I came across this blurry photo recently and cried. I remember when it was taken. I remember what was happening in our lives and I cried because of what we went through and how much I miss Austin now.
On April 1 last year, it was as though someone hit pause on our lives. (Although, you couldn’t consider the past four months to be “normal.”) Austin had his first seizure that day. I was home alone with him while Tony made a run with our other kiddos for ice cream. I remember that awful moment, the panic, the rush of weeping that came later, the night spent “slept” on a hard floor watching for more seizures, wondering (again) if we would make it to morning. And the days that followed were some of the most traumatic days of our lives. While we tried to figure out the right medicine regiment to manage his symptoms, Austin literally went out of his mind. He was angry and confused. He blamed God and me for his pain. He said things that didn’t make sense. He saw things. It was awful and I questioned when it would end. Then a hospital bed was moved into our living room. We hung blankets on the windows because light bothered him. We found the right concoction of meds and we hunkered down. For the next three months, we didn’t go to church, not together anyhow. I barely left the house or saw the sunshine. I remember priding myself in how many errands I could accomplish in an hour. Walking down to the Dollar Store felt like a treat. It was strange to me when people talked of the weather and changing seasons, when I heard someone mention the end of the school year and graduation parties. It was like we lived in some time warp. Even my bedroom felt foreign and the front porch counted as “going outside.”
That’s why this week has been so disorienting for me. Multiple times I have wondered, “What is even happening?” I’m watching people panic and prepare, and I question, “Should I be panicking, too? Is it happening again? Being shut indoors isolated from the rest of the world?”
But no, that’s not what this is. I can walk the beach, without my phone or guilt or anxiety. I can let the sunlight in. My people can stay here without feeling like we are living in a hospital. We can be loud and have fun. I can sleep in my own bed. I can make dinner and take a walk. I get to homeschool Tyler again 😉. We can go to church (we have a small congregation). Austin is not here with us, but he isn’t suffering any more. He is in his right mind and understands what we cannot. He is experiencing what I can only imagine. He is face to face with the one who brought him healing and the very one who holds us now.
No, it’s not the same. This time is different. I don’t have to fear. I grieve what was and what cannot be, but I am not without hope. Hope that I will see Austin again, yes, but it is more than that. I hope in Jesus — the one who walks with us now, the one who hurts for and with us, who carries our healing in His hands,* the one who gave His own life to rescue me, the one whose Spirit lives in me and who I will one day behold in the fullness of His glory. Yes, my hope is in JESUS.
I’m afraid that some of you will read this and think that I’m not sad Austin is gone. How could I find any joy in the face of such grief? Friends, let me tell you again, I would change the story if I could. I still don’t understand it. Today as we do our taxes, I will hold Austin’s birth and death certificates in my hands, and that is not right. The thing I feared the most has happened (Job 3:25). But I would not ask Austin to come back, not if it meant he was still sick and still must suffer. To be honest, I’m not sure I could ask Austin to give up Heaven at all. Oh I wish he was here and I despise the wait to see him again, but like I told Austin many times when he was afraid or sad, Heaven is better. So, I will wait. I hurt while I do. I will weep and get angry. I will continue to wrestle with God and grief. I will keep searching for beauty and praying for healing. And He will hold me all the way. When it looks as though I have forgotten these things, forgotten how God has been faithful and how he loves us, stay close but don’t try to fix me. Sit with me in the struggle and pray I remember.
Yes. Jesus is here. Heaven is better. And this time is different.
*Jesus by Chris Tomlin
There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages
He is Jesus, Jesus
Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me
He roars like a lion
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands