It is well with my soul

It has been a while since I wrote something here on my Jesse blog. I am pretty sure I have been going through the depression stage of grief and for me this means that when I sit down to write the spirit to do it is absent. I wish I could write. I have things I want to say. But I cannot seem to do it. I find would rather lay down on my bed and watch apocalyptic conspiracy theories on YouTube.

I had the intention, sometime after starting this blog, that I would scan the hundreds of pictures I have of Jesse and honor his life by writing about the wonderful memories. But right now it is difficult for me to deal with the photos. I am trying to clean the junk out of house, get rid of all that is unnecessary, and in my cleaning I keep running across photos – and report cards and certificates and t-shirts, all kinds of mementoes of the 23 years he lived as my son. I just sigh and put the photos and things aside. There has been a Shiny Computers t-shirt in my laundry basket since before his death and I have not been able to bring myself to remove it. I am trying to get functional and am trying to avoid falling into these caverns of loss.

I have to breath deeply and remind myself of the basic facts:

  • This world is not all there is. It is a speck in the ocean of eternity.
  • Jesse lives in eternity. He now lives in the presence of our Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ.
  • Jesse was not perfect – none of us are – but he was saved from damnation by the death and resurrection of our Savior. So he is alive now, fully himself as created by God.
  • I am still here on this speck. I have to try to live the rest of my life as well as I can, which means I must give each moment to God and do each thing as to the Lord.
  • Soon enough I also will be in Heaven where I will be reunited with Jesse, as well as my parents, in-laws, and many others.

I was not a perfect mother. I did many things wrong, sometimes out of flawed understanding, sometimes out of fear, sometimes out of selfishness. I am most devastated by this last thing. But as I will discuss in a moment “….my sins are nailed to the cross and I bear them no more.”

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Horatio Gates Spafford, from Wikipedia

These words come from an old hymn that I heard this morning on my way to work: “It is Well with My Soul.” Of course I’ve known this song for many years and used to sing it with choirs, but it touched me this morning even more deeply than it usually does. The hymn was written in 1873 by Horatio G. Spafford. Spafford wrote the hymn on a ship bound from New York to England where he was travelling to meet his wife after she had survived a horrible shipwreck. Their four daughters however – Annie, 11, Maggie, 9, Bessie, 5, and Tanetta, 2 – had all drowned.  Two years earlier the Spaffords had also lost a 4-year-old son to scarlet fever. Interestingly, Jesse also came down with scarlet fever at the age of four, the only serious childhood illness he had. What happened to the Spafford child is a reminder that many of us get to live longer lives due to the blessing of modern antibiotics.

The part of the hymn that touched me the most today was the third stanza about his sin being nailed to the cross and bearing it no more. This is because when you lose a child you tend to dwell minutely on every mistake or possible mistake you made as a parent. This self-blame makes a heavy burden even more tortuous. He was the one who had sent his family ahead of him to England on that ship. He could have unreasonably dwelt on that fact, searching for fault in himself as to why he did that, but instead he chose to dwell on the fact that all sins, all errors, are truly washed away by the blood of Christ.

It is Well With My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

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Thoughts of a Dad on the loss of his son

I have shared lots of thoughts here, all from a mother’s point of view, but of course I am hardly the only one feeling the loss. Jesse’s Dad felt it was time to get his experience down in writing and has let me share his thoughts on this blog….

* * * * * * *

OH JESSE!

By Tom Apple

recent-jesseI think I can finally commit to writing a few thoughts on the untimely death of my son, Jesse. It’s been five weeks since he died. I’m doing OK for the most part, but there are still very painful pangs of grief that manifest themselves daily. As my wife, Carol, has written, our lives will forever be changed by that event. My perspective has changed in many ways. I try to immerse myself in work and hobbies to distract myself from the pain, but it is only a temporary fix.

We still don’t know the cause, it is hard to keep from speculating on it, scrutinizing moments in the past to see if there were signs we missed that his death was imminent. Signs that could have clued us that there was something needing to be done. He was such a kind-hearted soul, generous to others, and with a strong ethic, the kind of young man I think the world is in desperate need of at this time. I am overwhelmed with regret that I did not avail myself to doing more with him while he was here with us. I feel that I failed to protect my son from whatever mishap befell him. That thought pains me the most. Logically I know this is a normal part of grieving, but logic be damned, it still doesn’t make any sense to me.

The thing that has buoyed me up the most has been the overwhelming outpouring of support from family, friends, and colleagues. That support, I have learned, can be a powerful thing. I can understand how hard it must be to try and console someone who has suffered such a loss, not knowing what can be said to help. The reality of it is anything said does help. Even statements such as “I have no words” or the silly little heart symbols, it all matters. The simplest acknowledgement that someone empathizes with your pain matters. For all those who reach out with any sort of contact, it helps. It doesn’t have to be flowers or cards or anything extravagant; a simple contact on Facebook, email, whatever, helps. For all who have done this, I am eternally grateful. You don’t know how much I love all for you for doing so. Sometimes these expressions will bring emotions and grief to the surface, but it still helps. I feel so lucky to be blessed by knowing such caring people. Some of them I’ve never met, only had contact on Facebook through common interests, yet they reached out with their concern and unconditional friendship. I know some of them are struggling with grief or critical health issues themselves, yet they took the time to reach out. God bless you all.

One of the hardest things is the drive into work. It’s a time alone at the start of the day before work and other daily things become prominent in my thoughts. It is at that time that reflection takes hold, the impact of the loss takes hold, and it’s all I can do to dry my eyes before driving through the security gate at work. I feel like I need a change of some sort. I’m not sure what exactly, maybe a different job, or living in a different place, something…

Work has me on the road for two weeks with a brief stay at home between trips. At least on this first trip, I find I just don’t want to be here. It’s tedious, irritating, and I have to be careful not let myself get sharp tongued when irritating incidents arise. I haven’t always succeeded in this. I am instructing some Japanese workers in Yokosuka and they see my irritation and unfortunately they probably take it personally, not knowing about my grief. At some point I will need to offer my apologies to them before I leave.

The loss of a child is unlike any other kind of grief. It’s a relationship hardwired into our DNA. One that when broken in such a manner, carves a big @#%ing hole in your heart. I don’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy. It’s just not natural. I don’t know what else to say at this point. The keyboard is probably about to short out from the tears flooding it. Hug your kids ever day. Love them hard. And I swear if I ever see anyone abuse their child, I don’t what I’d do, but it wouldn’t be pretty.

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Jesse as a medieval blacksmith’s apprentice at Jamestown Settlement’s annual Military Through the Ages event. This is one of the numerous costumes his Dad made him over the years. He also used it for Ivanhoe Day in 6th grade at Stonebridge.