This was how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. His mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they were married, she found out that she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18
Often the winter holidays bring to mind memories of Christmases past. It has been long enough since my son died that sweeter memories have percolated to the surface of my thoughts. It’s hard the first months, maybe even years, to think of anything positive, so don’t feel discouraged if this is where you are. It won’t always be so.
As I recall this story I am about to share with you, my son had grown to the age where he thought he was old enough to make his own decisions without parental input. Having no prior experience at parenting, and he being my first child, I probably let out the “leash” a little too slowly for his liking. This led him to become my teacher at times and say in exasperation, “Mom, I can do it by myself!” This is a precious memory born out of one of those experiences.
Christmas was just around the corner, and like many churches the world over, our little church was decked out in finery. The Christmas tree lights twinkled, and the poinsettia plants, lining the platform, added velvety-red beauty to the usual greenery.
All the decorating was a reminder that soon a manger display would take its place front and center. Now it was time to put the finishing touches on the annual Christmas program. The Children’s Divisions were humming with activity, as teachers assigned music and readings to kids of all ages. My firstborn was chosen to read a verse from the book of Matthew which would signal the beginning of the much-anticipated event.
I asked my son if he needed any help learning the passage, just in case there was a challenging word or two he did not know how to pronounce. He said, “No, Mom. I can do it by myself.” Of course he could. What was I thinking? I should have checked the version from which he read, just in case. I forgot that his little Bible was the King James version with its “old” English style. My precious little boy stood up on stage and recited the passage from Matthew this way:
“. . . When as his mother Mary was exposed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child . . .”
Bless his sweet heart. Of course the word “espoused” could trip anybody up. He was truthful; Mary had been exposed.
My son, growing independent far too fast for my liking, had no idea why his reading evoked chuckles from across the congregation. We parents stifled our mirth, realizing that our son could be embarrassed by his faux pas. I don’t think he caught his mispronunciation, and I never brought it to his attention; innocence is so tender in young children. Years later this story would become a cherished memory added to the few I have left of him now.
Sadly, my firstborn grew up insecure and lonely. In his quiet nature, he could not easily open up and speak of his pain. Looking back now, I see more clearly what I could not see then. No doubt he suffered with depression and all the struggles that go with this silent disease. My firstborn got to the place where he could no longer handle his problems. He just wanted the pain to stop. He wanted peace, not pain, and he got it when he ended his life.
Who but God knew that my son would grow up lonely. Who but God knew that he craved a special relationship with someone, and he felt it would elude him forever. Who but God knew that all he wanted was a wife and family.
I sometimes pause to read a parent’s description of the child she or he lost to suicide. The child is always pictured as gentle, helpful, the kind of person who would gladly give the shirt off his back if someone needed it. It is the vast contrast between their sweet characters and their final, harsh action that make their deaths so hard to comprehend and nearly impossible to accept.
What gives me comfort, even during the holiday season, is to remind myself that my son came into this world designed just the way his Creator intended: sweet-natured, tender-hearted, lovable ~ no doubt just like your child. God knew my child before he was ever born. He knew the number of hairs on his head. He had engraved the name we chose on the palm of his hand. God also knew how many days my son would live. Nevertheless, this child was too special not to make us a family, even though our hearts would one day break under the strain of pain and loss.
I once heard someone say something like this, and it stuck with me: where we put a period, God puts a comma. Or to quote T.D, Jakes, “It’s not over, until the Lord says it’s over.” God has put a comma after my son’s name. He cannot forget my child any more than he can forget yours. Someday soon the God of heaven will reunite children with parents. This time for all eternity!
Verse selected from Good News Translation (GNT)