More Than Anything Seen by Christiano Barbosa

I haven’t even been able to look at this with our crying, never mind share about it. My Mother’s Day gift, from Christiano. A poem from the heart. The real deal, raw, and transparent kind of poem. The kind that means so much; the kind you want to talk out with the author after it has been written; the kind where you both cry and embrace one another – because in that intimate moment, you are both unwaveringly and absolutely sure that each of you know exactly how much you are loved by the other.
The moment a mother longs to have with her young adult son; the moment when he says, ‘Whether we agree on everything or not, I know that everything you do is out of pure love for me.’ But, this gift; this poem – it didn’t come with a moment like that. But, it came.

It came out of love from my husband. It came from the heart of young boy who loved his mother so much that he wrote poetry to her. Probably after a disagreement or a fight. Because, as much as I hate to think about it – we fought. I fought for him and he fought back. I fought to guide him, to protect him, to keep him. All because I loved him. Did he truly know how much? That is a question that nags at me daily; one that I try to push out, but cannot seem to push had enough or far enough. It always comes back. I KNOW that I KNOW that my beautiful boy loved me with every ounce of his being. And, when I see this gift from him; these words straight from his heart, I feel joy and pain altogether, once again. I feel joy that my son took time to type these words in his private computer, but I feel pain that we didn’t agree on much. Or, that he thought he drove me crazy. I want to tell him that’s not the case; that I always only wanted what was best for him.

But, in reality, I never got to tell him so many things that my heart wants to say. I told him I loved him every day. I told him I was proud of him. I told him what I saw in him. But, I also told him what I didn’t see and what I wanted to see. I wanted him to be better – better than me and better than Chris. But, what I didn’t tell him was that he already was. So much better than me. So much better than Chris. His heart was truly the most beautiful I’d ever known and I love him more than anything seen…

This was a poem that Christiano typed for me in his laptop, but never gave to me.
Chris gave it to me for Mother’s Day. That is his real signature from a paper
he wrote for school. 

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A Sister’s Story


 
It was a Saturday afternoon, when Christiano called me outside to join him and my other brothers in game of football. When I walked out the door I felt a rush of cool air hit my face. It was October. The weather still warm enough to be outside without a jacket, but there was a bitterness in the air.  

When I looked over to see Christiano, I immediately noticed his bright eyes, like the color of the sky on a cloudless day. He was extremely tall and lanky, so tall that his shorts barley reached his knees. His t-shirt fit so awkwardly because he was didn’t weigh enough to fill-in his large body.

I walked out into the rocky street, where my three brothers and the neighborhood kids were waiting for me. They were ready to play and the game started. I am probably the least sporty kid ever, but when it comes to football, I like to pretend I’m a pro, and I get a little aggressive. 

As the game started my brother tossed me the ball. I ran through the street pushing all the boys around me. I’m pretty sure I was cheating, but they let me get away with it. At the start of every play, Christiano would throw me the ball, all the other people playing were yelling that it was unfair. After awhile of playing outside, we were all tired and ready to come inside.

 Finally, we opened the door to the house, all of us breathing heavily and searching for food. Christiano literally ate everything in his reach. Although he ate everything he could find, he still was so skinny that he barely filled out his clothes. As we were eating our food, he told my parents I was a beast. I doubt it seriously. He was definitely lying, but he’s so encouraging and he sure made me feel like a beast.

Christiano inspires me to be more encouraging. This story is just one example of how he was  the greatest motivator in my life. He always supported me no matter what. I miss having him in my life to encourage me to try my hardest in any aspect of my life. He impacted my life in so many ways, and I am so thankful for the 15 years I got to have with him. I am especially thankful for the last day I spent with him playing football outside. 



These two have been best friends since day one. Gabriella has sustained such a humongous loss, and has maintained her joyful heart through all of her pain. She has been a bright light and a breath of fresh air for our family. I’m more than grateful for this precious daughter, and I thank God for her. 



Townie Pride – Red, White And Some Blue

Volleyball Senior Night, 2013. A time of joy and celebration for our family. A time to celebrate our accomplishments together. Christiano, our first born was almost at the end of his high school run. Such a bright future ahead. Full of hope; full of promise. And, he honored me. He presented me with a beautiful rose and gave me the most heartfelt hug that said everything without speaking anything. My boy was thankful. He was aware that we were part of his success; that we’d given everything we had for him to make it here. 

