Last weekend we celebrated Joel’s 23rd birthday, and although most of the time Joel is not one to draw attention to himself, he did graciously grant me permission to write a bit of update about him. This coming weekend we’ll be celebrating his completion of an M.A. in literature from WMU, where he maintained a 4.0 and received the English Graduate Research and Creative Scholarship Award. This fall, we’ll be losing him to Boston, where he’ll begin a 5-year PhD program in literature with a full-ride scholarship at Northeastern University. Besides all this, he’s found a solid Christian community for housing and fellowship. Need I say? I’m totally delighted with and for him. I wouldn’t want it “any other way.” HOWEVER…In all this happiness, there’s a bit of déja vu tugging at my heart. Aaron (my oldest) is fifteen years older than Joel (my youngest), and it was just 15 years ago that Aaron accepted a job in Boston. BOSTON? Yes, the same city that offered opportunity for my oldest is now providing opportunity for my youngest. When Aaron left, it was the first departure for any of our kids. (Well, Aaron had been in graduate school at U.M. for 5 years, but we still considered that our house was his house.) There is something deeply emotional about having your oldest move literally halfway across the country, but Aaron survived, adjusted well, and grew. All this helps as I consider the upcoming loss of Joel, which—if possible—seems like an even more traumatic and personally difficult adjustment for good. Some of you may remember a couple of years ago when a lady from Iowa, Lu DeVries, hired Joel to help her write a grief memoir about her daughter Mandy’s sudden death. The book is called Bright Hope, and it’s filled with the story of Lu’s spiritual journey in dealing with this tragic loss. Still, the book shines with overcoming faith and the consolations of Christ amidst the suffering: God intends all things for good, even our most painful experiences and separations.As Joel was cleaning out his apartment, he gave me a number of items to take to our local rescue mission, and among them was an extra copy of Bright Hope. I was going to take it to the mission, but then I thought I’d offer it first to any of you who are dealing with a painful loss and might find comfort in this book. If so, please let me know with a comment here or face book, or email me, and I’ll send the copy to you. Meanwhile, I am struggling to cope with this bright hope for Joel’s future! At such times, I often remind myself of Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” Thank you, Lord, for the assurance that despite the painful adjustments and changes in life, you are intending everything for our growth in goodness and godliness, that we might become more like you! May You bless and keep Joel, and all young graduates who are heading out into the world to grow and become all that You want them to be. And, may You bless those of us parents (and widows and widowers) on the late end of life who are dealing with the losses of loved ones, declining health, and the need to downsize our lives. May we take courage in the confidence that You are the Alpha and Omega who has always loved us. You will be with our children, and You will be your children… forever. Thank You for offering the bright hope of eternal life to the whole world!
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).