Today would be Joseph’s 14th birthday, which also means tomorrow marks 10 years since he left us. When I look through these pictures it feels like all this happened just the other day, and then it also feels a very long time ago, as if it were another lifetime and it happened to other people.
Probably part of the reason for that is because our family now is teeming with life. We’ve been blessed with 3 more beautiful children since Joseph died and we are in that sweet season of raising them and helping them (with fear and trepidation) become the people God intends them to be. We have one well on her way to becoming an adult, one almost completely out of diapers, two in between, and 5,346 activities between them all.
When I look back on the last 10 years I’m filled with gratitude for all the ways God has led us and provided for us. As so many of us know, when you have a child there are these invisible strings that tether your heart to theirs. That doesn’t magically disappear once their physical body is no longer near you. Right after we lost Joseph, the physical ache we felt from longing to hold him, see him, and love him was completely debilitating. I wondered if I would ever feel or function normally again.
Thankfully that heavy weight of grief doesn’t feel debilitating anymore, although waves will still hit me at unexpected times. God has provided abundant joy in these four treasures we get to parent now, and I cannot help but be grateful and thankful for that. I used to feel guilty for enjoying them and “forgetting” Joseph but he doesn’t need me to be miserable and guilty. He is enjoying uninterrupted joy and fulfillment with Jesus and he actually doesn’t need me at all anymore (which was a very difficult thing to accept, given his age when he died). Our children really are God’s, and while they are our responsibility for a while He is their true parent.
I feel immense gratitude for the people God provided throughout Joseph’s cancer and then during the tender years after. We were overwhelmed with so much love, sympathy and support, and we would not have made it through without people being the hands and feet of Christ. Thank you to our friends and family who stuck with us when we were not much fun to be around. It takes so much kindness, empathy and love to walk with a grieving person and I’m just so grateful for our friends and family who walked closely with us.
I’m so grateful for Allen, the love of my life. I don’t know where I’d be without his sacrificial love and leadership in our family. He’s our breakfast-making, board game playing, adventure-creating captain. He still makes me laugh my head off, too, which I definitely thought would have worn off after 17 years.
I’m also so grateful to God, “ who daily bears our burdens” and is close to the broken-hearted. It seems God uses suffering as a key tool in drawing his children closer to His heart. Philip Yancey once wrote, “ Human beings do not readily admit desperation. When they do, the kingdom of heaven draws near.” We are always in need of God but our awareness of that need is definitely heightened in the midst of suffering/desperation. I’m grateful for the ways God has shown Himself faithful and present, especially in the midst of deep sadness.
We still miss Joseph deeply and I often wonder how the dynamics in our family would be different if he were the oldest one here on earth. I really wish the other kids knew him and had him as their big brother. Every new season brings fresh sadness as we see he would be starting middle school, starting to drive, etc. I don’t think we will ever come to an end of this grief journey here on earth. Joseph is a part of us and our family and we won’t ever forget the gift he was to us. But I hope we will continue to be thankful for all the good gifts God gives us and come to Him when our hearts are hurting. We definitely don’t always understand why God allows certain things but I do know He loves us and He is faithful to all His promises, and He will carry us in our strength and in our weakness.