January 20 has, for the past 11 years, been a lousy day in our house. January 20, 2003, is when we lost our almost-five-year-old son. Nothing alters a day on the calendar for the rest of your life like the day a family member dies. Each year from then to now, the Christmas and New Year holidays have come and gone, and all of a sudden, there’s January, in all its crappy glory. We’re all coming down from a sugar high, needing to get back into a routine, having to start up school again, fighting heavy snowfall, and dealing with full dark at 4:30 p.m.
And then comes the 20th. It wouldn’t be so bad if the day’s emotions were predictable from year to year. Unfortunately, emotions are neither predictable nor controllable. We’ve marked the day in a variety of ways over the years, from going out of town to watching videos of the kids to getting a small cake. Most of the recent years have been more of a quiet glance between Tim and me, sharing a thought here or there, or texts throughout the day. I’m not sure if the kids remember the exact day or not, or if they consciously think about it in the same way we do.
I find myself marking the day on the calendar in the same way I mark all our birthdays: with a heart drawn around the date. I’m not sure why I do that, since it’s not really a celebration per se, and I’m certainly not likely to forget it if it doesn’t have that heart around the “20”—but the new calendar gets put in place and there it is.
This year, I feel motivated to write about it, because I feel…okay. Not spectacular, but not struck (or stuck) with the usual January melancholy. In fact, I’ve felt joyful overall every time I’ve thought of Tig over the past few months because of so many wonderful benefits that have resulted from his short life, and yes—even through his death. It’s an odd perspective.
It’s shown me that no experience is ever wasted, whether good or bad, precise or all-encompassing. Treasure all of them; store them in your heart, because it makes the reflection that much more precious when the time comes.
The pain of losing him has never lessened, and I’m quite sure it will never go away; however, it’s blurred on the edges a bit, not because I feel it less but because (I think) I’ve learned how to deal with it better as each year has passed. Each day, each week, each month, each year has shown me how God used that time in our lives in a way that will never be duplicated; that revelation has turned my grief into wonder.
Psalm 30:11 says, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” (NIV)
I’m no dancer. You’ll have to trust me on this, because if you want proof, you’ll wish you’d trusted me in the first place. But my heart dances, in a way, when I sing, and I’ve been singing a pretty cool song in my heart lately.
This year—not last year, and maybe not next year, but this year—I’m okay. Maybe even better than okay.