As a mother we get the privilege to daydream about our children’s future. We dream big dreams, bigger than the ones we’d ever dare dream for ourselves: great jobs, wonderful spouses, beautiful children and mostly, a faith that would withstand anything….one that endures forever.
I always welcomed a good daydream and my favorite place to think about all things beautiful is on the hammock in my back yard.
I’m a country kind of girl, who likes to be outdoors where everything is pretty and seemingly perfect. My husband says I love living in a fairytale land where every thing is right with the world. I have to admit, I do life living behind my worn out Maui Jim rose colored glasses. That’s my comfort zone. I like HAPPY, HAPPY! I avoid all that isn’t! To be honest with you sad things just make me sad!
One Sunday, I decided to take the scenic route home from church, something I often did as part of my nature. This particular day was unfolding just the way I like it, seeming to be the start of a perfect 10. The blue skies against lush greenery painted a breathtaking view out side my car window. It was my kind of morning!
Suddenly my day went from a full blown10 to a nerve racking 0. It was the result of a feeling that shot through my body like lightning. Numbness took over my limbs and my breath quicken. Unsettling images flashed through my mind; scenes of me preparing my son’s funeral.
It made no sense. I knew my son was safe at college; I had just spoken with him the day before. I tried to shake off this overwhelming feeling but it kept tugging at my heart. “Settle down, Gail,” I kept trying to tell myself.
Little did I know that just days later, those haunting visions would be my reality.
My son Aaron had drowned.
The news that came through to us at first was that my son was missing and assumed dead. ASSUMED! Upon hearing this my two brother in-laws, my sister, my oldest daughter and I immediately got in the car and drove through the night from Rhode Island to Virginia. My husband had to make the trip from Seattle where he was on business.
Aaron was finishing his senior year at Liberty University; a bright future awaited.
That night, the longest night of my life, was soon followed by four excruciating days waiting by the James River where my son has been rafting. There were rescue crews, search dogs, divers and a helicopter looked for my son. At one point the dogs found his scent on the side of the river, providing me a glimmer of temporary hope. Could he have made it to the side of the river and now is lost in the woods?
Through it all… I just couldn’t believe what was happening. This was “MY” baby they were looking for, MY son. The one that stole my heart from the moment he was conceived. The one I loved deeply for 21 years.
What happens when our DREAMS shatter? What happens to the HOPE we previously had?
Everything going on around me felt like a scene out of movie.. It couldn’t possibly be my life, yet…the pain in my heart told me that it was real.
After five days of searching his body was found wedged in between a couple of rocks at the bottom of the river.
I was enduring what I now call a thorn in my flesh. Heartache, sorrow, pain and grief. It’s a thorn I still live with today. It’s a place that is far from my comfort zone.
When the ache of missing Aaron becomes more than I can handle, when holidays, birthdays and family events come around, I often think of Paul. He too had to live with a thorn in his flesh, although scriptures don’t share exactly what his thorn was. It may have been health or emotional issues, maybe even heartache or loss, but what we do know is that he was dealing with some tough stuff – a daily pain. He also came to realize that God had allowed it to become part of his new way of living.
God promised and provided Paul strength for his journey. He encouraged him with His words in 2 Corinthians 12: 9 “My GRACE is sufficient for you, for my power is made PERFECT in weakness.”
After Paul heard these words and trusted these words he said this, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that CHRIST’S POWER may rest on me. This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and difficulties. For when I am weak, THEN I AM STRONG.”
Living with the loss of a child is unending. Despite the passed time, there are still days when I wake up with Aaron on my mind longing to hug him, hear his voice and see his smile. It’s then I remember yet again that he is not here with me but in his eternal home, Heaven (and he is loving it). My earthly heart however misses him desperately.
Like Paul I now realize that I have a different kind of life to live, one I cannot live successfully on my own, but only with the help of my Savior.
I could very easily allow this thorn to control my life. I could lament ever being born or wake up every morning whining, wanting to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head, or I can get up and do this life that God has given to me.
I CHOOSE to do just the latter.
It’s definitely hard at times but my strength doesn’t come from me or the priceless support of the dear people who are around me. My strength comes from the living power of The Almighty God. It is his grace that is sufficient for me every single day!
I still have meltdowns and I ask God why – why me? why my family? why my son?! That’s when my Father so lovingly reminds me “Why not you?”
He also brings to mind that good things come to those who CHOOSE to trust Christ in the midst of difficult circumstances.
You see, it’s what we choose to do with the pain that matters. Do we allow it to consume us, break us or better us?
Living with this “thorn” has given me a new perspective on life. It compels me to do things I never would’ve dreamed of for my life. I have allowed God to change my heart and my thinking…I now realize how fragile life can be and, how precious people are.
I realize life is so worth living because God has plans for me to do for his glory and his kingdom.
God has mightily used the pain I live with to purposely position me to minister to other women who live with thorns. I know in my heart that this is something I most likely would not be doing had it not been for the loss of my precious son.
What do we do when our dreams shatter? We trust God, even when we cannot see beyond hurt and the pain.
What happens to the hope we previously had? It is multiplied because in time God is faithful to show us that ALL things work for good to those who love him!