I’ve always gone into a new year with such high hopes and expectations. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that now. In 2012, I remember saying, ‘2013 is going to be great!’ We started the year off celebrating life for Vovo’s 100th birthday, and we are ending the year mourning life- Life that was gone too soon. And, not just one life, but many lives. Patrick, Miguel, Ellie, Jackie, Hilda, Christiano – you are all so missed. A part of me wants to put 2013 so far behind me, but another part doesn’t want to move forward. A year full of pleasure and pain, healing and hurting, victory and tragedy; a year full of firsts, and a year full of lasts. There were some wins, but there were more great losses, much peace and much chaos, fulness of great joy with plenty of great suffering, too. There was lots of celebration, but way too much mourning – and, this is just some of what has accompanied 2013. I know that our hope isn’t based on our circumstances. In fact, very rarely in 2013, did our circumstances indicate hope of any kind. Things don’t look good for many of us, and, for some of us, things look and feel hopeless. I understand. I understand how hard it is to believe again when everything has failed. Life is not at all what you had planned, and you don’t know how to fix it. You’re not alone. Unfortunately, we can’t fix it; not for ourselves and not for each other. Only God can. He is close to us broken hearted people. He won’t leave our side, and He promises to heal our broken heart and replace it with an even better heart. It is so hard to imagine, but, when all the cliches start to fade, and the words of man fail, Jesus is our constant. It hurts so badly when the wrong thing is said or people just don’t get it. When people say ‘You’ll see him again,’ but all we want is to feel the warmth of his embrace; When you read the quote, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ and we want to know what reason there could ever be; When we hear ‘he’s watching over you,’ but all we want is to physically see him healed and whole; God is our only hope. Only He can embrace us and bring healing; only He can answer our tough questions; only He has the power to save; only He can provide us with the hope that we find through Jesus. In Him, we somehow have hope. 2013 is the year we lost our first born son in a tragic accident. But, 2013 is also the year that our son beat every odd and statistic geared towards children born from a teen pregnancy. He graduated high school and went to college, and he didn’t just get by, either. He graduated high in his class and got an amazing academic scholarship to Bryant University. Our daughter truly exercised her faith in God for the first time and prayed that He would provide a way for her to attend the high school she desired. She later received a financial blessing that contributed, and she was able to go. Our middle son began to lead praise and worship at our church, and we got to watch God do some amazing things in him. Our youngest continued to bring joy to our family and made the honor roll. My little brother married an amazing woman, and they just found out they are expecting. We’ve discovered who our real friends are, and we have bonded with lots of Christiano’s friends. And that is just SOME of it. We miss our son, and it is absolutely unbearable. For us, there is no other choice but to cast our cares on the One who bore our pain. Christiano wants us to keep believing the best because that’s how he lived. He would never want us to give up. So, that is how I will look at this new year. I will choose to believe and hope for the best because hope is all I have left of Christiano.
All day I’ve been wondering what you are up to. What is Christmas like in Heaven? Is it the same as every other day? Or, are you celebrating a birthday for Jesus? I just keep wondering what you are doing while we are all down here missing you. Then I came across this poem that was written by a thirteen year old boy right before he passed away…
It’s been two months.
Jesus didn’t pretend to be OK before God in His darkest hour. When Jesus was awaiting his fate in the garden of Gethsemane He was so deeply grieved and sorrowful that he sweat actual blood. He knew that He had to accept what was about to come upon Him, but He sure hoped for another way. Jesus didn’t pretend, and neither will I. Every day I wish that there had been another way. Even Jesus prayed, ‘Lord if there is another way, please let this cup pass from me, but if this is Your will let it be done.’ Even Jesus didn’t fully understand the earthly lot that had been given to Him, but He chose to accept it, and I have no choice but to do the same. Although, I will not pretend that I am OK with it. Jesus was hopeful for another way; another plan – one that didn’t involve Him being beaten and crucified unto death. But, He knew that God had a plan and trusted Him enough to go through with it. However, that didn’t stop him from feeling forsaken and separated from God for a time. We see that Jesus felt this way on the cross, just moments before He breathed His last breath, when He cries out, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ To feel forsaken means to feel abandoned or deserted. Many of us have felt this very same pain. We have felt like God is nowhere to be found and that He has forsaken us. And, even when no one else can relate to us or understand that state of being, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus can and does.
Last night we arrived safely in Orlando, Florida. With the recent passing of our beloved son, we decided it would be best for the three younger children to get away to the most magical place for Christmas. It started with a decision, and God made the entire way for us. A friend blessed us with a place to stay, and, hours after we purchased our airfare, we received a gift in the mail covering the entire amount, plus some. God covered it all; even down to a family gift pack of tickets to Universal Studios and Disney World! After we arrived and got our rental car, we were all pretty hungry for dinner. We also knew we needed to get some things for the condo, so we quickly decided on Applebee’s and Target because they were right across the street from one another. I won’t say who, but, for some reason, two of the children and I were having a pretty hard time. I’m thankful that I can always tell when something is bothering them and that they, too, can pick up when I’m feeling sad. One child expressed that they really didn’t want to be in Florida without their brother because it didn’t feel right. (Talk about taking the words right out of my mouth.) Another child was simply feeling sad and missing home. Our third child was doing ok, and Dad was doing his best to keep his smile, even though I could tell he was feeling displaced, as well. The fact is – we all were because we all ARE. We are displaced from the life we’ve always known. Christiano isn’t here anymore; to talk to, to laugh with, to hug, or to be silly with, and we all miss him terribly. Life as we’ve always known it has forever changed, and I don’t know how we will ever embrace this new normal. So glad we are not left to figure this out alone because God is with us, and He is showing us minute by minute.