Volleyball Senior Night, 2014. So traditional, yet so different. So real, but so unbelievable. So full, but so empty. Celebrating new endeavors, and mourning the latter of one so loved. Remembering his life, but grieving his future. But, we do not grieve without hope. And last night, hope was revealed and love was displayed. 

 The boys from the Volleyball team invited our family to attend their last game against LaSalle, and we were more than honored to be a part of their special night. Walking into the high school gym for the first time since was harder than I anticipated. I couldn’t believe how much had changed in one year. After all, nothing is the same, and it never will be. Looking around the gymnasium, I calmed a bit when I saw the familiar faces of Christiano’s friends on the court. Their smiles were welcoming, and I knew we were right where we needed to be. We made our way to the bleachers, and within a few minutes I began taking it all in. The first thing I noticed was the blue socks that every player had on – blue for Christiano. Then, I noticed our son’s jersey displayed on a seat, and tied to it was the only blue balloon among the red and white townie colored balloons. Again, blue for Christiano. And, even though I knew about the warmup jerseys that had been designed with Christiano’s initials, seeing them up close and personal was beyond beautiful. I thought, ‘Christiano, do you see this? Do you see that young men you’ve never even met are wearing your name like a badge of honor on their chest? Do you see how loved you are?’ 
And, maybe he does see it. But, how I wish I could SEE him SEE. I want to feel him feel. I want to wrap my arms around him and say, ‘Do you see, my son? Look what you’ve done. You’ve shown God’s love to all these people!’ I want to tell him I’m proud. I want to tell him how awesome I think he is. Will I ever get that chance? I wonder this all the time.
It was all so much to take in at once; how loved he is, the impact he made, the way the students keep his memory alive, the bond these boys still have with Christiano. Christiano’s love for the game and for these boys is living on in them. I am so overwhelmed with gratitude towards these young men. They don’t have to do what they’re doing. They could forget, they could move on, they could stuff their grief, they could avoid us. But, they don’t; they invite us; they welcome us; they honor us. 
To my complete surprise, two of the seniors, Lucas and AJ invited our whole family onto the court and presented me with most beautiful bouquet of roses I’ve ever laid eyes on; blue sparkles and blue baby’s breath – blue for Christiano. Putting into words what my heart felt may not even be possible, but I will do my best.
I felt such a sweet and pure presence in that moment. When Lucas presented me with the flowers and bent his 6’6″ frame down to hug me, I felt, for one tiny second, like Christiano was hugging me. His hug, too, said everything without saying anything. Literally, I felt like Christiano was there – like he wanted this just as much as the team did. Tears continued to stream down my face; my heart so blessed by this act of love. Hugs from most of the boys and the coaches made me feel like Christiano’s Momma again. It’s so hard for me to feel that sometimes. But, I just keep going back to this…
They didn’t have to do this. They don’t have to love us. They don’t have to remember. But, they did and they do. I felt the love of God coming out of those boys, just for me. And, it meant more than they will ever know.
We stayed for the game, and, even though they lost, they played with such heart. They never gave up. Just like they haven’t given up on us. At the end there were more words exchanged and more hugs. I got to talk with some of the boys’ parents. I needed to tell them what amazing young men they’ve raised. But, they couldn’t help but turn it around on us – telling us what an amazing job we’ve done and how Christiano has impacted, inspired and changed their boys forever. And all the boys kept saying is, ‘Thank you so much for coming, thank you so much for coming.’ Or, ‘We’re sorry we didn’t get a win for you guys.’ I couldn’t even believe my ears. These eighteen year old boys who owe us nothing are thanking us for coming. I know how common it is for families to feel that their lost loved one is forgotten , and, at times, I have felt that, too. But, not last night. Last night I was entirely and wholly aware of how blessed we are to have a son that left such an unforgettable impact on the world and that he chose the wonderful friends that he did. And, we are doubly blessed to have them in our lives the way we do. Thank you to all of Christiano’s friends for not being afraid to reach out and for not leaving us. You are all braver than you realize, and I’m in awe of all of you.

   Christiano, last season, with the highest fist and the biggest heart. He loved the game.

 When asked what his favorite memory at EPHS was, he answered, ‘When Mr. Martinez approached me in the Library and asked me to play for the Volleyball Team.’
       

A couple of the boys warming up in their ‘CB’ jerseys.

The team presenting our family with the
most beautiful flowers and hugs. 
The last game against LaSalle.
Check out my number 10!



