One year after the funeral: Comments on Light, Comfort, and Community

“The ceiling is sagging mom,” Ellie said to me when she came up from the basement and saw all the people.

Our small group came, just hours after landing from their trip to Israel. Our church friends came. Family was here. Kelly and Finley made the drive from Roscoe. Teachers and bus drivers came. 

Linda, his buddy from our special needs program at church, told me what a gift my son was. He changed her life without words. His silent presence, a most precious gift. 

Tom, his bus driver, told me he still had a items in his home to remind him of Jayden. 

All these seemingly disconnected people-connected by love for one little boy. We swapped stories, snot and tears. We laughed. We watched the video from his funeral. Justin cried as he read 2 Corinthians 4, giving permission for others to cry with us. Then, in the bitter cold, (as we prayed all the unsupervised kids destroying the basement had on coats and shoes) we lit up our fence, light by light: Continue reading “One year after the funeral: Comments on Light, Comfort, and Community”

Uncontainable Light: A mother’s love letter from her daughter’s funeral

Oh, beeba.

Brooklyn, Brook, Brookie, Beebs. Beeba-leebs, Beiber, Leeber, Beezel. Sweet B. B. One name couldn’t contain you, but that’s your story, your light was not meant to be contained.

I can’t believe you’re gone.
I can’t believe I am standing here so soon.

Again.

Actually, I can.
You always did things your way and on your time. Continue reading “Uncontainable Light: A mother’s love letter from her daughter’s funeral”

Everlasting Joy: A father’s reflections from his daughter’s funeral

Right after Brooklyn passed, a family friend printed off some pictures from when Brooklyn was younger during a season Justin volunteered with One-on-One, a inner-city Zion basketball camp. During camp, I would bring the kids up and they would run around and make friends with all the coaches and players. Jayden would dribble balls and shoot hoops, Brooklyn would dance and sing.

One of the pictures, now a bookmark in Justin’s Bible, is a picture of B wearing a shirt that says, “My heart belongs to Dad.” Sometimes, I find him fighting tears as he looks at it. They sure share a special bond.

I am not sure if this is true of every family, but it feels true for us. There’s just something different about the bond shared between a mother and a son, a father and a daughter. Not better or worse, more or less, just different. A boy needs his mom and a girl needs her dad. (I know both need both, but you get it.)

Maybe it has to do with protection. A dad protects his girl and raises his son to be a protector. A mother protects her son and raises her daughter to be a protector. Maybe it’s simply because Jayden was like his dad, and Brooklyn was a lot like me.

I don’t know why, I just know it was true for us and impacts how we are grieving.

Justin’s words about his sweet B that he shared at her funeral are so precious and the lessons he learned from her are really lessons for us all. Lessons about living life to the fullest, real heroism, love, and joy.

 

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Continue reading “Everlasting Joy: A father’s reflections from his daughter’s funeral”

I can’t believe you’re gone.

I just want to be with you, B.

I can’t believe your gone. It’s a wave of panic that comes over me every time I let myself go there. Go to the place of full acknowledgement, full awareness, fully present to the weight of your physical absence. 

I am trying, B.

Trying to take one grace-filled step after the other. I am making my bed AND feeling sad. I am showing up and doing hard things. When you are newly bereaved, again, even simple things are hard.  

Continue reading “I can’t believe you’re gone.”

Lessons from our little girl: Aunt Angie’s reflections on life, love, and an unexpected calling

To say that we have been blessed by Angie’s love and presence in the life of our family wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface. If there was one person I’d change my “5” tattoo into a “6” for, it would be her. She has been present for every high and every low we have walked – from baby showers to funerals, from youth group to small group, from hospitals to hotel rooms, from green rooms to stages, from vacations to Tuesdays. Some of my best laughs and ugliest cries have been with her. She has easily become a welcome fixture on our couch and in our hearts and I couldn’t imagine doing this journey without her.

Many times we’ve prayed that Angie would marry and fulfill the desire of her heart to love and be loved in that type of relationship. We still do. But she would be the first to tell you that a person isn’t defined by their relationship status or their work, but by their Savior and by their heart.

Would we have chosen our stories at first glance — Singleness or Special Needs? Nope.

But looking back, I would choose it again and again. I would stand at the front of the line begging to be Jayden’s and Brooklyn’s mom, and I bet I’d find Angie, standing right next to me begging to be Aunt Ah-gee, too.

Many times we think our plans and timing are best, but when we change our focus, we can see that God has been up to something much better, all along.

Ang, you may not have chosen “Aunt Ah-Gee” over marriage if God dangled them both in front of you 12 years ago, but I am so glad He knew better than to give you a choice back then. We both would have missed watching you live out your purpose for the season J and B were physically present. We all would have missed the blessings.

