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. 

The link below is to a song that finally got Christiano out on the dance floor at my brother’s wedding.

Christmas In Heaven

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…

I see the countless 
Christmas trees 
around the world below 
With tiny lights, like Heaven’s stars,
reflecting on the snow
The sight is so spectacular, 
please wipe away the tear 
For I am spending Christmas with
Jesus Christ this year.
I hear the many Christmas songs 
that people hold so dear 
But the sounds of music can’t compare 
with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you, 
the joy their voices bring, 
For it is beyond description, 
to hear the angels sing.
I know how much you miss me, 
I see the pain inside your heart. 
But I am not so far away, 
We really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me, dear ones, 
You know I hold you dear. 
And be glad I’m spending Christmas 
with Jesus Christ this year.
I sent you each a special gift, 
from my heavenly home above. 
I sent you each a memory 
of my undying love.
After all, love is a gift more precious 
than pure gold. 
was always most important 
the stories Jesus told.
Please love and keep each other, 
my Father said to do. 
I can’t count the blessing or love 
has for each of you.
So have a Merry Christmas and 
Wipe away that tear
Remember, I am spending Christmas 
with Jesus Christ this year
Such beautiful and powerful words. I know in my heart that you wouldn’t want me to be sad, but it’s so hard because I miss you SO much. Each time I lay my head down to sleep, I ask The Lord for a dream with you in it. It is the only thing I want for Christmas, so I even tried napping today, but no dream yet. I just long to hold you and touch your face; to lay my head upon your chest. When we were flying to Florida, Brian said, ‘Mom, we are closer to Christiano.’ I know you are still with us, but I want to really grasp what that means. I want to feel you with me. People talk
about their loved ones sending them little signs, and I wonder if that will ever happen for me. Or, will I just have to wait until I am in Heaven to feel you? Every time I think about the last day you were home, I think about how you just kept hugging me and how you wouldn’t let go. Did you know something I didn’t? All I know is that I will love you forever and that you are amazing. Merry Christmas to the boy who gave me more gifts through his presence than I could ever begin to measure or count. 

Two Months

It’s been two months.

Two months since I received the dreaded call that changed my life forever. 

Two months since the police officer told me you had a long road ahead. 
Two months since one of the doctors told us you had a severe brain injury, but she was hopeful because you had bitten down on the trachea pipe.
Two months since they told me they had to put you into an induced coma.
Two months since another doctor came in and told me there was no hope; that you, my first born son, had sustained unsurvivable injuries.
Two months since I prayed to God; pleaded and believed with such intensity.
Two months since I believed that no harm would ever come our way. 
Two months since I stroked your face and felt your heart beating with my hand. 
Two months since I rubbed your toes and covered you up for the last time. 
Two months since I watched your father, your sister and your brothers say tearful goodbyes to you. 
Two months since I watched your dad kiss you and stroke you and love on you with everything in him.
Two months since I watched them try and shock you back to life, at least, seven times. 
Two months since I believed with everything inside of me that I was going to see a miracle and that you would be that miracle.
Two months since your heart stopped beating, and you breathed your last breath. 
Two months since I realized that my miracle wasn’t coming; not in the way I wanted it.
Two months since I realized you were no longer here. 
Two months since I’ve kissed you or held you. 
Two months since my heart broke in ways that seem irreparable. 
Two months since the person that changed my world forever, would no longer reside in my world. 
Two months since my first born son returned home to his Heavenly Father. 
Two months of grief and pain and suffering; and sometimes, it is more than I can bear. 
Two months of The Lord holding me up and keeping me, even in my darkest hours.
Two months of wondering how I will ever be normal again.
Two months of God reassuring me that He is somehow working things together for my good. 
Two months of questions that go unanswered and a brain that never stops.
Two months of God quieting my soul in spite of the loudness and clanging thoughts in my mind. 
Two months of faking a smile and crying alone at night. 
Two months of the occasional real smile that comes when I least expect it.
Two months of me asking why?
Two months of me not knowing. 
Two months of dreading our first Christmas without our child.
Two months of wanting you back.
Two months of not wanting this to be real, but here we are…
It’s been two months. 

