On the Arrow That Was Our Son

I used to hate getting flowers.

Raised by an impossibly frugal mother, I felt the money spent on a product that was ultimately destined for the compost heap was a waste. I know this baffled my husband, and to his credit, he kept buying them for me despite knowing my odd position.

I realize now that I totally missed the point. That to a man whose only intention was to love and to bless, I must have sounded like the very voice of Judas himself.

Listen:

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ‘It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.'” (John 12:1-8)

Our house is full of flowers now, of the fragrance of their perfume.

Beautiful bouquets of roses and irises and lilies; vases of gardenias and lilacs and sunflowers and hand-picked buttercups and rhododendrons; spiky fronds and milky-veined leaves, all slowly, slowly, slowly dropping their petals as they march off the day-beats since our son died.

We have come to know something of sacrificial love.

What these flowers tell us – and the bowls of fruit, and the baskets of muffins, and the meals, the cards, the frequent check-ins, the prayers – that our son was loved, that we are loved.

That when a life well-lived is cut short, people will do anything – anything – to honor the memory and comfort the grieving.

I’ve become okay with flowers.

Because you, our dear friends, are Mary to our Jesus. The sweet nard of your care has made the loss of Gordie bearable. Hopeful, even.

You may not think you were pouring yourself out on the Savior’s feet, but this is what He says: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

Since our son died, we have felt like the least. And there you all are, doing for us what we could not, cannot, do for ourselves. We are beyond grateful.

The funeral director told us that he had never seen such an outpouring of flowers. Here is a man who deals daily in grief, moved by the aroma of your coming-alongside. A kinder man I cannot imagine – one whom no one ever wants to meet, but who made gentle our walk through death. Thank you, Steve Purdy.

We have heard some amazing stories since Gordie’s accident. “Coincidences” – like my cousin in Connecticut meeting the mother of one of Gordie’s closest friends one night last week in a nail salon. Gordie’s name written in the dormitory desk drawer of one of his younger brother’s friends. Gordie showing up in the background of a hockey photo taken of another friend’s son in a game played years ago, scrolling across this man’s computer screen late the night of the wake.

Our limo driver sharing our grief as he, too, had lost a son.

On the way to the Celebration of Life, our family tucked safely into his slick, black vehicle, I had a moment of panic. I expected him to turn left out of our neighborhood. That was the way I thought we should go, and it was the way I had told my brother to go. We were on our way to my son’s funeral at a church I had never been to, and I did not want to worry about being late or my brother getting lost. But he turned right, and my heart sank.

Then a miraculous thing happened.

I felt God whisper encouragingly, “Are you ready to let Me?”

I looked up at the Garmin plotting our route, considered the man at the wheel who did this for a living, asked God what He meant by letting Him.

Stop trying to take the wheelHe said. Let Me drive.

I know where you’re going – you, Gordie, all of you. I know the way, and I know the times. Your job is to trust. To cooperate. To listen and respond. I’ll do the leading. All you have to do is release.

Let Me.

I think what God is telling us through these stories is that He is on the throne. We may not understand why Gordie had to die at 22, but the tiny fraction of the picture that we see of this thing called life is just that – a fragment, a piece, an infinitesimal glimpse of the incomprehensible diorama that is TRUE LIFE. And the most comforting thing of all is that, because Gordie trusted Jesus, he can see. He now knows.

I pray that everyone who knew Gordie will also make that same choice. Trusting Jesus, letting Him drive, is the only way we can ever navigate.  It’s the only way, the only way, I can keep putting my feet on the floor every morning and walking forward into the day, because some day, one day, I will see my son again, in the perfect radiance of God’s good light.

I’m thinking there might even be flowers.

What follows is the eulogy I read at Gordie’s Celebration of Life. His dad wrote a letter to Gordie and suggested I write a letter to God.

It turned into more of a hopeful prayer, really.

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Dear God,

Well. Wow. Here we are. What can I say? I want to talk to you about Gordie, but I’m not even sure where to begin.

I read in your book a few nights back that children are your best gift. I think the way you put it was “Oh, how blessed are you parents with your quivers full of children!” I have to say, I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the awesome honor of being Gordie’s mom. He was one sharp arrow, that kid.

Here he was, living the most amazing life right under our very noses. He asked so little of us but gave so much. With Gordie, there was always a danger of there not being enough seats to go around, but now that I think about it, that would have been OK because he would have happily given up his.

He was usually too busy dancing.

And laundry! I know you’re smiling now, God, because you saw that boy hauling his laundry home from UNH every week, and you and I both know he did that just as much for the clean clothes as he did to check in on me to see how I was doing. I’m going to miss those lazy couch-sits and lively book discussions and crazy which-Borek-has-the-better-calf-muscles debates when his siblings were home. And while none of us was watching, he’d be quietly doing all our laundry and folding it, too.

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I’m going to miss our Emoji wars, too, God. I know I’m probably showing my age, but I never knew you could have a whole conversation with someone and never use any words. Not sure why they call it texting. Anyway, our conversations would usually start with a few lines about how-did-your-exam-go-honey, or what-school-did-you-work-at-today-Momma, but it would always end with what I came to call the Emoji wars. I don’t know what he might have called it or even if he knew that I considered it “our thing.”

I’d send him a heart.

He’d send back three.

I’d send a chocolate frosted donut.

He’d send back an alien head and a pig snout.

I’d send him the smiley face with the puzzled expression and he’d send me the one with the big bulgy eyes.

And on it would go, until one of us would send the sleeping face, the other would send the z’s, and it would end. Or so I thought, until I’d wake up in the middle of the night to find he’d added another heart or three or five or ten.

Sneaky little arrow, he always won.

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I know you saw us, God, his one-less-than-family, yesterday morning watching your beautiful sun rise over the beach. We know you were there. Gordie too. Thanks for reminding us of your constancy; that because you are faithful every day to send us that sun, and were faithful 2,000 years ago to send us your own precious Son, we know we can trust you with this. Yes, even this.

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I know he wasn’t perfect, God. Which of us could ever claim that? Yes, there was just enough naughty sewn into that boy to keep me on my knees. But you knew him, Lord. It wouldn’t be long after he had said or done something unkind or unwise that he’d be back, wrapping the offended party in a hug with that big wide grin on his face. He was, by far, the world’s best apologizer. Make me more like that, Lord.

And friends, God! That boy was always drawing a crowd. Thank you for blessing Gordie with so many wonderful friends. You know he had a way of making everyone feel like they were his best friend. Look at them, God – aren’t they something? I can hardly look for fear my heart might burst. How that boy did love. Could I ask you to do something, God? Would you be sure to keep a careful watch over them? Help them to take care and forgive much and love well? Help us all?

I’m not sure, God, how we’re all going to handle this new normal. As you know, without Gordie, it’s going to be a whole lot harder. I know that whenever I find the sole righty stick in a pile full of lefties, or see a bewildered kittycat wandering around an empty room looking for her favorite human, or hear the words “LuLu Lemon” that I might not be able to hold it together. Thank you, God, that, because of your strength, we all have more than enough hope to run this race. Help us, Lord, to run with the same grace and sweetness and abandon that our Gordie did. Because ultimately, he was your son. We just had him on loan here for an all-too-little-while.

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Thank you for making him so happy, Lord.

I’ve got to be honest with you, God – it’s not easy that our parental quiver is now diminished by one.

But we want to thank you, Father, for the arrow that was Gordie.

I think it’s safe to say that he hit the mark.

Gordie, I love you. We all love you. I can’t wait to see you again, dry-eyed and full of joy.

 

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