“Sing hymns and psalms to the Lord with praise in your hearts.” Ephesians 5:19 GNT
I was in the throes of deep grief, having lost my firstborn son to suicide just a few months before. Fall colors were in full swing. Everyone but me, it seemed, was eagerly anticipating family gatherings for Thanksgiving. How could any holiday be a reason to celebrate ever again? I could not yet accept the reality that one chair would always be empty.
I wasn’t the only one on a grief journey. My husband lost his son. My “baby” lost his older brother. Extended family lost a nephew and grandson. I was slowly learning that we cannot combine our grief. We each have a unique loss and must walk our grief journey in the solitude of the heart.
It was a break from the heaviness of grief when my youngest came from the deep South to spend a weekend with us. We were delighted. It was good see him. He had just relocated before his brother died, and hadn’t started his new job when he got the tragic news. When he returned home to begin his job, we knew he would have to “hit the ground running,” since he was already behind schedule before his first day. We were eager to find out how he liked his new position and the new life he was carving out for himself.
Being a weekend, we went to church as is our custom. My son came with us. It warmed my heart to look down the pew at his face smiling back at me. Never mind the flip flops, so commonly worn year around in his beach-y state, and so different from the sturdy shoes we wear up North as summer gives way to fall. Seeing flip flops on his feet made me smile.
It seemed rather strange behavior when our son pointed to his dad’s shoe, and mimed his desire for his dad to remove his shoe and pass it down to him. Dad complied. Son tried on the shoe, checked the fit, then took it off and handed it back. Was this a new ritual he had picked up down South? It was odd behavior, but we were in church. I could satisfy my curiosity with a question about it later.
When it was time for special music, I was curious as to why my son stood up, walked to the end of the pew, and strode up front in his flip flops. What was happening? When he took the microphone and background music began to play, it all became clear why he had driven all those miles. My son had traveled such a long way to see us and gift his mother with a special song, sung just for me.
I don’t even remember the name of the song he sang. I was caught between choking back sobs and smiling from ear to ear. My son, without many words about losing his brother, was singing his heart out to God and to me. He was undoubtedly pouring out his love for us, as well as his love for his brother and the pain of losing him.
I pause while writing this post to say that words can be frustratingly inadequate. I’ve never felt it more than I do right now. How can I express my deep love and appreciation for my son who chose to gift me with a song? Sung from deep within his heart, he gave me joy and soothed the ever-present sorrow. Through my tears, I felt his love, and I know I will cherish this special memory for the rest of my life. When it comes to mind that he rarely speaks of his brother, I will remember how he expressed his emotions so beautifully so soon after our tragic loss.
We all miss our son and brother terribly, and we look forward to seeing him again. This time he will be all brand new; we all will be brand new. On that day, we will lift up our voices and sing with thankful, joy-filled hearts to God. What a grand reunion!
“Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 63:7 NIV
PS – Perhaps I should explain the shoe test, in case you are still wondering. My son was nicely dressed . . . from ankles up. Sitting in the pew looking at his feet, probably reminded him, “Oh, I forgot to pack dress shoes.” His dad has smaller feet, but apparently he thought it was worth a try. Watching him “flip flop” up the aisle, probably to the amusement of others, makes the memory all the sweeter.