Getting Real Before The Lord

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.

Here are some of the words Jesus uttered in the garden, as He awaited His future…

“This sorrow is crushing my life out.”
“My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and keep watch with Me.”
Yes. Sorrow can feel like it is crushing the life out of us; like we are literally dying. It is a physical pain, as well as emotional. Jesus knew this to be true. 
And, here are excerpts from Matthew and Luke describing His state of mind…
‘And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed.’
‘And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground…’
When everyone is expecting us to move on or to praise in this storm; to just keep saying that God is good, just remember Jesus, our Savior. He didn’t fake it before His Father. He didn’t choose to say, ‘It is well with my soul,’ before he uttered His last breath. Instead He was real with his feelings and said, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?’ God can handle our pain and our questions. God can handle us believing that He’s nowhere to be found. God can handle still being with us and staying with us in the muck, even when we don’t acknowledge Him because it is true that He will never leave us or forsake us, even when we feel like He has. God can handle our fears and our tears. And most of all, God can handle being our light, even in the darkest of hours. 
‘…When I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.’ Micah 7:7b


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. 

After we were finished with dinner at Applebee’s, we went across the street to Target. None of us wanted to, but we had to pick up the necessities for our stay. Soap and toothpaste are a must and, for the Barbosa family, so are salty snacks and chocolate. We ran through and grabbed what we were there for as fast as we could and checked out. However, after we had checked out, I realized that I forgot one of the main items we needed – toothpaste! Chris offered to take the boys and the groceries to the car while Gabriella and I went to get the forgotten toothpaste. The place was packed, so we created a quick strategy plan – she would get a spot in line while I scurried for toothpaste. I was back in a flash and got in line behind a woman who had just done some Christmas shopping. I happened to notice that she was putting some things she was originally going to buy on the top of the soda cooler. It was a plethora of Disney Princess items. When I looked down at the belt, I saw that what that mother had kept on the belt were all the necessities for her children; tank tops, underwear, socks, etc. Then IT happened. It happened for the first time since Christiano passed away. I felt that tug at my heart that comes straight from The Lord; the tug that exposes me to the Love He feels towards His children; the tug that reminds me that His compassion is constant and He cares for every finite detail of our lives – the big and the small; the tug that prodded me, right then and there, to show that woman just how much God loved her. So, I picked each item up, gently and discretely, to add up the total cost. I took the money out of my wallet, and then I lifted them all off of the cooler. As I did that, this mom looked at me with a slight sadness in her eyes and sweetly said, ‘Are you gonna buy those?’ She wanted to know if I was going to buy the items that she had to put back for myself. I said, ‘Not for me, for you.’ I laid the items on the belt and handed her the cash while looking into her eyes. All I could say was, ‘this is from The Lord.’ She smiled big and kept saying, ‘WOW, thank you!’ I wished her a Merry Christmas and was reminded of the very Love that came down for all of us on that very first Christmas. It felt so good to put the Love of God into action, again. In that moment, even if it was short, I was reminded of all the times God has shown me His love through others, and how He has provided over and over again. 
Then, I thought about Christiano and how we won’t spend another Christmas with him; how we will never get to pick that perfect gift for him and how we won’t see his face light up as he opens it. Acknowledging that breaks my heart over and over again, but it also forces me to make a decision about who I want to be. Do I want to show the world this loving God who is walking this whole thing out with me? Or, do I want to close my heart off to love? Love can be painful, but will I take that chance? Brokenness can either leave us bitter or it can make us beautiful. Many choose to become bitter, but I want to choose to allow God to make me more beautiful, in His time. Christiano saw beauty in everything. As most of you know, one of his favorite things to say was, ‘BEAUTIFUL!’ He said it so much that, on our last family vacation to Florida, Gabriella and I were texting tallies back and forth to keep track. Oh, how I long to hear him say it again. 
Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 says this:
He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 
Yes, Lord. Let my brokenness become Your Masterpiece; let my ashes be swept away by Your beauty; let my pain be overcome by Your mercy; and let my failures show forth Your grace. Make me beautiful – just  like You. 