Senior Night 2013.
 My boy and me. On the court. 

  

Dishes Can Break A Heart

Sometimes it’s the random things – like unloading the dishwasher and putting the dishes away. 

I catch a quick glimpse of the plastic plates that we picked out together at target. They were for his dorm. I don’t even think he ever got to use them. Of course not, why would he have? He was only in college for about eight weeks. We couldn’t throw them out or give them away. I couldn’t part with them. I wanted to keep them and use them for sandwiches or pizza or snacks. However, it is these reminders that bring me to a place that hurts so deep; a place that sometimes brings me to my knees, but sometimes make desperate for a distraction – a distraction from the thoughts; the thoughts I, sometimes, fear I won’t come out of one day. I quickly grab my phone and start a pandora worship station. My fingers don’t move fast enough. And, my mind races to a future without my son. 
The music helps for a bit, but then I hear a quiet voice inside that says, ‘Don’t be distracted. Come to me with your burden.’ And, I must confess…
I don’t want to. I don’t want to face it this time. I want to be better. I want to forget. I want to pretend; forget that my boy is gone and pretend that he is coming through the door any moment to spend his summer break with us. And, at the same exact time I want to remember – remember that he is with The Lord and that he and I have a hope and a future that is brighter than anything I can see. And, we will be together again. 
But, it hurts. It hurts all the time. That quiet voice says, ‘I am near to you. I am with you. I know your pain.’ But, it still hurts. It hurts all the time. 
‘The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow…’ Psalm 34:18

A Different Mother’s Day

This year, when all the children climb into my bed Mother’s Day morning, he won’t be here. The little blue eyed boy who made me a mom won’t be here. For eighteen years he made me feel like the most special mother in the world, and he won’t be here. His handprints, macaroni necklaces, picture frames, fancy drawings, photographs, kisses and hugs; They are no more, and all I have left are memories of days past. 

At fifteen he made me a mother, and the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew I wanted to be better. I knew that he was special and deserved to have the best me I could ever possibly be. Who am I apart from him? I wonder this often. He has everything to do with the woman I am today, and I owe him so much. If he were to come back just for today, I would honor him this Mother’s Day, for giving me such a gift. The gift of motherhood, of course, but particularly the gift of being his mother. I am the one that God chose to bring Christiano to life and to raise him. The boy who loved and inspired people, who made everyone he met giggle and laugh, who possessed such a rare gift of humility and extreme talent; the one who gave the best hugs, (even though he was 6’9″, there was a perfect spot for me right in the middle of his chest) the boy who was intellectual and smart, but really cared about what others had to say. My baby boy; the one with the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen, a smile that was contagious, and a heart that gave much more than it could ever receive.
On days like today, I just don’t know how to do this life anymore. I don’t know how to move forward without the first person who loved me unconditionally. Please know that I’m so thankful for my other three babies who are here with me today. They have loved me so beautifully through this entire process, and they bring me so much joy each and every day. It’s a funny thing, though  – experiencing joy through this chronic pain. Somehow the two have learned to coexist in my heart. This weeping has lasted far more than one night… It’s been 199 nights to be exact. 199 nights of a pain that is unspeakable.  But, somehow joy is there, also. Because, the promise God makes is true. Joy always does come, even through sorrow. 
‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5b
We rejoice in our loved ones lives here on earth, and we sorrow at the loss we feel when they’re gone. When I think of Christiano, I smile through the tears, and I cry through smiles. I wouldn’t trade my time with him for anything, even a life with no pain. The deeper we love the deeper the pain we experience. But, I know we are to love anyway. 
If you are dealing with any kind of loss this Mother’s Day, please know that joy is promised. Whether, you’ve lost the child who first called you ‘mommy,’ the mother who made you who you are today, the spouse that affirmed you and loved you unconditionally, the grandparent who influenced your life in countless ways, the sibling that shared both your most joyful and most painful moments, the friend who changed your life and made you want to be better- I hope you experience some joy today. That is my prayer for you and for me on this Mother’s Day.

Awaken

Awaken: the beginning or rousing of something; to come into existence or awareness; to realize. 

Some of you know that I spent the majority of the last two weekends at the ‘Awakening Conference.’ The purpose of this conference, in my own words, is to awaken the hearts and minds of young people in hopes that they would realize God’s magnificent love for them, causing them to go deeper in their relationship with Him.

