It’s your birthday today baby. No matter if you would have been 18, should have been 18, or will forever remain 15, today is the day you came into this world. Today is the day you changed my life forever from a naive, devil- may- care 20 year old into a mom. The minute you were born I had someone I was responsible for, someone I had to take care of, someone who’s life mattered more to me than my own. You were impacting me even as a newborn. You were an unexpected gift that had caused me so much anguish and heartache but turned into unspeakable joy and fulfillment.
You taught me true fulfillment comes from putting others ahead of yourself. Its hard to remember being happier than those days when I was juggling motherhood with going to school, knowing that every early morning and late night studying was going to further our future. I wasn’t just going to school for myself I was going for us. My heart ached for you while I sat through classes and taught lessons. I didn’t feel complete until I held you in my arms at the end of the day even if you were already asleep. I think you may have saved me back then from a potential train wreck caused by my own selfishness.
It’s still very very difficult to bring back memories of your life and I don’t know if that will ever change. The grief is still so raw and intense and your absence so looming…I am torn every day between wanting to remember the beauty of your life and knowing that it will bring back deep heartache. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “he’s in heaven now! He does’t have to endure the hardship and pain of this evil world.” I can’t fault them at all . The Bible says, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” Thessalonians 4:13-14
Is it comforting? Of course. Does it mean I don’t miss you in every cell of my being and feel your absence every single day? No. I still selfishly want you here with your family and everyone who loves you so you can continue to change the world for the better.
You would understand. Your intuition and sensitivity were intense. You would not think my grief for you is over the top, that I just need to get over it, that I need to remember you are in a better place. You knew me better than that. Empathy was probably your strongest trait. There were many places where our brains intersected and I could see myself in you. Then there were other places where I could only hope to be what you were. You understood me better than anyone.
You knew how much I loved you and cherished you and how special I thought you were. I know you felt the same despite my many faults. Though you never personally lost anyone close to you I know you would never have minimized my grief. How strange to think about how you would have reacted to my grief about your loss. Yet I think about it. I think about it because it was you who comforted me so many times. It was you who always had a hug and a “it will be ok momma.” That was the best gift you could ever give and something that will be imprinted on my brain forever. I still remember exactly the way it felt to hug you.
It has been another hard year without you with many bumps and twists. So many days I couldn’t get out of bed. I often feel like this earth is a foreign and hostile place where I do not want to be. It has taken all my strength to keep my head above water. This year I have grieved the ending of my marriage. I have had to accept the hard reality of living alone for the first time in my life and being a single parent. I have experienced the stress and anxiety of trying to find a full time job after being a stay at home parent for 15 years. My plans of finding my dream job that would actually pay the bills did not turn into reality. So many times I have thought of how much easier things would have been with your support. So many times I have felt the absence of your strength.
I have stopped asking why…it’s an exercise in futility. There are just no answers. I accept the fact that this earthly life by nature is simply full of pain and the only thing we can do is try to grow from it. We must grasp the blessings as they come to us and realize happiness is a choice. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kids, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverence.” James 1:2-4
It feels like a lifetime has passed and then it feels like it has been only days. The thing about life is most things have a starting and an ending point yet grief is not that way. When I think about the tears, the struggles, the wrestling, the heartache, the prayers I have silently offered up every day, it feels as if I should have made some significant progress. Yet today after three years I feel as if I lost you three weeks ago. I think the hardest thing about your going to heaven, other than the fact that you are gone is that no one understands. It becomes painfully clear by the things they say… or don’t say. It becomes clearer and clearer to me as time goes on that despite their best intentions, people just don’t get it. This experience is very isolating. Yet I wouldn’t wish this understanding on anyone.
Yet there have been a few who have walked this walk with me without judgement or expectation. They have simply been there. As Nicholas Wolterstorff said, they have “sat on the mourning bench with me.” They know there is nothing to say that will make it better. What I need is the reassurance of knowing they will check up on me and reach out to make sure I haven’t gone under.
You have changed me for the better sweet boy, through your life and through your passing; although today I feel like a bloody mess. You were, and are, a blessing beyond the scope of the imagination and every part of your life and existence was woven into the tapestry of God’s plan.
You have shown us all what a life worth living looks like in your short fifteen years. That is a feat few can claim. Not that you did it loudly or publicly or with even anyone knowing. It was quiet and sincere and came from a heart of love. I think what I am most proud of is that you showed the true nature of a child of God. Perhaps it was because of the way that you lived your life that he chose to take you home so soon…as a reward for being a good and faithful servant.
Remembering your birthday today isn’t for you…it’s for us. I will never forget your birthday just as I won’t ever forget your life, as it flashes by me in vivid pictures. So many beautiful memories that leave me in a puddle of tears. I want to hold on to every little detail but I know they will slip through my fingers like grains of sand. The past is always lost to us except in memories but with you we also lost your future and that is the hardest pill to swallow.
It is what you left behind that is most important… a legacy. Lucas Van Sprange was a young man who showed an incredible amount of kindness and encouragement to others and was a true friend. Not just sometimes but all of the time. To leave a legacy is rare and precious. You walked in the way of Christ. That is why you were kind and selfless and compassionate. You chose that path for your life, not the easy one but the narrow and difficult. The one that requires surrendering of yourself…an incredibly difficult feat in this self-centered world.
Happy Birthday my sweet boy. Thank you for your gift.
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2