Here is a picture of some of the text tallies Gabriella sent. LOL. 

A Stranger

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. 

At times I feel like a stranger to myself, like I’ve been kidnapped. I don’t know the how or the where to find me. I’m a stranger to grieving and experiencing physical pain in my heart. I’m a stranger to losing a part of me and feeling disabled. I’ve even become a stranger to things I once knew – like the common struggles of life. It’s challenging  for me to hear about the things my friends are struggling with – from experiencing financial trouble to being exhausted – because I just don’t seem to be able to relate. I want to relate, but, truthfully, I would give anything for one of those problems. I remember when I first had Christiano, and my friends felt like they could no longer relate to me. One of my best friends said to me, ‘I just feel like my problems are so trivial in comparison to yours. I’m worried about a history test and your raising a child.’ It was a lonely place because I was the only parent in my circle. Back then, I still longed to have friends and fit in somewhere and often made poor choices to be received by others. I feel like that again, only this time I have nothing motivating me to fit anywhere. I feel alone some days, and I worry that I make people feel uncomfortable. There are times I can go from being happy and laughing to sad and crying within seconds. I’m not who I was two months ago because I’ve been robbed and stripped of my first true and tangible love. I may never be the same; I may never be ‘me’ again. 
There’s a song we used to sing to The Lord  in church, and the lyrics go like this:
‘All I am is what You’ve made me;
All I have is what You give me…’ 
And, that’s where I stand today. All I can promise to be is HIS. He promises to complete all the work He began in me; so, I yield and I surrender, crying, ‘Lord, have Your way in me.’ 

Seeing Christiano through Adria’s Eyes

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,

Hello, my name is Adria Spivey. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the chance to speak to your family and to you throughout the events of this past weekend. However, I felt drawn to share with you how your son, Chris has had such an incredible and amazing impact in my life.
I first met Chris my senior year of high school when he came out for the swim team. At first all I knew him as, was the extremely tall kid (A.K.A. Tall Chris); but even then I knew there was something extremely special and bright in him. As the swim season went on, I learned about that giant and fell in love with his contagious smile, his encouraging personality, his caring heart and his gift to make people laugh. 
As you already know, Chris was one of those people who could instantly change your bad mood into a positive one. One look at his glowing face was enough for you to forget all the bad and solely focus on the good. He truly was a bright light in this dark world. He made everyone see the brighter side of life, and showed people the amazing gifts that God has blessed them with.
Not only could Chris make people see the brighter side of life, he was one who created laughter. From his incredibly animated swimming, to his fabulous stories on the bus and his unforgettable, uplifting words of encouragement, Chris was truly a tool used by God to make people laugh and smile, as if seeing a glimpse of Heaven. 
I remember one day after practice, my younger sister and I were waiting for our father to pick us up, but he was running late. For the next 45 minutes or so, Chris made time fly as we conversed and almost fainted from laughing so hard. When our father finally arrived, we stared to pack up and walk out just as Chris simultaneously stared to pack up, as well. In confusion, we asked him, ‘aren’t you waiting for a ride?’ With a grin on his face, he innocently answered, ‘No. I walk home.’ My sister and I were both so taken aback that someone would be so caring and thoughtful to have given up their time just to make us happy. Likewise, no one made me more excited to see them just by passing each other and sharing a high-five or hug in the halls during school, and I cannot wait to see that bright smile again someday soon. 
So thank you. Thank you for raising and sharing such an incredible man; one of honor, respect, graciousness, mercifulness, joy, love, peace, happiness, encouragement, and one after God’s heart. His legacy will truly live on through the people he has effected and through the lives he has changed. And, I rejoice in knowing that Chris is resting in the presence of God, waiting for the day we can all join him at home. 
God Bless,
Adria Spivey

EPHS Swim Team 2012. Christiano is the 10th one in from the left in the back row.

After Swim Fun at Gregg’s Restaurant. Adria is pictured on the far right.  

A Future Hope

‘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.’ 

