letter to my son
Christopher, your birthday falls on Easter Sunday this year, so I’m sitting down to write you a letter. Today there will be no cake or balloons, just the tender trace of memories from thirty-three birthdays celebrated from April 1, 1975 to July 26, 2008.
My mind starts ticking the boxes for what I want to write to you. Let me catch you up on all that has happened since you left us so suddenly that morning in July. If I could, I would tuck the happenings of these years into a cedar chest with all my love and ship them off to Heaven. One day, I will be there and we can unfold them together.
The tears. The joys. The surprises. So much pain and sorrow. And oh, the bittersweet growth. It felt like forever that grief would not let me go. I feared I was caught in a spiral headed down, not up. Losing you was like an amputation I felt over and over again.
The pain lingers, but time allows it to be mercifully less intense. Like the faint scent of smoke and ash from a campfire. Christopher, if only you knew about the beauty risen from these ashes. More exquisite than I could have imagined. The spiral was leading up after all.
You left us a legacy.
I will proudly tell you about your strong, loving Dad and your transformed brother, Jonathan. His beautiful Brittni, and sweet Rylie. And Allie, as cheerful as she is strong. There is little Christopher, named after you. I will tell you about your lovely daughter, sweet Stella Ann. She is smart, kind, artistic. She loves to paint and read and surf and throw a football. What shall I say about your little one, Lucy Christopher, named in your honor? She is so like you…tiny, adorable, funny, and fierce! She can easily make us laugh. And yes, Brittany has come through hell and fire, shining like gold. You would be proud of us all.
I must tell you about a growing church in Orange County that, in many ways, you started. Let me tell you about the revival in my heart to love and serve Jesus and others, so much more. Oh Christopher, the lives that have been changed!
It’s early morning as I write this. The sun is breaking through gray clouds. Wind is rising and rustling the trees outside my window. Music is coming from the living room…a Johnny Cash song…and Dad’s laughter erupts (like yours). I wonder what he is reading? He hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
I can’t remember when we actually began to laugh again. For long months, it felt so wrong. How could we laugh? You weren’t here. But in time, the laughter returned. Life is good, Christopher. The end is better than the beginning. God is good.
This is the gift we were given, in wrapping too horrible to imagine. I couldn’t bear to open it, but tenderly wrapped in all those tear-stained tissues was a shining gem…faith more precious than gold, tested in the fire. What we believed was real. Jesus is real. He was with us in the furnace. His Word is true.
Your birthday is on Easter Sunday, how fitting. Two thousand years ago, out of the cold darkness of that tomb, our Lord of Life emerged! The brightest, most glorious resurrection that brought us all a hope so certain.
We never knew how truly we believed until it was a matter of life and death.
Dangling over a precipice of grief, clinging to that rope of faith, we discovered it was strong enough. And it will hold us.
Until I see you again Christopher, enjoy my cedar chest of memories.
Sending it along with my love,
* * *
C.S. Lewis knew something of the beauty to be found in ashes and the hope of Easter. This is the epitaph he wrote for his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis.
“Here, the whole world (stars, water, air, and field and forest as they were reflected in a single mind) like cast off clothes was left behind in ashes, yet with hope that she—reborn from holy poverty in lenten lands—hereafter may resume them on her Easter Day.”