I know that I’m not technically a young person, but that has never stopped me from wanting to experience God alongside tens, hundreds or thousands of other young people. I’m young at heart, and I see such beauty in children and young adults of all ages. I admire their openness and vulnerability towards the things of God. The courage I see in them would have been so foreign to me when I was their age and it awes me. It always blesses and ministers to me when I am able to spend a little time in their world. 

I didn’t really think about what I would get out of the conference, except that I knew it would encourage me to watch thousands of teens sing and lift their hands in worship to their Lord. The first weekend was good! Lots of funny speakers, great worship, great bands, and best of all happy kids! It was so great to watch young people worshipping God, but especially to see my own children doing it in the midst of this big storm. They miss their big brother, and they have so many questions. I was proud of them for going and seeking God, even in all that. As for me, by day 3 of the first weekend, I felt like I’d had enough. It was just too much to sing and hear about the goodness of God and all the wonderful plans He had for us. As soon as week one ended relief came over me – like I said, I had had enough. But, before I knew it Week Two was here. And, as that second weekend progressed, I began to realize that God had some things He wanted to communicate with me. I needed an Awakening of my own, but, I didn’t feel ready for it; and I certainly didn’t think I was prepared to hear what God was about to say to me…

Let’s rewind a bit to the time in between these two weekends. It was one of my hardest weeks, and not just because of the missing of my son. I had to endure some pretty bad hurts and overcome some things in my own heart, as well. I will not get into this too much, but I will say this: All those things you read about, the things that people say to grieving parents or about grieving parents… well, they are true. People really do tell us to move on. People really do say things that are perverted and twisted. People really do tell us they love us to our face, but say the most cruel things behind our backs. People really do think we want attention or pity. People really do forget that we lost our son, and refer to how horrible and scary it will be when their teenagers start driving. People really do forget; people really do move on; people really do dishonor and disregard. SOME people do. But, MOST people don’t. And those people, well I thank God for them.

I was so hurt by some things that were said or unsaid that week; so much so, that I decided to seek some help from a wise leader that I respect and love very much; this leader, who has checked in on us, who is sensitive to the leading of The Lord, and who cares about us very deeply. I broke down. I cried my heart out, blurted my questions out, and dumped a lot of my hurt out. This person is a wonderful listener and is very careful with word choice. (That’s something we could all take a lesson in.) By the end of the meeting, I already felt better; just to get all the junk out of my head. But, something this person said to me, towards the end of the meeting, just couldn’t make sense to my mind. ‘I’m believing that God will restore you not just to where you were with Him, but to an even better place.’ I nodded my head, longing to believe it, but I just couldn’t see it. I left the meeting feeling much better than when I had walked in, but I just could not fathom these words spoken over me – even through the ringing and repeating they were doing in my head.

Now here I was, Friday afternoon at Awakening Conference. I barely made it on time for Speaker, Chad Veach. He started off the message talking about Naomi and Ruth. I never realized how much I identified with Naomi now. She lost her son and felt so alone. People looked at her like she was cursed. She was in depression and fear of the future, and other people mocked her. No one wanted to be with her anymore because she wasn’t the same, and she knew it. But, Ruth never left her. Ruth saw more in her than she could see in herself. Ruth worked on her behalf. Ruth gave her first born so to her and reestablished her. But, not just to where she was before – even better. At the end of the story, people look at Ruth and praise God for all that He’s done. Ruth represents Jesus for me in this story. He will never leave me, He will always see the best in me, and He will intercede on my behalf.  Chad Veach said he knew he was speaking to someone who was broken and that God wanted that person to know that He was going to do more than restore that person, He was going to do far better than that. I sobbed, knowing God was trying to get this message to me. 

But how? How can I ever be better? How can life without my oldest son ever be better than before. I’ve wrestled with this question for days now, and still I cannot see it, so how can I ever believe it? But isn’t that what faith is? Believing when we don’t see? And isn’t that what Jesus does? He doesn’t just restore us, He redeems us. We get an overhauled, brand new life instead of a refurbished replica. So, maybe it can happen, right? Even if I don’t see it. Maybe all I have to see is Jesus, and He will be my eyes for this journey. Maybe I don’t have to possess this flawless faith, but maybe I look to Him, the One who is the pioneer and perfecter of all of it. Maybe, just maybe, in some small way – I have been awakened to Who He really is and what He really has the power to do.

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> with perseverance<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”>the pioneer<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> scorning its shame,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3