Our 7 children, Fri. Dec. 11, 2009, minus our eldest daughter, who took the picture
I wasn’t going to combine these two weeks. But an amazing coincidence struck me with force today. I hope you won’t mind my sharing something that’s very much on my heart today, and will be tomorrow as well.
Friday, December 11, 2009.
It was a date that will remain indelibly stamped on my mind for the rest of my life, as it will in the minds of everyone else in my family. Not so much for the evening itself, although it was a memorable time in its own right. It was more what came afterward.
It was a bright winter day, and I was not looking forward to all the work ahead of me. Things were much easier when our three daughters were still living at home. Now it was up to me to do all the cleaning and cooking for our whole family of nine.
Our oldest daughter had gotten married a few weeks earlier, while she was in Southern California visiting Sean and his family. Because of the red tape surrounding an international marriage, he had stayed behind, while our daughter returned home to Alberta, as originally planned, at the beginning of December.
This memorable night, we were gathering together to celebrate their marriage. Celebrating without the groom was just one of those oddities forced upon us by the red tape. When the plans were made, no one knew when he would be able to make the trip north to spend time with his bride. As it turned out, he had surprised her the day before, informing her that he would be coming in the wee hours on Saturday. When we asked our daughter about postponing the celebration so that he could be with us, she decided against changing the plans.
“It’s too hard to get everyone together, because of our various work schedules. Sean doesn’t like being in the spotlight anyway, so he honestly won’t mind if he isn’t here.”
We had a full turkey dinner, with all the fixings. We even had home baked apple pies and mincemeat tarts for dessert. I don’t like baking pies, because I think I’m bad at it. All of our kids disagree with my assessment of my baking abilities. The boys had been begging me for years to bake an apple pie… especially our oldest son, James. I was well rewarded by his gratitude!
“It’s too bad Sean couldn’t be here with us,” I said as we sat around the dinner table. “But on the other hand, it’s kind of nice that it’s just our family… mom, dad, and all seven children… for the first time a quite a while.”
“Yeah, I almost couldn’t get the time off work!” said James. He was wearing his favourite black shirt with the word “Geek” embroidered in green on the pocket.
It was like a hundred other family get-togethers, even though we all knew things would never be the same again, because our daughter was now Mrs. Sean G. We knew it would likely be the last time we would ever be together in this same group. But no one was prepared for just how big a change was in store for us in just a little over 24 hours.
James tossed his truck keys to our daughter, so that she could drive it to the airport later, to meet Sean. He handed her his cell phone in case she met with any trouble on the highway. Then he and the three girls left for their home in town, half an hour away.
Saturday December 12, 2009.
The next day was a Saturday just like any other. And like no other.
I spent the day cleaning up after our celebration the night before, and doing normal everyday things.
Late that night, my daughter messaged me on Yahoo chat.
“Mom, is James at your place?”
What a strange question, I thought. Why would he come here?
“He worked the evening, and got off at 11:30… and he’s not home yet. I’m sure it’s nothing. He often goes for a drive after he gets off work. But he’s usually home before now, so I thought I’d ask.”
Not really thinking anything of it, I went to bed a short time later.
“Willena… Willena, wake up.” It was my husband, Ian. “The police are out in the yard, about to come in. They want to talk to both of us.”
And somehow… somehow… I knew.
In the dimly lit living room, it seemed to me that the house was full of tall, shadowy figures in dark uniforms. In reality, it was one tall policeman and two women who work with people in crisis.
As I crossed the living room, and before I sat down, the policeman’s voice was saying, “There has been an accident, and I’m sorry to have to tell you, your son James was killed instantly.”
That was the strangest night of my life. Our kids came from town to be with us, and we all sat around in the living room all night. Mom, dad, and 7 kids… only this time, minus James, and including our daughter’s new husband, Sean. Barely a word was spoken all through that night, as we all sat in silent grief… silently supporting one another.
The Law of Giving and Receiving
“Wherever I go I bring a gift. I may bring a compliment, prayer, trinket, flower… but I promise I will give something to every person I encounter.”
Why did I decide to bake apple pies the day before, when I had refused to do so for such a long time? I don’t know. But I do know this… I am so glad I did it, for James that day… the son whom I will never again see in this life. When you lose a loved one, there are often regrets and “If only”s. In our case, we have none, even down to the smallest detail of my baking him an apple pie.
The Law of Dual Thought
“Thought is a combination of ideation and feeling.”
I didn’t even know there was such a “law” in December 2009. But the weeks following our son’s death gave me ample opportunities to choose to attach a good feeling to the thoughts that threatened to derail me.
Especially since we had to go past the scene of the accident every time we drove to or from town. My imagination played havoc with me every time we passed it, and I knew I had to do something to save my sanity.
So, instead of thinking of it as the scene of our son’s death, I chose to think of it as his portal to heaven… the place where he met the Lord he loved.
Even now, seven years later, I have to make a conscious decision each time we pass that spot. And you know what? It helps. Every time. Because I can’t hold two thoughts in my mind at the same time.
If you’re interested, you can read more about our son James, if you scroll down a little way on my About Me page.