Job 1:20-21 NKJV Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. (21) And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
We buried my son and friend, David, yesterday. It was a beautiful service with songs by our sister in Christ and great friend, Andrea Callis, preaching by my fellow pastor and great friend, Eric Armstrong, and attendance by many, many, many of David's and our friends. I showed a slide show at the end and talked about a few of my personal struggles with David's life and death. I'd like to present those here, both for a record and in the hopes that it might help others. I'll link to the slideshow below.
As you watch the slides, note David's clothes, face, and smiles. When he's wearing coveralls, that's because his spleen was so enlarged that pants were uncomfortable for him. A couple of years ago, I was thinking about him and wondering what I could to make his life easier and “coveralls” came to mind. After all, old men wear them because they're comfortable, right? So, I got on ebay and rustled up a few pair for David and also for his brother Derek so that D2 wouldn't feel left out. The boys liked them a lot and they really were nice for David. But that's why he's wearing them in the pictures- they're not a fashion statement. When you see David with a hoodie, that's not a fashion statement either- he's cold. I could be in a T-shirt and David would be cold because his anemic blood didn't keep him warm enough. Watch David's face carefully; it's always lean and drawn, but you'll see a point at which he really starts looking thin. That's the point at which we decided we had to get aggressive with his treatment. And lest we forget- that was just last year. Watch his smile. He smiles pretty well until maybe 2 years ago, and then he rarely smiled; well, not until he had someone to visit with and then he was all smiles. You'll see all of these things change very dramatically as the slides progress. I don't want you to feel sorry for David; to the contrary, I want you to see the struggles he faced and the attitude he had while facing them. I want you to realize his situation here on earth, so that you can better appreciate his position now.
The first struggle I had was with David's salvation. He never “confessed Christ” , nor was he baptized, nor could he really confess his status as a sinner. I've read and studied childhood salvation and I came long ago to the conclusion that God saves children in Jesus, but to study it and to come face to face with it are two very different things. This really bothered me and Wed morning at 3 am, I was out in my shop when it just hit me and I started crying and just begging God, the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that are in them, to please, please, let me know where David was. Now, the Bible talks quite a bit about “crying out to God”, but I assure you that there's not like a little button you can flip to enter “Crying Out to God” mode. You can't say, “Oh, I'm going to go cry out to God now...” I can't, anyway. Crying out to God is something visceral and I'm pretty sure that this was the first time I've ever really done it. After I got settled down, I went back in the house, sat down at my computer and found this e-mail from Mario Proulx, a dear friend of David's.
Bryan, I'm not good with words, especially in times like this, but rest assured that when I flipped my hand upward last night to high-five David one last time, I did indeed feel something slap me back. Maybe it was a nerve twitch from the goofy angle of my wrist at that moment, but I don't believe it was; that would be too much of a "coincidence".
That made me feel better, but I still wanted to think. So, I went over the couch and sat down. As I sat there in the moonlight, my eyes fell on David's little electronic drum set, which he'd only had for a week. He had an excellent sense of time, though, and we played several times. On Sunday evening, Georgia and David started playing- her on bass and him on drums. I came in from chores, got my Telecaster, and joined them. We played several songs and then were sitting there when I started playing a certain song. We played that one for awhile and then G got up to leave. I said “Wait, let's try this one before you leave”, and we played another song for a bit. Georgia left and it was just David and me. David said “Let's play that one again. I want to make sure I have it.” So, I obliged. Afterward, I told him “You know, I've never played those songs with anyone before. I've only practiced them.” Sitting there on the couch, wondering about where David's spirit was, staring at his drum set, I suddenly recalled the last 2 songs we'd played. The next-to-last one was “Knockin' on Heaven's Door”. And the last one- the one he wanted to play again, to make sure he had it right- was a Brad Paisley instrumental called “Departure”.
Out of all the songs I know, why those two titles in that order, at that time? This is beyond coincidence and I can only attribute it, along with Mario's e-mail, as an answer to my cries from God. Later that day, I was reading a tract and hit this verse:
1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
I have preached on this verse numerous times, but I guess I just needed a reminder. David may not have been able to verbalize his sins, but the message of the cross was NOT foolishness to him. He never joked about God or Jesus, would frequently draw pictures of crosses and churches, and liked going to church. I never saw the slightest bit of foolishness in his attitude toward the cross. After all of these assurances, I felt good about David's status in Heaven and I had peace about it.
The other struggle I had was with the way I felt like a yo-yo. I would pray and pray and pray for David, and sometimes things would get better. When they did, then I'd hope and hope and hope but things would inevitably get worse. Why would God give me this hope and encouragement only to yank the rug out from under me? I really struggled with this. I mean, I trust God and know that He's sovereign and that “all things work together for good for those who love God”, but I just didn't understand it the yo-yo thing. Every time I prayed for a word from God about David's healing, I was drawn to the Job verse above.
David didn't actually see Natalie play until a few weeks ago. A notice popped up on Facebook that Natalie was playing in Albuquerque. I checked the calendar and, hey, we were going to be in ABQ that Friday for a check-up and possible blood transfusion (his first since December). So, I got tickets front and center and we went. After the concert- which David absolutely loved- we hung around and Natalie came out to sign (she's 5 months pregnant, too!) David got his CD signed, and well.... I think these pictures speak for themselves:
On the way home, David was just overjoyed. He listened to Natalie's new CD “Cape Breton Girl” all the way home. We saw Natalie on Saturday night, May 19th. David died 8 days later.
