Tuesday, December 16, 2014


This post contains some honesty that might be misunderstood as me asking for pity.

I am not.

Though, if I were to be honest, if I thought for one moment that pity would help ease any pain or despair, I would have begged for it a long time ago.

I know better.

December 7, 2014

I've tried over the years not to let certain days on the calendar have control over my life.

I do not want them to become "little gods" to me. Days that I bow before, and give power over  my emotions and my moods and my memories.

Days like Thanksgiving.

The last holiday we spent together before Ethan was hurt.

The last time I talked to Ethan on the phone.

The last time he went swimming in the Gulf by himself.

The last time I saw him pull out of the driveway in the white Jetta that he loved and said he would drive forever.

It is crazy how those days are branded in my mind.

Time may fade some of those days, but there are two days that will forever be marked on the calendar of my heart.

One is the day we lost a part of Ethan.  December 7th.  The other is the day God gave us the best part of him back.   April 19.

My eyes weren't even open two Sundays ago when I knew that it was December 7th.

As important as it is for me not to dread this anniversary, and to let it have power over my life, I've learned that it is just as important not to deny it, or the pain it brings.

I guess, over the past ten December 7ths, my mind has settled on different aspects of our losses.

But this eleventh December 7th, my mind settled on Ethan and Ethan alone

I sat in my dark living room, and wondered what it must be like "to be him."

I wondered what it must be like for him, most of the time, to be an observer and not a participant.

I wondered what he thinks when he looks at his Facebook page, or hears about family and friends living their dreams and relishing their accomplishments.

I wondered what it feels like to live such an isolated and obscure life. To only visit with me and Jim and his brother day after day.

The other day he was excited to find on his iPad an e-mail from a special friend. Jim and I didn't have the heart to tell him that he hadn't noticed the date, and it was one from 2010.

I wonder what Ethan feels when he is misunderstood.

Many times people will ask Jim and me about what he would like to drink or eat instead of asking him.

People think that because Ethan speaks softly that he doesn't have anything to say.

People that aren't quite sure what to say to him, wind up saying nothing at all.


That morning I wondered what it was like to be Ethan and my heart broke.


In the very beginning of this journey, God gave me a beautiful gift.

It has been my salvation in moments like the morning of December 7th.

That gift is found in the words of Psalm 63:8,

"Trust in Him at all times, you people.
Pour out your heart before Him.
God is a refuge for us."

From day one, before we ever made it to Ethan's hospital room in Gainesville, God gave me permission to pour my heart out to Him.

He assured me that He was a safe place to empty myself of all anger, frustration, pain, grief, and doubts.

God assured me that He already knew what was in my heart, and that His Love for me was strong enough to hear it over and over again.

There was nothing I could say that would separate me from His love.

He was inviting me to come to Him in my brokenness. (I've since learned that in our brokenness is the only way we come to Him.)

So on this eleventh December 7th, I poured out and I poured out until there was nothing left, and then I got up from the couch and started getting ready for church.

Jim and Ethan let me off at the door to find our seats while they parked the car.  The ushers are always kind and willing to do whatever it takes to make Jim and Ethan comfortable.

I remember feeling almost numb as I waited for them to come and join me.

The earlier tears were gone. I was spent. This earthen vessel, the cracked jar that I am, was empty.

The worship began, and determined not to let this day on the calendar win, I opened my mouth and the words came and I sang like I was an American Idol contestant and God alone was the judge.

The young pastor stood and began to read from Isaiah 53.

We are emptied to be filled, and my filling had begun.

"He is despised and rejected by man, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief 
and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;  
He was despised, and we did not esteem him."

With those words, the Words of God, a wave of comfort rolled over me.

It is a mystery to me as to how, but I became lost in that wave and for a moment, I felt as though I couldn't breathe.

I realized that I would never know what it felt like to be Ethan.

I can imagine, and I think sometimes that we are called to take the time to imagine what it feels like to be someone else, and maybe that is where empathy and compassion are born, but I know I will never really know what it's like.

Being swept up in this wave of comfort I knew that, although I would never know, Jesus does.

Jesus knows exactly what it feels like to be Ethan, and He knows exactly what it feels like to be Ethan's mother.

He left heaven to rescue us in so many ways.

And part of His rescue mission was to bring comfort and healing to our broken hearts. To defeat despair with hope. To replace rejection with His acceptance. And to exchange loneliness with His presence.

He did this by being tempted in every way man was tempted, and by experiencing every hurt that can find its way into man's heart.

Jesus, by becoming fully man, though He was fully God, knows exactly what our tears represent. He knows how to intercede on our behalf to the Father.

By choosing to experience all the pain and sorrow of humanity, Jesus became our safe place.

Our refuge.

The words "He knows" were repeatedly whispered in my head throughout the service.

I still hear them today.

"He knows."

"He knows."

We ask for answers.

We search for theological explanations and doctrines that will ease our pain. That will make sense of the senselessness.

But sometimes all we get is "He knows. He knows."

And I've found, as we enter the eleventh year of this journey, that "He knows" is enough.

This particular Sunday was Communion Sunday.

Sometimes Ethan participates and sometimes he doesn't. It breaks my heart when he chooses not to, but it is his choice. It is his way of dealing honestly with his doubts. I once talked to a friend about this. His answer surprised me. "Praise God he is honest. God can always work with honest people."

But this Sunday, on the date that marks so much loss, Ethan received The Bread and The Cup.

He chose to do as Jesus had asked on that last night with his disciples . . . "Remember me."

I wondered, as I watched the beauty of his remembering through the corner of my eye, did Ethan hear what I heard?

Did he too hear that Jesus knows what it is like to be him?



God is with us.

Emanuel, God is with us and He knows.

"Now that we know what we have -
Jesus, this Great High Priest with ready access to God -
let's not let it slip through our fingers.
We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all -
all but the sin.
So let's walk right up to Him and get what He is so ready to give.
Take the mercy, accept the help."

Hebrews 4:14-16
The Message

1 comment:

  1. Dear Cheri, thank you for writing this post and for your honesty. It spoke to me of who God is and how much He loves-isn't it amazing how He does that through our brokeness and pain? I want you to know how much I appreciate what you write-I know you don't do it for comments or for praise, but for Him alone-yet I have to tell you how your words- your truthful reflections, your relationship with Him- speaks to the deep parts of my heart. Thank you.