Backtrack with me a few months to Christmas (2013). We’re in Roseau, celebrating with family. I always make it a point to visit Jeremy’s grave when we’re there, snowstorms and all. Though it was a snowy and cold week and the cemetery road wasn’t plowed, I was still determined to make the trip over. With his grave being so far north we have few opportunities to visit, so it matters to get there when we can.
I still haven’t quite figured out what to make of my times by his graveside but I often take a moment to remember, a moment to be grateful, a moment to grieve and a moment to renew my trust in a God who is sovereign and good and very, very present. All that, wrapped up into a simple prayer, is what goes on by the graveside.
So Aedan and I were on our way to a friend’s house to visit. I purposely took a longer detoured way so I could stop by the cemetery. I parked the car and asked Aedan if he wanted to venture out with me. He responded, “No, I’ll stay here.” Okay, that’s fine. I’ll be right back. So in my snow pants and Sorels, I trudged through knee-deep snow to Jeremy’s grave. When I finally reached the headstone, I realized I wasn’t alone. Aedan, having changed his mind, was not far behind me bounding though the snow to join me.
We spent our few moments and then made a mad-dash for the car, racing to see which one of us could most quickly outrun the other through such deep snow, without falling on our faces. (I’m pretty sure I beat him. He may not agree. But neither of us fell on our faces). This race, on my part, was mostly an effort to curb the sadness for him. To make our hearts glad, I thought. But once buckled in I turned and looked at Aedan whose eyes were filled to the brim with tears.
What’s on your mind?
“It’s so hard to think of dad’s body being buried in that frozen ground.”
I know, Aedan.
“His body is just too precious to have buried down there.”
“And what if there is no heaven? What if dad is just nowhere and what if when I die, I am just nowhere?”
And I gulp. I really do. These are hard questions coming from a ten year old. I have answers to them, but with years of faith underlying the facts. His faith foundation is being made right now. And it is these moments when my heart gets angry. Jeremy should be here. He could do this better than me. He could answer these questions and help lead Aedan out of his sorrow and fear. I know those thoughts are not from God, but sent by the one who would lead us to despair, to cripple our faith. It is in that moment (and many other moments), that that voice is so loud.
So I told him what Scripture tells us, what we know to be true…and I could tell it wasn’t enough. Not that day, anyway. He had heard it all before. And my heart grew more frustrated, more helpless. He was needing more to satisfy his grief and his fears and I was feeling so incapable of offering anything. So I repeated something I tell him often. Tell God, Aedan. Ask Him your questions. Ask Him to show you that He’s real, that heaven is real, that He really is good. Press into Him. I don’t know what Aedan thinks when I tell him those words but I hope they are words that come to his mind for the rest of his life.
Then I remembered a quote I had read a few weeks before that had made me spill tears of my own (ones of joy, not sorrow). A friend of mine had lost her husband just weeks prior and in announcing his death, she had posted this quote from C.S. Lewis’ book The Last Battle, a book I have yet to read. I pulled the passage up on my phone and read it to Aedan, who knows enough about Narnia to know who Aslan is…
” ‘The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’ And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
I looked up at Aedan, his blue eyes big and wide, filled to the brim with new tears. “Yes, yes…” he said, nodding his head repetitively. My son had tasted hope.
I told him, Aedan, dad’s life here was just the beginning. And his greatest days, your greatest moments with him…they will never be erased or forgotten. You, your brothers and I will forever remain on the title page of dad’s story and he will forever remain on ours. What Jeremy is experiencing now is more real than the life he lived with us, but the life we shared with him still matters greatly, for all of us.
And so the lies and fears were overcome with hope, if only for the moment. And the boy who couldn’t get the image out of his mind of a broken body buried under frozen ground had that image replaced by a perspective and hope that can hardly even begin to grasp the weight of such glory. That’s what truth does to lies.
The Chronicles of Narnia were a childhood favorite of Jeremy’s. I had tried to read them years ago but couldn’t get into them. I’ve been reading them aloud to the boys at night since Christmastime and we’re all captivated. And after each chapter is read, I play the boys Jeremy’s Fledge* as I turn out the lights. And they say, “will you play it again, Mom?”. We’re nineteen months past Jeremy’s death and the boys are finally asking to hear his voice. Not once, but twice.
(click here, to listen)
*”Fledge” is a cabby’s horse (called Strawberry) who enters Narnia and is given wings and a new name.