Jeremiah 29:11 has always been a prominent verse in our home. I’ve prayed  it over my children many times, and my husband and I stand on it, as well. Some may read this verse, knowing that Christiano has passed, and wonder what went wrong. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you…’ That part of the verse has the potential to raise many questions. It just doesn’t seem to add up,  especially for Christiano. Didn’t harm come his way? After all, he was in a car accident that abruptly ended his life here on the earth. How is that a prosperous life with a hope and a future?  When Christiano was here, I would often say things like, ‘I see great things for you’ or ‘you’re going to do amazing things.’ I even said, ‘you’re going to change the world,’ and I meant every word. So, what does this all mean? 
Surely, I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I’ve inherited while going through this is a mind for Heaven. To be real, I had not really given Heaven much thought prior to the accident. I mean, I’d heard about it, read about it, and I knew I was going there one day. That is all I really cared to know because, in my book,  if God made it – it was going to be good. But, after losing Christiano, I needed more. I needed to know some things about where my boy was going to be living, so I listened to some great teachings on heaven. The best one came from my pastor. He used this phrase to describe it, ‘Heaven is unrestrained fulfillment and joy.’ He taught that Heaven is going to be full of life and fellowship with God; that there will be nothing to hinder us anymore; that there will be opportunity and purpose with no stress or opposition. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘purpose and fulfillment?!’ And, then I began to think of Adam and Eve. They walked with God and talked with God in the cool of the day. They tended the flocks and cared for the garden, and before sin entered this world, they weren’t bound by time or finances or opposition. They were care free living a life full of purpose! That means, not only is there great purpose in heaven, but the possibilities are limitless. Heaven is the ultimate ‘hope and future’ for all of us who believe. Christiano is being prospered and he will never face harm again. I also see that Christiano DID do great things while here on this earth. He has done amazing things and he has changed the world of many.  One thing is certain, he changed my world forever, and because of him, I will never be the same. I also believe that the memory of Christiano will continue the work he began here – that his story will live on in all of us and the impact will be great. And, although I miss him terribly, knowing He is with The Lord, living a life that is free from anything bad brings me some comfort this morning. And, If he were here right now, Christiano would tell us to keep going. 
Because, for those of us here on earth, we’ve still got work to do. Whether we are on earth or in Heaven, God has great purpose and destiny for His children, and it all begins with knowing Him. 
Philippians 3:10 ‘[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly]…’
As we come to know The Lord more intimately, we come to know ourselves better, because after all, we are found in Him. Some of us may or may not come to a deeper understanding of the world around us, but knowing the one who has all the answers can offer us a peace that only He can give. 

A Letter From A Friend

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

Bittersweet: One Step Further & One Step Closer

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. 

The next day, however, came with many more challenges. It is a strange feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve gotten through a big day without your loved one. Oddly enough, pleasure and pain are both present within you at the same time. The pleasure comes when you realize you’ve made it through and, even more so, your spouse and your children have made it through. Some more joy comes when you realize that you’ve all slept through the night. As you sit up, though, sorrow invades. Sorrow invades and sorrow stays. It stays because you know you’re one day further away; further away from his presence, further away from his smile; further away from his laugh, his hug, and his touch. But, then you realize that this also means you’re one day closer; closer to his presence; closer to his smile; closer to his laugh, his hug, and his touch. ‘Bittersweet’ is a word I see used quite frivolously, but this word truly describes my feeling toward moving forward. Moving forward produces pleasure and pain at the same time. It is bitter and and painful not to experience the tangible existence of our eldest son. It is an excruciating pain that runs unimaginably deep. And, just when you think it’s reached it’s  landing-place, the deeper it  moves because there is no final destination. Ultimately, it works to consume and devour, but something inside won’t let it. There’s something so sweet moving through us, attacking all the pain, and it won’t relent; it’s constant. It’s name is joy and it only comes from knowing Jesus. In Him, we find hope when hope can’t be found. In Him, we find  life when faced with the fear of death. In Him, we find truth in the midst of the lies. In Him, we find light when the darkness closes in. In Him, we find strength even when we are at our weakest point. In Him we have faith when all we feel is doubt. ‘Only believe’ is what he whispers. ‘Only believe.’