait for the day when loss is no more. When there are no more tears and no more sorrow.
With gratitude, the waiting doesn't hurt quite so much.
With gratitude, the waiting can be very very good.
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your Name,
O Most High;
To declare Your Lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your Faithfulness every night."