"But I miss him."
"I miss Ethan."
That's what I say, in between the moments of giving thanks for him.
In between the moments of thanking God for those beautiful blue-green eyes.
In between the moments of thanking God for his beautiful, wide, contagious smile.
I say "but I miss him" when I'm laughing at one of his has-to-take-me-a-minute-to-get-it comments.
Some nights as I leave his room, after telling him how blessed I am to be his mother, and that he is the bravest person I know, and how proud I am that he is my son, I walk down the hall and I hear myself whisper to God "but I miss him."
I say "but I miss him" when I now reach down to wrap my arms around his neck in a hug, instead of reaching up, on my toes.
I miss Ethan.
And yet I could not be more thankful for him.
I know that it probably doesn't make any sense.
I've learned during the last nine years how much life doesn't make sense.
How can one cry until they laugh and laugh until they cry?
How can a mom stand strong and determined and dutiful beside the bed of her dying child, and then be broken down into a heap of weakness when a black Labrador Retriever comes running toward her in the hospital parking lot?
I've learned that nothing makes sense about friends that disappear during a crisis, and friends that you didn't know you had, surrounding you and lifting you up in prayer and feeding your family for weeks and weeks and hanging around for nine years. Still praying.
What makes sense about me finding the joy and peace I've always wanted, under the pile of debris from damaged and broken lives?
What in the world makes sense about me being totally grateful for a wheelchair that I also totally hate my child having to use?
What makes sense about me not even noticing that wheelchair, plus a smaller one, and a standing frame, parked beside my antique furniture?
And most of all, what makes sense about Jesus loving me with the same love the Father has loved Him, His perfect Son? (John 15:9)
What makes sense about God being the Light in my darkness when I didn't want Him or need Him in my artificial light?
No, most of life doesn't make sense.
But if you love someone who has suffered a traumatic brain injury, missing them and giving thanks for them makes perfect sense.
Sometimes, I touch Ethan just to make sure he is really here.
But I also run my hands over the glass of the frame with the legs and hands behind it. The legs that walked, and the hands that could draw like his dad. The legs that took him everywhere, and the hands that held cell phones and golf clubs and the steering wheel of the car that he said he wanted to drive forever.
I run my hands over the glass where the dreams and hopes of another life lived.
And then I look at Ethan.
Alive. Smiling. Blessed. Held together. Favored by God. And I wonder, could God be any better to me?
Could He have blessed me any more?
Yes. Ethan's life, given once, then twice, is a most precious gift.
I shake my head, in complete astonishment and awe of God's love toward my youngest son, his brother, and his mom and dad.
I shake my head, when I wonder how this mom of Ethan's has learned to give thanks for so much that she didn't want to be.
I love Ethan more today that I did December 1, 2003 when I went into his room and I kissed him good-bye, before I left to spend the morning with fifteen four-year-olds and before he left to return to his life in Gainesville.
I remember thinking, "It's okay he's leaving. He'll be home for Christmas in a few weeks."
Ethan wasn't home for that Christmas.
But for the seven following Christmas mornings, that miracle child of mine has opened presents, laughed with his brother and cousins, and reminded us all of what Emanuel, "God with us," really means.
I could not love Ethan more.
My heart is completely full and overflowing with gratitude towards his Creator, Healer, and Redeemer.
"But I miss him."
I miss Ethan.
I know it probably doesn't make any sense.
But because of the way He comforts me, I know it makes sense to God.
I know that it makes sense to Him when I whisper "but I miss him," and God holds me and whispers back to me, "I know Cheri. I know."
Trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart before Him. God is a refuge for us. * He is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort. * God has promised never to leave me or forsake me. * He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay. He has set my feet upon a rock and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth-Praise To Our God!
Psalm 62:8, 2 Corinthians 1:3, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 40:2-3