Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Life, Death and Empty Nests

August 12th is always a different day in our house. It used to be a difficult day, perhaps the most difficult day of the year, at least for us. You see it was on August 12, 1987 that our first child was born. His name is Johnathan. He lived less than four minutes.....the time of his life on this earth is not important, that he lived is. His birthday was for many years a day of tears and mourning. There was very little to celebrate. For many years I would take the day off from work so that I could spend the day with my wife. I can remember feeling guilty on the first day that I chose to work rather than staying home to mourn.

Today Johnathan would be 27 years old....I imagine that he would have long ago left the safety of our home to engage the world. Perhaps he would have married by now and even given his parents a grandchild to spoil. The thought gives me pause to smile. I look forward to one day having a grandchild to pass on my "wisdom"....if it could be called that. I'm sure that my wife would have a different opinion.

When Johnathan died a part of me died. That death became even more pronounced when 19 months later our second child died shortly after birth. His name was Timothy and he would have been 25 now. The combination of blows left me staggering, reeling, breathless. There are no words to express the depths of our pain. It was the love of God that brought us through those long, dark days of pain and questions. Our marriage survived and we have been able to pick up the pieces.  That doesn't make their birthdays any less difficult, but we know hope and it is that hope that we cling to everyday.

The news today has been dominated by the death of comedian/actor Robin Williams. It is indeed sad that a man of his immense talents apparently decided to take his own life. I will not judge him. Indeed, none of us is in the place of God. Robin Williams will stand before God and be judged not on the method of his death, but on his relationship with God. My prayers are lifted for his family.

This day is a difficult day not because of the loss of Robin Williams or the anniversary of the birth and death of my son Johnathan, but because the emptying of our nest continued today with the departure of our second son for college. Matthew has chosen to go back to Southwest Mississippi Community College. He has just completed a term as a summer missionary in Oklahoma. His mother and I joked with Matt that we would move while he was gone, and that is just what we did! But we did pick him up at the airport and he was with us for a couple of weeks. But today he loaded up his truck and moved away. There were tears in his parents eyes as he drove away. Matthew may or may not be ready to face the world, but I can assure you the world isn't ready to face Matthew. He has a way of changing the lives of everyone around him and I am sure that he will continue to do just that.

Tomorrow his twin sister Rebekah will go back to college as well. Our nest is slowly but surely emptying. The beginning of May found our house full but by the end of May two-thirds of our kids had moved away. My wife and I have always known that our nest would empty....we just never saw it happening so quickly. Four kids leaving in one month was a lot harder than we ever thought it would be.

The days of summer saw not only four of our kids moving away, but we also left our place of service after six years and moved away from an area that we had been in for the last fourteen years. All of these transitions have been difficult. But God has been with us throughout each of them and we cling to His promise that He will be with us through all the days that are yet to come. We have learned not to despair but to rejoice. God has turned our mourning into dancing and our tears into laughter. I have joked many times that the reason we had six kids (eight counting Johnathan and Timothy) was that I wanted to change the world...one kid at a time. My plan is about to be put into motion!

I thank God for August 12th. On each August 12th and every day that surrounds it He has proven his love and power and goodness. In spite of life's changes, death, and even empty nests.

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