Note: I wrote this post a year ago but opted to post something different then. So, for those of you who know us, the time references will seem off to you.)
On August 17, 1989, a beautiful 8 lb 3 oz baby boy came into this world. He was 2 weeks past his due date, so God decided his birth could come in record time to make up for our waiting (not always patiently) -- 1st contraction to birth was an hour and a half! August 17th became a date we would celebrate forever.
On November 25, 2020, God called Dustin home and it happened like his birth…very quickly. Only this time, the one who was anxiously awaiting his arrival was not Dean & I, his parents, but Jesus – who took him by the hand, gave him a big hug, and welcomed him in Heaven. November 25th became a date we will come to each year with a feeling of loss, but that loss will always be diminished by a sense of peace, and we celebrate because we know Dustin is in his eternal home.
Those two events happen to every person…birth and death. As parents, we can’t wait for the first of these to occur. The birth of a child is an amazing experience we look forward to for nine months, and when it happens, it’s unforgettable! (I can tell the tales of both Derek’s and Dustin’s birth with detail and humor!)
We welcome the baby and begin the process of living as a family. We don’t expect the second event to ever happen to our children during our lifetime. We live with the assumption that we’ll go first. So, we teach our children to love God and pray they will believe in Jesus. Our unspoken but heartfelt desire is that we will already be in heaven and our children will be old when their second event occurs. Then we will be there to witness them getting their hug from Jesus and welcome them Home! But sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way. Since Dustin has gone before us, we can only imagine what that moment of entering Heaven was like for him. We do imagine it - every day. And when we do, we smile. It brings us peace, calmness and is a reminder of what we have to look forward to for ourselves.
It is also a reminder that we have a lot of living to do now -- not for us, but for our families, friends, and people we don’t even know yet. We don’t want to waste any of the time we have left on this earth, so we do our best to live every moment, because time to do things tomorrow, or next week, or next year is not guaranteed. Don’t waste a minute of it.
Yesterday was Dustin’s birthday, the first since he passed. I fully expected his birthday to be hard, but it wasn’t. We shared time with Derek & Kate and Olivia by video chat, honored him with some friends, talked about him a lot, and had a great day. We’re in Hawaii, where we lived for several years when the boys were teenagers. We drove the island, visiting our favorite spots and some of the boys’ favorite haunts. And we talked story about Dustin all day (it’s a Hawaiian thing 😊). It was a good day.
But this morning, I encountered an unexpected trigger that took me to the tears I thought would happen on his birthday. It was a brief text chat with one of Dustin’s best friends, and it brought to my mind something that could have been if Dustin were still alive and it would have made a huge difference in his life. I thought to myself “If only he were here, he would…” and the tears came. After I shared why I was crying with Dean and we talked through it, he shared these thoughts:
There will always be “What if’s” and “If only’s”:
“If only Dustin had gone to see a doctor, they could have found the blood clot, and he may still be alive.”
“If only we had gone to see him a week earlier, he may still be alive.”
“What if Dustin had told someone he wasn’t feeling well? He may still be alive.”
“If only Dustin hadn’t died, he could be back in San Angelo and we could see him and Olivia more often.”
“If only…,” “what if…,” and on and on they go.
If only thoughts are not healthy thoughts. They keep us locked in a whirlpool of wishful thinking that will never be. But if we take it one step further, we change our perspective, and we can slow down the emotional spin and look at it this way:
“If only there could be assurance that Dustin is now completely healed.” There is…Only Jesus gives us that.
“If only someone could ease the heaviness of grief in my heart.” Only He can, with His grace.
“If only someone else could die for Dustin.” Only He did exactly that…on the cross.
“If only we could see Dustin again.” We know we will, and only He can give us that promise because of His resurrection.
If only we choose to believe in Jesus, then He only will give us the gift of His salvation and the capability to look forward to Heaven, where we will join our loved ones and live forever in the presence of God. This is the gift that brings grace and healing to our hearts.
One year later:
Yesterday was Dustin’s birthday. We said “Happy Birthday, Dustin” when we woke up, thanked God that he is celebrating an earthly date which has no meaning in Heaven, but he is celebrating with Grandpa, Papoo, Brandon (cousin), friends, and relatives he never knew he had. Most of all, he celebrates every day with Jesus. For us, it was a good day.
I thank God that He loves and provides for us as only He can, filling our hearts and minds with peace. And I pray that whatever what if’s and if only’s you are asking will be answered in your heart by God. Because He only is the God of true peace.