Three months later (pages 99-100):
Thirteen weeks after the accident David told me the details. He told me quietly, peacefully, matter-of-factly that he had seen the car coming at him and Johnny. I was stunned.
I wonder how many of these scenarios are packed away inside the minds of the children. How many times will I be surprised by their memories, their pain? How many moments will there be when I am amazed by their resilience? They are marked by this experience, to be sure. But they are marked not only for worse. Their response to Johnny’s death also has the potential to change them for the better—if we are faithful, if we handle it right.
Already I could see hints of this change in myself. Until this time I had never really longed for heaven. I believed in it. I made my moral choices in the hope of attaining it. But it was so far beyond my imagination that my attitude had been to embrace God now, and then trust that I will love him enough to give myself unreservedly to him when the moment comes to exchange time for eternity.
But something had changed. When Johnny’s brain stem was snapped, something snapped inside of me—something that tied me to earth, that made the physical beauty and the beauty of the natural world idols to me. Physical beauty rots in the grave and natural beauty groans in travail, while both await their liberation from slavery to corruption.
I found myself longing for heaven, longing to be with my son, longing to leave this valley of tears. But more, I was longing to be with God for his own sake. Something in the longing was changing. It was no longer simply to be rid of the pain. It was no longer simply to see Johnny again. It was God himself who was the longing behind all my other longings. God himself was the fulfillment of all that I glimpsed in the nobility of my friends, the sweetness of my family ties, and the heroism of those who work for justice. God himself was the beauty I sought in all the beauty that so delighted my soul and senses. It was God who used even pain to call me to himself. As C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures… but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
And when things were at their worst, I kept going back to the Book of Revelation: “There will be new heavens and a new earth…. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I returned to this word again and again, drinking in its consolation, because when I absorbed it into the depths of my soul I found peace.
There will be a time when every tear is wiped away. There will be a time when sorrow and mourning and wailing and pain and death will disappear. There will be a time when we are reunited with those we love—if we will but believe, hope, trust, and obey.
Six months later (page 130):
Liturgy. Ritual. Sacrament. The life of the Church is like a river flowing from its source to its ultimate surrender in ocean, gulf, or bay. The river carries everything in it and on it toward its destination. Just so the Church—Mother Church —carries us on our journey home. The ancient prayers and gestures, the sameness and solemnity and predictability, are tremendously important spiritually as well as psychologically. Whether we feel dry or not, empty or fill, rich or poor, high or low, the worship of the Church is steady, slow-moving, undistracted, and unperturbed, leading us to our ultimate surrender to God in death.
Nine months later (page 155):
It was February. As the dark winter months drew on earth itself seemed asleep in death, I noticed that grief changes with time. There is a difference between early grief and later grief. Early grief is acute; later grief is more diffuse. Early grief smacks, stings, punches; later grief is more gentle. Early grief is a stalker; later grief is a companion. Early grief consists of crags and crevices; later grief, of furrows softened by the passage of time.
II Samuel 18:33 — King David was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Psalm 71:20 — Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.
John 14:1-3 — (Jesus said), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 16:22 — (Jesus said), “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
I Thessalonians 4:13-14 — Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
Revelation 21:3-4 — I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Prayer on page 20, adapted:
Lord, give me patience until I see ________ again. Amen.