Learning life lessons through loss

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Today is March 25th. For most of you, today will routinely tick by. It will be another day of overcommitted schedules, complex decision making, and trying to discover the answer to the oppressive and reoccurring question, “What’s for dinner?”

For Kim and me, March 25th is a much different day. Caden, our son, would have turned 11 today.  (If you are not familiar with our story, you can watch this short six-minute video here.) As I was praying this morning, God kept shoving into my heart so many thoughts about Caden and what I have learned over the past decade. I found myself praying and writing at the same time. I have never blogged on this subject matter before. So here it is. Raw. Unedited. Unfiltered.

1. The “How many kids do you have?” question still confounds me.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no way around this question. It is one of those obligatory questions when you are getting to know someone. I ask it all the time. But every time someone asks me this question I find myself caught in an emotional vortex.  How do I answer that question?  Do I answer by saying we have three kids, but one is in heaven? Trust me, I have tried this approach. It is an extremely awkward way to not only start a conversation, but start a conversation with a new relationship. Do I answer by saying we have two kids? This approach definitely avoids the extremely awkward pause. What is the appropriate response when that sweet hearted person smiles at my wife and states, “Don’t you want to give your husband a son to even out the playing field with having two girls?”  These moments can leave me standing there overcome with a variety of feelings.  Have we completely devalued Caden’s life?  It will be 10 years in October since Caden has died. This question hasn’t become easier to answer. I don’t know if it ever will.

2. Being present is better than words.

I have realized that great-hearted people can say things they believe will give you comfort but instead leaves you hurt. In difficult life moments people are just at a loss for words so they say the first thing that comes to their minds.  They say things like, “Caden is in a better place.” “You will see him one day, celebrate in that.” “Be thankful for the time you had with him.”  True? Yes.  But trite, simplistic, and emotionally conflicting statements in response to tragedy and suffering only intensifies feelings.  Just sitting there, embracing the uneasiness of wordless communication – now that is powerful. Just be present to those hurting. I promise you, that speaks louder than words.

3. An internal sense of urgency has erupted within me.

I went through a life plan back in January and “urgency” was one of the words that kept surfacing.  I live life with an overwhelming sense of urgency. Every day matters. I do not have a lot of patience for people who seem to like to spend time in the futility of life’s simplistic issues. Everyone needs to hear about a life changing relationship with Jesus – now. Grasp that God has designed you with a divine purpose, and live it out – now! Maximize every day with your children. Tell them you love them. Hug them. Be mentally present when you are with them. Life is unpredictable.

4. Walking by faith means something completely different to me now.

Last Saturday I ran the Rockin ’N Roll USA marathon.  I woke up at 5:30am. Put on my race gear and grabbed a Venti five shot Americano.  The biggest challenge of the day wasn’t the 26.2 mile race, but the burdensome 0.7 mile walk to the starting line. You see, I hadn’t ran a marathon since the St. George Marathon – which I ran the day before Caden died. Now, I had to face what I so strategically avoided. (Avoidance can become an unhealthy coping mechanism.) Every step down 14th street became more arduous as I neared the starting line.  Then it happened. With my sight blurred out by tears, I glanced down Pennsylvania Ave. The sun had just crested the horizon illuminating the Capital building. I stopped and embraced the totality of this moment 10 years in the making. Then God simply said, “I am God. I am with you.”   Yep. That is it. I have realized that Hebrews 11:1 impacts life at a completely different level when you place it beside Job 1:21. God is sovereign.  My life – your life – is in His hands. He never said that life would make sense. He just asks us to follow Him.

5. Mystery still surrounds “Why God?”.

I still haven’t discovered a great reason for the all-encompassing “Why God?”. I have some theories. I could engage in a philosophical and theological conversation with you for hours. But to keep this short, there still is not an acceptable answer that I have found except for this:  God is sovereign and my faith will always trump my hurt.

I have a friend who simply said to me, “You will now walk with a limp.” He was so right. It is not a limp fueled by self-pity or a pessimistic outlook on life. It is a limp created by wrestling with God in the darkest of life moments. It is a limp created by the realization that you actually control nothing and God controls everything. It is a limp created by experiencing the depths of suffering in the world that challenges faith to the core of your existence.

But this is what I know. This limp will quickly dissipate on the day I get to hold my son’s hand again – worshipping the author and creator of the universe. It is a limp that will be made new by a loving God who truly understands the pain of loosing a Son.  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5

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15 Comments

  1. Loved reading this, Chris 🙂 I knew you just ran the Rock N Roll, but I did not know the story behind your last marathon run. Though our experiences are different, and my limp somedays is quite literal ~ haha! 😉 ~ I relate so much to what you are saying, and continue on my journey to learn how to use that to love people in their suffering in a way that means something. And it makes me want to reach through my computer screen and give a huge bear hug squeeze to my “little brother…” 😉 Love you guys!!

