A fear of forgetting
I was afraid that I would forget my son. I was afraid that I would not remember the sound of his voice, the smell of his clothes and gait of his steps. A strange and unfamiliar fear overtook me in the first hours, days and weeks after his death. I have heard others speak of this same kind of fear, I feared that my memory of Jake would be lost. Love reacts to this fear of forgetting by doing many wonderful things to remember the one we love. We want to remember the dead, we want to memorialize a life and to never forget. So we have a memorial stone made, a memorial tattoo inked, a memorial scholarship established, a memorial benefit hosted or a memorial fund started in the name of the deceased. My wife and I memorialized our 4 loved ones on one day by planting 4 trees in their memory.
What I want to forget
The fear of forgetting was graciously replaced with daily memories of his life. The fear of forgetting faded, yet there are many things that I have purposefully tried to forget. I want to forget the phone call, the sound of my wife’s sobbing voice, the ride home in unbelief and the sight of my dead son on the basement floor. I want to forget calling his brother and sister, choosing his casket and the moment I first seen him in it. I want to forget the funeral and the burial of 3 loved ones six weeks later on May 15th 2014. I would like to forget it all, yet it is all there in my memory. I don’t go there often, it is terrible place and very difficult to ponder and to write about. I refuse to live in those moments in time but I wander there from time to time in my mind, reliving the terrible aguish all over again. I want to forget but it is always there, forever burned into the memory of my life and all the things that surrounded his death.
Ways to remember
I have watched grievers very closely since since all this grief poured into my life. I have noticed many great and wonderful things being done on behalf of somebody who has died. Generally the cause is closely related to how the loved one died. Some join the fight against cancer, or get involved in suicide prevention. Some take up arms and join the fight against drugs or drunk driving with the hope that one life might be spared because of their effort. We honor the memory of a loved one by crusading with purpose. We hope to help someone else with the very thing that took the precious life that we lost and remember every day. These are all commendable causes but are not the things I have chosen to remember my son by.
What I cannot change
Jacob had anxiety, depression, panic attacks and self medicated with prescription opiates. There are many avenues I could have gone when he died. He was near graduation from the Great Lakes Maritime Academy, I could have establish a memorial scholarship fund for him there. I could go the route of drug awareness, education and enforcement to remember his life and perhaps prevent another person from overdosing. I could bring attention to depression and anxiety dissorders in our youth and crusade about that. All these things people are already doing and they are commendable causes pursued by hurting people. But I have never personally felt compelled to honor my son’s life in any of these areas. I certainly want to honor him and remember him for the greater good of somebody else but not in any of those ways. Why not you may ask? I see them all as being helpful, valuable, necessary and good but I find them to be temporal and not eternal. I am for education about drugs, depression and support greater law enforcement on narcotics, especially the drug dealers that have the MD embroidered after their name. But realistically I feel there there will never be enough education, cops or laws to slow this enormous problem down. Especially in a culture that seeks to numb every ache and pain imaginable by the ready pen of their family physician. I want to have an impact, I want to invest in something that has eternal reward and not just temporal value in this short fleeting vapor we call life.
What I can do
Most people involved in these honorable causes will tell you that if one person can be helped then it would be worth all the effort. I believe that, I hope for that, I want that just like everybody else. I have come to realize that I will likely never help the masses with my message, but perhaps I can help one person at a time.
What am I doing to honor the life of my son? I offer hope, this is the greatest good that I can do for individuals. I offer hope to every man ever born who find themselves helpless and hopeless to overcome their greatest fear. Death! That unspeakable, feared and dreaded word that comes to our minds and causes us to shutter when we realize that our chances of dying in our lifetime is 100%.
Who has defeated our hated enemy Death? And if someone has overcome death, did he make a way for me to overcome it too? In the history of mankind only one man, the God man Jesus Christ of Nazareth had power over death. Follow his life and you will find him raising the dead on many occasions. The record of it was foretold and is undeniable. The prophets prophesied of it and the New Testament writers were eyewitnesses to it. Even his most hated enemies could not deny his power over it. When he died, they mocked him by saying, “He saved others but himself he cannot save.” Jesus was no victim, he was fully in control of all the events leading up to his death and trough his resurrection from the dead. He alone claimed something that only God could say or do. “For this reason my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18 ESV)
The tree of life and hope
Eyewitnesses saw Jesus stop a funeral procession in the village of Nain and raised a widows young son out of his coffin. (Luke 7:11-17) The enemies of Jesus heard him say, “Lazarus come forth” and saw him walk out of his grave fully alive after being dead for 4 days. (John 11) Jesus walked out of his own tomb after three days by his own power. (Luke 24:6) He showed himself alive for 40 days (Acts 1:3) to his disciples and about 500 believers saw him after his death burial and resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15:6) then he ascended to the right hand of God. (Acts 1:6-11) The great hope of the Christian faith is that death has been defeated by the Son of God. The soul that sins will die, (Ezekiel 18:20) and “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV) God placed the punishment for our sin on him so that we may live in a wonderful hope. (2 Corinthians 5:21) By his stripes we are healed! (Isaiah 53)This is my hope filled message, this is what matters most to me because it has eternal, not temporal, implications.
Who would die for a lie? 11 of the 12 apostles died proclaiming that Jesus was alive and repeated his words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) The life of the apostle Paul was a life of constant persecution and suffering for this message of faith and hope in Jesus. Why would any man endure what he endured for a lie? He said, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…What do I gain if I fought with beasts in Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, Let us eat drink fro tomorrow we die.”(1 Corinthians 15:19-20, 32 ESV)
The bible begins and ends in a garden and in the each garden there is the tree of life. Mankind was expelled from the garden and was graciously forbidden to eat from it. Every man will taste of death, but Christ tasted death for every man that we might we might gain entrance into the paradise of God and eat of the tree of life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life! He is our only hope, he is the good news to all mankind, he killed death for all who believe. He gives us great hope and precious promises, He says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7) O taste and see that the Lord is good.
The trees we planted last summer serve as a memorial to the ones we have loved and lost. But each spring they push out new buds and flowers fill their branches. They serve as a reminder to me of the new life I have in Christ because of his resurrection from the dead. They are with the living one, the eternal one, the very God who became man so that we might have life through his name. Peter summed it up after he seen him alive from the dead. He said, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 ESV)
If Jesus is in the the tomb, the words I type for you are a lie and a great self deception. But he is alive and this is the great eternal hope that I will present to everyone who is living a life of meaninglessness and hopelessness.
To you who believe I leave you with these words. “Now may the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good word and work.” (2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17 ESV)
For you who do not believe I ask you a few questions. If you cannot beat death why do you reject Jesus the only one who did? What or who is your hope hope in without him? The bible says that you are in a desperate place, “Having no hope and without God in the world.” It doesn’t have to be because, “Now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace.” (Ephesians 2:12-14a ESV) He offers you a real hope, and a peace that passes all human comprehension if you will only trust him. Trust him today, for he is trustworthy!