It was obvious, then, that I'd use Natalie's music as background for David's slide show. But, which song? I got “Yours Truly” out and there, in the list of songs, was “David's Jig”. Done deal. But I needed another one 'cause I had a lot of pictures, so I choose the first one “Volcanic Jig” which would've been the song playing when David confiscated the CD from me. I put the slide show together, selected the music, set the show to run “Length of Music” and created it.
While watching the video for the first time, something struck me. “Volcanic Jig” plays for David's early life. There's a short break, then “David's Jig” starts. It's pretty dynamic. The slides are showing David's life at what I consider his decline. He's getting older, his body is making more demands, his blood's not keeping up. The music breaks rhythm and at this point, the slides are showing him during the transfusion period. This was a transitional period in his life, as well as in the music. After this, the music kicks back in, but with more intensity, with an urgency. This corresponds to the pictures during his steroid use. There's another break in rhythm, shorter this time, and this is the time at which David was really kicking in- check out his smile in the photos. The music goes for a short intense period, and this is the time during which I really got to enjoy him- we shot 3D archery shoots, he jumped, ran, smiled, wrestled, and ate. He also swelled up from the steroids and had some aches and pains. Finally, the music slams to a stop. It doesn't fade or slow down. It slams to a stop.
While watching this, I realized something. God didn't yank me up and down like a yo-yo. Instead, he took me to the peaks and showed me the far green country ahead. In His grace and mercy and lovingkindness, He said “this is what David can be like”. Instead of letting David slowly run down, he let me live life with David to the full, to the very last night, when we played music together. David's connection with Natalie MacMaster is spooky. As I watched the video with the underlying music, I thought “It's almost like she wrote the soundtrack for this!” I'd never even really listened to “David's Jig” and I sure didn't set the pictures to the music. It was only when watching it myself that it all came together. It's also spooky that Natalie effectively opened and closed David's life. After all this, I felt great peace about David's life and his death.
Now the question I had was- “What could be the purpose of David's life?” I mean, it's great that we got to do all these things together, but what was the eternal value of David's life? What is anyone's purpose? The Bible tells us that our purpose is to glorify God. Did David accomplish that? Did I help David accomplish that? Well, David taught me meekness and self-control. He was a fragile little boy and I had to discipline him with a gentle hand. I had to rely on my faith during his struggles. Medical science did what it could do, but remained stymied by his symptoms. I'm convinced that it's a miracle David lasted 11 years; there were many times when we thought "this is it", and it wasn't. Raising David demanded goodness and kindness; you could not be mean to him. And let's face it, his time with us was stressful. My life revolved around what David needed, David's medical expenses, David's transportation, David, David, David. I worried about David, prayed for David, checked up on David. He was on my mind all the time. I think I'd consider this “long-suffering”. I have already mentioned “peace” and in struggling with David's life and death, I found peace. In observing David and being the objection of his affection, I experienced “joy”. And finally, what I learned from David was “love”. It's often hard to separate “love” from “lust”, or we often love those who do nice things for us. But neither of these applied to David. We loved him because he needed love and because he gave great love back. So, as brother Eric pointed out, one of David's roles on this earth was that of “teacher”. He taught me. David taught us all.
Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
David brought out the fruit of the Spirit in me and in everyone he met. He was not here to be taught; he was here to teach. I think that was one of his purposes and he accomplished it well.
I'd already decided long ago that David's funeral would be closed casket. I didn't want to remember him in such a thing and because he died of a medical emergency, an autopsy was done, too. On Thursday morning, I woke up at 3 am again and went to the couch. I thought about watching a video of us on our trip to Washington DC. I thought about how frail and fragile David was on that trip. I carried him many times so he wouldn't get run over by human traffic. He wouldn't eat anything and, well... you can scroll back in this blog and find what I wrote while we where there. Then it occurred to me (it seems that one can have many profound thoughts at 3 am!) that I didn't want to remember David as either in the casket OR as he was in life. The way I need to think of David is as he is NOW. He's in Heaven. He's perfectly cured. I need to think of that faraway green and beautiful land that God allowed me to glimpse while on the upswing with David. That's how I need to think of David. After all, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. David's favorite part of all our vacations were the air/space things. Well, he's with the Creator of air and space now! I think there will be lots for him to see and do. This is how I need to think of him.
All of these things came together before the funeral and I was able to speak about most of them and try to communicate the same hope and, yes, joy, that I now had over David's life and death. However, while writing this blog, I confess that I was feeling a little bit “down”. Let's face it, 11 years of worry, stress, and striving are over. I am so incredibly tired. Plus, I miss my little buddy, my shadow, my friend. We have company today and I wanted peace and quiet so I moved to my shop to type this. I'm sitting at a white table typing on an old laptop with a flaky trackpad. My optical mouse wasn't working well on the white table (optical mice need some visual texture to work). I need something with visual texture. Over on my normal bench is a piece of wood, but it's too thick and will raise my hand up awkwardly. Tucked between two drawers, though, is a slimmer piece of wood that will work perfectly. I pull it out and this is what I find:
|Optical mouse doesn't work on white surface|
|Note thin board between cabinets|
I love you, too, David. And thanks!!! When I get there, let's play “Heaven Opened the Door” and “Arrival”, okay? You may have to help me out a bit as I'm sure you've been practicing and have it right. But, hey, we'll have all eternity.
A year and half after writing this blog post, I wrote this one- "Departure".