It’s been three weeks since the double birthday, and all is well at our house. Sidney is driving a lot and actually doing a fantastic job at it! All three kids are done with sports, and the boys have their end of the season football banquets this week. The uniforms are washed and returned, and we are back to having them all home for dinner at the same time every night. I always love fall sports and all the games and really hate to see it end so quickly, but I’m also ready when the day comes that we have our evenings back and we get more time with the kids during the week. The older three are doing well in school, and there really isn’t a whole lot to say about them. They are happy, healthy and enjoying time with friends – simply normal teenager stuff.
Ryan is doing well at school but comes home completely exhausted. It’s as if he has just enough energy to get through those four hours then he is done. He requires so much more sleep now, and it is normal for him to be sound asleep on the couch when I get home from work and not wake up until 8 pm then go down for the night by 10 pm. It makes me sad to see the slow fade continue. We’ve reached yet another new normal, and the accompanying grief we all feel as this new normal settles in is hard to talk about. It’s the slow fade, the loss of a voice, the fatigue and wearing down settling in. The smiles are leaving, the voice is hiding, the eating is lessening, the muscles are weakening. He simply does not enjoy the things he once did at the same intensity. He no longer screams and squeals. He no longer has a big appetite wanting to eat several times a day. He no longer looks people in the eye like he once did. He no longer picks up a nearby hand to scratch and rub his arm and hand the way we know he likes. My heart hurts for the loss. My mind has a difficult time wrapping around the new normal. My eyes fight the tears when I focus too long on the changes. It’s the long goodbye none of us wants to face. It’s the diminishing of connection. It’s the acceptance of fading we struggle to grasp. I don’t want a shell of a son. But that’s what I am being given a little more every day. Our love will never fade. That I know for certain.
And as I sat in church today, I was reminded of Job 2:10 when Job says “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Travis often reminds me of this truth, and then I focus on God’s never ending grace. Grace to see me through the heart wrenching days when all I seem to focus on is the tremendous loss. Grace when I’m reminded of how much our sweet boy has endured and overcome. Grace to hold me through the reminders that every bit of fading here is bringing Ryan one step closer to meeting Jesus face to face. Grace to smile at the blessed promise of eternity. I can hardly bear the thought, but the simple truth is right in front of me. Ryan is an angel the Lord sent to do His work, to bring others to Christ, to show all of us His provision and gentle mercies. And in the fading, I find the courage to tell God I’ll take the good and the bad. Even when my heart wants to scream “I want him back! Give me the noisy, mischievous little boy who loves to throw things and have fits of laughter!” I’ll take what you give me, Lord. And I’ll do my best to stay joy-filled and faithful.
Matthew 6:25-34 gives the best reminder of God’s perfect provision: For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
So when I start to worry about the fading, when my heart zeros in on the loss, when my mind dances with the fear of what is coming and when I take my eyes off the Author of Life, I remember these verses. And I think of Proverbs 30:8 and ask My Heavenly Father, once again, to give me only my daily bread. Just enough to get me through. Just enough to remain faithful to His call on my life. Just enough to find joy in the circumstance of today. He’s got tomorrow. My job is to be faithful in my here and now.