After those intense moments, God’s grace did a healing work helping me to focus more on being thankful for the remaining family members, especially the grandchildren. God granted strength to free my focus on this horrible death and shift to the life we who remain are called to live.
About two week later, Wanda and I traveled back to Carlton and Kathy’s to help them go through Jamie’s books, clothes, and other possessions. Such a difficult endeavor after any death. I remembered my own father’s death. He passed on when I was a young father with only two of our five children born at the time. My mother told me then, “As hard as it may be, we must get rid of all the clothes and other personal possessions of the dead loved one as quickly as possible to prevent lingering sorrow.” Although I did not want to forget Jamie, I shared this wisdom from my mother with Carlton and Kathy because they needed to shift their focus from his death to the lives they still had with Michael and Holly as well as with one another.
Death changes people. And I am not referring to the one who dies. I observed first hand the damage that can happen at the time of death back in World War II. While operating a tank, my cousin Gerald was killed in Tunisia, Africa by a German shell. His death caused his parents great sorrow, especially for his dad- my Uncle Herman.
Uncle Herman’s persisting focus on his son’s death rather than his life contributed to a lengthy time of bitterness. He harbored much anger toward the Army as well as the War in general. Later, Uncle Herman made difficult demands on his other, much younger son as though he needed to fill in for his dead brother. I remember hearing remarks like: “You will never be able to do this work as good as your brother.” This younger brother spent his life trying to do the impossible, even going to the extent of marrying a young lady who he knew his father liked only to divorce her as soon as his folks died.
This is the result of allowing sorrow to linger too long. The Bible makes reference to this as “eating ashes” or “feeding on aches.” We have time to focus on the death leading up to the funeral, but then we must choose to live the life God has given to us. My own dealing with the finality regarding Jamie’s death came as I pondered the whole situation in my early morning prayers. The thought came to me vividly, “Jamie is dead. He is gone. No way to bring him back…life must go on.”
“Come to me , all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29
He really was a thoughtful and kind young man. I do wish we could have seen him make it to adulthood and live up to his potential. I remember the good times, and the pleasant things with Jamie. However, I will not linger my thinking and overly dwell on the sorrow. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” II Peter 5:7 Ultimately, I have been comforted by remembering Jamie’s life and looking to the Lord for His daily guidance.
“Only as we remember and remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness can we ever see the pattern God has woven in our lives and learn confidence in His working.”
Ravi Zacharias Cries of the Heart pg. 25
In the years since, I have spoken often to Wanda, Gretchen and Lori (our daughters) the most about Jamie. We still remember him with a smile. My favorite memory of Jamie happened when we were vacationing with Carlton’s family in Hawaii.
As we stood on a high look-out-point, the wind came sweeping across the hill. We all tensed to the brisk air. However, Jamie quietly approached me. With his jacket in hand, he lifted and – silently – offered it to me.
Editor’s Note: The photo collage for this blog entry (see above) includes one of Jamie overlooking a field in Hawaii from that trip.