Life has been full of difficulty. As previously shared, extreme self-awareness and anxiety date back as far as I can remember. (I will post something that reflects one such early memory soon). One difficult event occurred the summer before I was to start kindergarten. I was diagnosed with a bone disease which required surgery and a late start to kindergarten. I have gone through divorce, received the dreaded diagnosis of cancer that involved both surgery and radiation. And, on April 29, 2001, the death of my son, Evan . Other difficult events followed. However, the loss of a child ranks among the most painful of my memories. I have met many who have lost children, including some of my cousins. We share a certain bond of understanding. I have heard there is no term for the loss of a child: a child who loses a parent is called an orphan and a partner who loses a spouse is called a widow or widower. I recently learned there is, indeed, a term for a parent who loses a child. That term is “Vilomah”. (See below for the link). It is not tremendously comforting, but it does give a name to the experience and provides a term for defining the experience.
As Evan neared graduation from high school he told me that he did not want to go to Disneyworld, or any other place for that matter, for his graduation present. Very adamantly, stating, “I want to go see the Aurora Borealis with you, Dad”. What a gift. That would have been a glorious gift for both of us. Unfortunately, we did not get to enjoy that experience together.
Now you know why the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) was chosen to include in my blog. His death, just three weeks prior to graduation, was heartbreaking. There are no words to express the feelings provoked by that loss. Below you will find a piece I wrote shortly after his death.
The Perfect Day
My son, Evan David, would have been in my section of General Psychology this fall semester. He came for Spring High School Day, April 28, to sign up for his first semester of college. The next day, Sunday, April 29th, Evan lost his life after striking a van that pulled into the path of his motorcycle. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Evan was three weeks short of graduation from Hillcrest High School in Springfield. He was five days away from His senior prom.
The grief that I have experienced, and am experiencing, cannot be adequately expressed in words. The closest I can come is to describe it as a bad dream from which I cannot awaken. It is truly surreal. A parent is supposed to outlive one’s children. Yet, the phone call, which is every parent’s worst nightmare, came on that Sunday evening while I was on the phone with my Mother, wishing her a happy birthday.
Evan and I had spent Saturday evening together. We rode our motorcycles. Talked over a root beer about matters from serious to trivial. We joked and laughed. We parted that evening, standing in a convenience store parking lot, with our hugging, my kissing him on the cheek, and both of us saying “I love you”. Precious memories. Before we parted, I told Evan that I would be glad to cook him dinner the next day. I assured Him I realized He was busy, had plans to make and finalize before prom, and that he had friends with whom he might wish to spend time. But, I told him to give me a call if he wished me to fix dinner for him the next Sunday afternoon. I arrived home from church, was sitting reading the paper, when the phone rang. Evan asked me if my offer still stood. I assured Him it did. I told him I could grill something. He requested steak. I assured him I would prepare that with whatever else he wanted. We enjoyed dinner together, went for another motorcycle ride, ended up at the local Dairy Queen where we enjoyed each other’s company over a dipped cone. Again, our conversation ranged from the deeply serious to the humorous and trivial. I had an obligation at First Baptist Church where I was helping facilitate a Divorce Care group. I told Evan I felt a responsibility to attend. He understood. While I cleaned up to go to the support group, Evan called several friends in Bolivar. No one was home or were otherwise obligated. So, no one was free to spend time with Evan. Evan stated, “Dad, I am not going to wait for you to get back from church tonight because I don’t want to be sleepy going home”. He decided to return to Springfield where He resided with His mother and step-dad. We hugged, again, as was our custom when greeting or departing. I kissed Him on the cheek and told him I loved Him. He replied, “I love you, too, Dad. It has been a perfect day. I am going to take the long way home”. I never imagined that the ride home would take Evan to His eternal home.
I received the word of His death later that evening. I had returned home from church and was on the phone wishing my Mother a happy birthday. Usually, I ignore the call waiting feature. This time, because of its persistence, I answered. The news forever changed my life. I was stunned and devastated. The following days were nightmarish. Despite, and through the nightmare of grief, I experienced the grace and comfort that only God provides. That grace was experienced through the love, compassion, support, and the taking over of my responsibilities by many wonderful friends who comprise the support system with which I have been blessed… I also felt God’s grace through the indwelling presence and comfort of His Holy Spirit. The pain and agony were still felt. But, God supplied grace, too. He didn’t promise to build a bridge over the troubled waters. He did promise to go with us through them. He has. His grace continues. Amid indescribable pain, an unmistakable grace. That support sustained, and sustains, me. I shudder to consider going through something so catastrophic without the support of loving family and friends and the grace of God.
Over 1000 people attended Evan’s visitation. Hundreds of his classmates came through the line. It was obvious, that despite Evan’s shy and quiet demeanor, He had impacted many lives. He was described as the model student. His boss, through his tears, referred to Evan as the ideal employee. He was described as a friend of all versus one who kept to a small clique. His testimony, though low-key and unobtrusive, was evident and strong. Approximately 850 attended His funeral. The funeral was planned so as to be a celebration of Evan’s life and to present testimony of the reason for the hope which He possessed. That hope was based on his personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Evan had asked Jesus Christ to be his personal Savior. And, from the comments made by those who knew Evan, it was obvious they knew of his faith and convictions. It may never be known, on this side of heaven, how much of an impact Evan had on the people who knew Him. It has been my prayer that through, despite, maybe even because of Evan’s death, that many might come to know Jesus in the personal way that Evan did.
My grief continues daily and is very, very deep. I have cried more tears, since Evan’s death, than all my previous life combined. I miss Evan terribly. I find myself envying God because He has Evan. I find myself envying Evan because He is in the presence of God almighty. I have an appreciation of King David’s comment following the loss of his infant son, “He cannot return to me, but I can go to Him.”. I WILL go to Evan. Heaven is sweeter because of Evan’s presence. I believe Evan would say, “It is okay to grieve Dad, but know that I am in a wonderful place. Remember me, celebrate my life, and remember our time together. I took the long way home and it is wonderful beyond description. Live with the confidence that I am in the presence of our Heavenly Father and that you will one day join us. Until then, draw strength, hope, and confidence from the one who was born, died, was crucified, and then was resurrected. And, I truly meant it when I said it was a perfect day”.
I am experiencing God is ways I never would have anticipated and certainly would have never planned. I find new and fresh, if not bittersweet, meaning in what Paul stated in Romans 8: 38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord. His grace sustains. It sustained Evan, too. On Evan’s headstone are the verses from Psalm 62:1-2: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” Evan knows that from an eternal, heavenly perspective. My prayer is that I will remain faithful and experience that promise from earth’s temporal perspective.
The General Psychology, class scheduled for the fall, will not be as I had anticipated. It will be much sadder, and yet, perhaps in some ways, much sweeter. Though absent from the class, Evan will be present each day in my heart. Both grief and pleasure will be a part of the class, and for that matter, the rest of my life. I miss, and will miss, Evan greatly. Yet, I am so very grateful for the time I was able to spend with him. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to hug Him, kiss Him, and tell Him that I love Him as we parted company for the very last time. I thank God that I have nothing I wished I would have told Him. I thank God that I have nothing which I needed to resolve with him. We parted with a clean slate. I had covered everything which I thought might have been an obstacle between the two of us. What a blessing from God. Might each of us part from those we love with that kind of memory.
That fateful day, was in many respects the “perfect day”. It was for Evan because He was prepared to meet the Savior. I shall remember, and cherish it, forever. A hug. A kiss. An “I love you”. I miss you, my dear Son.