We should talk about this more, shouldn’t we? Friendships, Plan B, singleness, purpose in pain….

Ang, let’s hit the road!

Seriously though, Angie. Justin and I will always pray for God to find a match for you, but we will also pray, no matter what your relationship status is, that you feel loved, that you know you belong, that you live into your purpose and calling — whatever that is in whatever season you are in — and that you know, deeply and profoundly, you matter to us. We feel honored to be sitting in the front seat to your life just as you have sat in ours.

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Here are Angie’s words from Brooklyn’s service:

Continue reading “Lessons from our little girl: Aunt Angie’s reflections on life, love, and an unexpected calling”

What do we do on Monday after the funeral?

I am so tired.
I feel how Jayden looks-smashed and buried.

This weekend, I think I experienced every emotion God made.

First grade doesn’t stop for my youngest just because her sister died. I thought I missed her open house, but it’s tonight. I thought I missed the bus time, but I remembered they post it online. I thought school started today, but it’s tomorrow.

I’m all screwed up, but God knows.

What do we do on these days?
The days after the funeral?
The days when everyone else seems to move forward and we are left picking up the pieces of our shattered life?

What do we do when the cards and casseroles stop?
When people stop saying her name? His name?
How do we answer, “How many kids do you have?”
Continue reading “What do we do on Monday after the funeral?”

Blue Jays and Laundry: What Grief Looks Like One Month After My Son Went to Heaven

“This is what the things can teach us:
to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that before he can fly.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke-

One month.

One month since Jayden has been gone.
One month closer to seeing him again.

My mind is just now beginning to clear, or maybe it’s returning to fog. I am still not sure which is more foggy, the months before and after a crisis, or the days lived in between life’s defining moments. I think it’s the latter, because every decision surrounding Jayden’s passing was so clear to me.

Continue reading “Blue Jays and Laundry: What Grief Looks Like One Month After My Son Went to Heaven”

Jayden’s Service Part 3: A Mother’s Love Letter

Thank you to all of you that came to the funeral service and for helping us remember Jayden’s influence this Thanksgiving by posting what your are thankful for using #JBThankful. We are so blessed by our community and tribe, and everyday, we find out how far reaching Jayden’s influence continues to be.

Here are my words from Jayden’s funeral:

Continue reading “Jayden’s Service Part 3: A Mother’s Love Letter”

Jayden’s Service Part 2: A Father’s Love

Dads, get out your notebook. Study his ways. Justin is worthy of being emulated. He is one of the best dads around. Selfless, affectionate, and willing to change diapers with his rough, callous hands from doing man’s work outdoors, providing for our family. He is equally gentle as he is strong. Listening to him talk about Jayden on Saturday was awe inspiring. I am so proud of him and the way he seeks to bring glory to Jesus in all he does.

Jayden loved “my dad” fiercely. This picture was taken days before he passed. Justin had stopped in from work for a few minutes, and received one of the greatest gifts, one of Jayden’s last smiles.

Perfection.

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Here are his words from Saturday:

Continue reading “Jayden’s Service Part 2: A Father’s Love”

Jayden’s Service Part 1: Samuel’s Impact Story

Dual blessing. 

It’s what I call our relationship with Sam. I will never forget meeting him on a youth retreat his Sophomore year of high school. He actually came with a different church youth group but ended up in my small group. I am not one for stealing kids from other youth groups, but technically he didn’t have a church youth group home so I didn’t feel that bad. I liked him. He was just a pretty cool kid and he got along with all my other misfit teenage boys.

He just fit.

He joined Impact, our youth group, where he used his gift of music and led worship. Right away he joined our small group that met during the week, so we became real close to Sam, seeing him twice a week.

But everything changed the day he called. There were things we just had no idea he was carrying. His call changed everything. Sam’s family and our family would journey to some very dark and heavy places behind closed doors over the next few years. And Sam went from being a kid in youth group we enjoyed, to family.

My office and my couch became a refuge for him. My son became his hero. Without using words, Jayden would change his life. Jesus used my son’s presence in Sam’s life to save it. And let’s be clear, it was Jesus that did the saving.

Sam is such a brave, talented, wise young man. He is already influencing his campus at Purdue with the love of Christ. He is making his journey back to an authentic, thriving, beautiful communion with his Savior, and I am so thankful Jayden played a part in his story.

We asked him weeks ago, before we really knew Jayden was going to pass, if he would share at his funeral and he agreed. Thank you, Sam, for not only sharing your words so powerfully, but for the honor it has been to be a part of your journey. Dual blessing for sure.


Here are his brave words from that day:

Continue reading “Jayden’s Service Part 1: Samuel’s Impact Story”