    • Joanna Uhler on

      Thanks so much, Chris for writing this. Our third son, Douglas died at 19 years old only 3 three years ago. my husband and I have 3 other sons and we all walk with that limp. Some days(like today because for some reason when I dream about Doug my grief is more acute again)that limp hurts, other days it’s just an annoying ache. I am so sorry for your loss of Caden. I am grateful that you are willing to share your feelings about him and his loss to you and your family. I guess for you and me I will pray that Jesus comes quickly.

      • Joanna,
        Last year I officiated a funeral for friends who had lost their son. This is the last thing I wanted to do! But God has a way of pushing/encouraging us to a place we must go. It was one of the most difficult moments I have faced, but God used it to help me take a huge step in the healing process. Kim and I are discovering that as we walk beside (or should I say “limp beside”) those who have lost a child, God elevates the purpose of Caden’s life. The pain is still real. The hole in our heart is still there. But we are thankful that our story might be able to help others. I am also always thankful that Caden has great playmates up in heaven like Douglas!

  2. Julie Scattaregia on

    This is beautiful, Chris. Raw, unedited, unfiltered truth. I didn’t know about Caden. I am so sorry. I’m sure this was very difficult to write, but I want to thank you for sharing your story. The eyes of “El Roi” (the God who sees) is no doubt gazing lovingly on you as you continue to trust Him and glorify Him through your unshaken faith and beautiful words. Hugs to you and Kim!

    • Julie, You are right . . . God is the one who sees! He sees our hurt. He sees our loss. He sees the cracks in our faith. And despite all of that, He chooses to walk right beside us as we navigate life on the earth! Thank you!

  3. Even though I have heard you speak about the loss of Caden, I found this unedited writing an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your personal faith.

  4. Natalie Burton on

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. Though I haven’t experienced what you have, your words resonate so loudly with me. May God bless your family as we navigate this life. Much love to all of you.

  5. I have always struggled with the question of how many kids do you have? When I was 18, I had a son I gave up for adoption at birth. While I never doubted that decision it is hard to explain to people…God has blessed me with 2 children that I raised but how do I explain the son I chose to surrender for adoption. I guess that is one of those things too that never gets easier. I appreciate you sharing your authentic version of Cadens story, I think as Christians we have all experienced stuff that is hard to explain but as we become more real and authentic life will be easier , God gives us grace to handle all the circumstances we experience. I believe as we look to Him for comfort and consolation when others don’t understand, we will be comforted. I remember Cadens funeral and the statement he experienced more love in his short life time than people who live 80 years. It reminded us all to love more deeply and not to take life for granted.
    Thanks for impacting Cody and Kayleigh over the years… Be blessed as you move forward trusting a God who wont let us down!

  6. Brent Johnson on

    Chris this was so good. I hope you have some friends that can sit with you without saying things that don’t help. I always try to be there for friends that are crushed by life. i am sure I am not always helpful. As far as mentioning Caden I would be honored to hear your story anytime.I realize it could be awkward.

    Thanks for being willing to share your story in such a real way. May God Bless you and your family as you continue to limp through life

  7. You put into words some of the feelings I could only describe in sighs. On January 16th my 35 year old son, Danny, passed away due to a combination of pneumonia and H1N1 flu. His death came 3 years and one week after his father died of a rare cancer, and 2 months after my mother died of ovarian cancer. May 2nd would have been his 5th anniversary. He and his wife were beginning to plan for children, but had none. I lost my job this spring after 13 years. It was a job I loved.
    Thank you for expressing your most difficult feelings. They helped me too.

    • Brenda,

      Words in a season like you have experienced can appear simple and trite. I am trying to avoid that at all costs. The words that came rushing into my mind were the words James wrote over 2000 years ago . . .”Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4) It is the “Let perseverance finish” journey that is so difficult to wrap our arms around. We desperately want to be out of the difficult, emotionally conflicting, mind numbing, season of life. We just want to scream, “God, I get it. Now get me out.” But there is something about walking through the valley, hand in hand with God, knowing and trusting that He is right beside, and that he will make our paths straight.

      • Dear Chris,
        Your references to James and the 23rd Psalm were a balm for my heart.
        Thank you for the understanding reply.

        A few friends and members of my church suggested that I write about continuing in my faith despite the trials. I’m not really sure what to do with the text if I did articulate it.
        Brenda

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