When Christiano was born, I fell in love the moment I heard him cry. The doctor handed him off to the nurse within seconds to have his vitals checked, but more importantly to tend to me. I had hemorrhaged and lost quite a bit of blood during delivery, so the doctor gave me blood transfusions and monitored me very closely. During that time, I just kept saying ‘I want my baby,’ over and over again. Up until about two weeks after Christiano was born, I had a hard time letting anyone hold him. For for the first time in my life I possessed unconditional love, and that’s all I ever longed for. I went from being a fifteen year old little girl to a protective mother within the time my baby took his first breath. And, on October 24th, 2013, I went from being a ‘normal’ mom to a grieving mom when he took his last breath. In his life and in his death, I am forever changed.
It is an extraordinary gift for a mother when she gets to see her child through the eyes of another. I am forever grateful for the stories that have been shared about my son, Christiano. Here is one of them brought to us by a young lady named Adria. She went to high school with Chris and they were on the swim team together.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Barbosa,
EPHS Swim Team 2012. Christiano is the 10th one in from the left in the back row.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’
This letter was sent to me from a childhood friend who I have reconnected with through FB. It is heartfelt and beautiful, which is the reason that I asked her if I could share it. Every encouraging word helps us through, and knowing that God is using this indescribable pain to draw others to Him reminds me of His faithfulness.
For you Shannon:
Truth is… I am all over the place, you are constantly on my mind and you probably think I am spending way too much time thinking about your family. I could tell you that I will never know how you feel, but the truth is, I have no idea what God has in store for my life or my family and one day I may face these same circumstances. ~ That said, I can’t, I refuse to believe that God had this planned for your son! I was told God is not the author of death. God only knows if these are true. What I hold onto is the belief that: God is real, God is love, and God is and will carry you through. (Prayerfully)
Truth is… I feel guilty enjoying my family, while your perfect family is broken right now, and I think ‘This is so not fair’. I think about my family and I can’t help but to think how I would help my other children and husband get through such a traumatic event, let alone myself. Yet, I feel guilty not enjoying my family because you of all people know that time is all we have. I want to hug more, snap photos more, and love more –
Truth is… for days I heard your cries, your screams- even if they were the inner cries of your heart (literally ~ In my mind, it wouldn’t stop) Seriously to the point of an almost panic attack – fearful of your family having to face the future without Christiano. I felt weak in the knees at times and a pit in my stomach. For the first time I knew what it felt like when they say ‘When a sister or brother in Christ hurts we all hurt’
Truth is… I listen to music and praise God whole heartedly and I think of you, wanting to do the same and how difficult it must be ~ yet you still find a way. Not because you question God, simple because you are broken and you lack the strength. (There is a huge difference) I listen more attentively to the words of each song looking for the right words ~ Understanding that these same words hold new and different meaning in your world right now. Praying they will bring you peace again sooner than later
Truth is… I am having a hard time returning my life back to normal (whatever normal was). When you are struggling and your life will never be normal as it was. It’s almost as if, I return to normal than I am leaving you and forgetting about what you are going through. Yet you are so far away… One could say distance and time should disconnect us. I look around at the beauty in God creation and I pray that you will see the same beauty because I can only image that your world is tainted right now. I am believing God will restore your family.
Truth is… This tragic event has turned many lives around. Your inspiring testimony is bringing restored faith to many and that is SO incredibly beautiful, yet I can’t help thinking – but ‘Why such a sacrifice’??? … and I am angry. Even at myself, angry, that it has caused me to draw closer to God, when I should have been drawing Him in regardless. Yet, there a whisper that says ‘It was not his death that has changed and is changing people, it was his life’. It was his extraordinary life! ~ Christiano whom I never met, IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE one amazing kid. ~
Truth is… I am sad this situation has sparked more conversations between us.
Truth is… You are not alone, and I will walk with you prayerfully, if you want the company
Truth is… You are the most amazing mother I know (I mean it)
Truth is… I wish I could make it all disappear
Truth is… I AM TRUSTING GOD MORE THAN I EVER HAVE BEFORE!
Each day that passes the raw truth of Christiano’s passing becomes reality. Each thing we do as a family screams that he isn’t here with us. When we do something old and traditional there’s an emptiness; a vacancy that will never be occupied. When we try something new, it feels foreign and forced, and I wonder ‘Will it always be like this?’ I’ve been ministered to by other grieving parents, and they promise that it gets better with time; that your child is never forgotten and that time helps to heal the human heart. Some days I can see how that will happen, and I’m hopeful, but then there are the other days – the days that I can’t see anything but the tears that flood my eyes. Thanksgiving was, overall, a good day. God, with His wonderful grace, was an ever present help to me as I cooked and prepared for the day. My brother, Shane, and his wife, Jessica joined us, and we were more than glad to have them here. We all gave thanks around the table, and each of us were specifically thankful for the time that we had with Christiano – all six thousand, eight hundred and thirty-four days of it. It was surreal not having him with us on a holiday that is so important to our family, but we were so glad Shane and Jess were here. We were able to get through, and we even shared in some good laughs, so those of you who prayed for us, thank you very much.