Thankful for 23 Years + …

Every four years, Gabriel’s birthday (November 27th) falls on Thanksgiving. 2008 is one of those years. It is also our first Thanksgiving without him, thus our celebration will be small and simple. In years past I made a widely anticipated apple pie; it was Gabe’s birthday dessert of choice. Not this year. This year, we’ll have pecan pie, vegan chocolate pie, farina pudding with lingonberry red currant syrup and maybe pumpkin pie—other people’s favorites, all but one topped with freshly whipped cream.

In addition to the traditional expressions of gratitude, we’ll give special thanks for Gabe. For 23 years with him and for the blessed assurance of reunion, expressed here in our family headstone, which was set this week:

Not only am I thankful for the past and the future, I’ve found reason to be thankful in the painful present. For example, when Gabe died in California earlier this year, we quickly had to make arrangements for his burial 3000 miles away. Over the phone, I asked the NJ funeral director to find a cemetery somewhere at the Jersey Shore. Being from North Jersey, he said, “I’m only familiar with two cemeteries … in West Long Branch.” Because we had lived in neighboring Long Branch, I sensed God’s provision in this statement. We quickly decided that Gabe would be buried on “Cemetery Hill” at Glenwood Cemetery, where we had spent many a winter day sledding its gentle slope. It’s a place ripe with memories of both happiness and sorrow, death and life.

Only plots of four were available on the hill and only one headstone is allowed to mark each plot. Interesting thing this monument we chose. The bold assumptions it makes didn’t occur to me until after our names were chiseled out at great expense. It speaks with finality of death (the kitchen cabinet cross looks fleeting in comparison). It also assumes that Jeff and I will remain faithful to our marriage vows throughout our lives. This is no small statement in these times and in our particular circumstance. It assumes further that neither of us will remarry after the other one dies, or if the survivor does remarry, that the primary vow will be honored in death. The blank space at the right expresses a fragile faith that our second son will, long after we are gone, be laid to rest with a family of his own. (Such faith will be made firm when someone else’s name is safely etched there instead.) The epitaph communicates our one sustaining hope:

Jesus said… “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” John 11:25

It’s odd as a 40ish woman to know where my body will one day lie. It’s oddly reassuring to witness the granite reality that the end of sorrow is at hand. In the meantime, I’ll continue taking the advice of a wise friend, who counseled me to appreciate the beauty I see around me. There’s plenty of it.

On November 27, 2008, after our Thanksgiving turkey is safely in the oven, we’ll take time to give thanks at Gabe’s grave site. You’re welcome to join us. We’ll say a few words. Pray. Cry. Perhaps dig up a grandfather’s lovingly crafted cross. And then we’ll fold our gratitude and our grief into the story that ends with crowns being cast at the feet of Jesus. I pray you’ll be there for that celebration as well. Happy Thanksgiving, 2008~

“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 5:4, KJV)

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 21: 1-6a, KJV)

13 Comments on “Thankful for 23 Years + …

  1. Chris, my heart and prayers are very much with you this week…I have been thinking on Ps. 16: 8,9 and am especially struck by the way the end of vs.9 is rendered in NKJV: “My flesh also will rest in hope”.

  2. Thank you Marilyn. I’ve been thinking of you. It’s taken quite a bit of time to get settled. How about a walk one day soon? blessings~

  3. {{{}}} I just found your site, and with tears, I understand and weep with you. Two weeks before Christmas will mark four years our 16 year old son has been with Jesus. I know how hard the first celebrations all are – and we had to “make” ourselves move forward through them (rather than around them or without them). I too am thankful for the 16 years we had with Matthew, but it aches to the core in missing him. I too with you rejoice, that someday our tears will be wiped away and have the assurance also, that my son is with yours, praising our Savior. Tomorrow (Thanksgiving day) I will have a post somewhat towards this. But I wanted to tell you I’ve prayed for God’s peace and indurance as you walk this journey of finding a new normal and healing.

  4. I am back! Actually, the post I was thinking of I posted last Thursday (sometimes I post ahead to have things go up). I think you will be able to relate. Also interesting – we both have the same blog theme/format. 🙂

  5. Thank you for the prayers and kind words, Loni, and welcome. We’re in a club nobody wants to join. Heck, we wouldn’t wish membership on our worst enemy. May the Lord be with you this holiday season and always. I’ve just baked two pies, which was comforting and helpful. blessings~

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  7. I am so moved by you eloquence and clarity of your post. My heart aches for your loss, the reality of your state from here forward…I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 13:12, only the reverse, those of us to walk this path often have fresh eyes and ears that are suddenly very aware of what is real-true and lovely. This new vision is the one gift I would love to share with others, but without the actual loss of course.
    My thoughts and prayers will be with you and your husband that God will bless and strengthen your marriage as He draws you both to Him.

  8. Thank you for the kind words, Tammy, and the prayers. It sounds as if you know of what you speak. Blessings to you~

  9. Dear Christine,

    We are so sorry to hear of Gabriel’s passing. Those of us who have lost loved ones know how fragile and precious life can be. Our prayers, thoughts, tears and hearts go out to you and the rest of your family. Behind every cloud, though, there is a rainbow with sunshine and skies of blue. So remember if you have faith, peace will come to you. God’s plan for Gabriel is done. He has gone to a better place and is at peace now. Hopefully, you will be at peace knowing that. May God be with you and give you more comfort and peace of mind.

    Love, Prayers, and Hugs,
    F. Kisare & Family

  10. Thanks Freddie, It’s good to hear from you, friend. Many blessings to you and your family. I look forward to catching up. c

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