I t did not strike me right away at church on Sunday. The Christmas decorations were all up. Our baby kept pointing to the hanging glass ornaments in the foyer, saying “ball”, “ball”. It was not until we started singing a song that it came bitter sweetly back into my mind. Many of the decorations surrounding us were the same ones decorating our church four years ago ~ at our son’s funeral service.
But, it’s easing. It did not hit quite as hard or as fast this year. We still aren’t sure about putting a Christmas tree up. Matthew put our last one up. We have our advent tree up. We will do what we can. We don’t want our living room to feel like a funeral again.
I thought possibly we were the only ones who felt this, until I read Life After the Death of My Son: What I am Learning. It was as though the author, Dennis Apple was writing a book on our emotions, our pain, and our unknown grief that those around us could not see, or did not want to see. The author and his wife Beulah, lost their 18 year old son, Denny to an unexplained illness that quickly took his life. In this journey through the shadow of death these past four years, we have often found others asking in a round about way are you “over” Matthew? No one never get over the death of a child.
I thought our grieving was too long – maybe our faith was not strong enough. But, you’d think a Pastor and his wife’s faith would be much stronger? Dennis Apple is a pastor. In reading his book and hearing him on a broadcast, it took him and his wife nearly five Christmas’s before it was “happy”. And it was a decision they had to make – a conscience effort to make it happy. My husband and I have said the same thing especially this past year. We have to work on making happy memories – and it’s been worth it. Joy does come again – but sometimes it takes an effort to make that joy become alive.
I could quote chapter by chapter everything that touched me in Life After the Death of My Son: What I am Learning, starting right out with the first chapter, “Will It Always Hurt This Much” with following chapters titled, “Will Our Marriage Survive This?“, “Am I Losing My Mind?“, “Where is God?“, “I Don’t Want Him Forgotten“, and five more chapters following. This book is filled with promises of God’s faithfulness, but also of a man’s weakness, anger and questioning God, and frustrations with family and friends. He is honest and profoundly open.
Dennis Apple was recently interviewed on FamilyLife Radio with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. It was a three day show, and it was quite powerful. I will have all the links to the three days below where you can either listen to it or read the transcripts of it. Dennis Rainey made a comment on the first day of the interview I find so true: “. . . the Christian community does not know how to relate to someone who is going through this level of grief. It is beyond imagination, but the Holy Spirit knows how to relate to an individual.” I believe with books such as this, it can open doors to hurting people, if we as Christians would reach out with understanding and care. What hope we can give.
Though this book greatly encouraged me reading of another couple who walked so much of the same road we have, I believe that Life After the Death of My Son: What I am Learning is just as important for everyday Christian believers to read – to understand grief is not over the first year, that there will always be scars in our hearts, and that yes, we want you to mention our loved ones name. And, if you know someone who has gone through the deep grief of losing a child, whether it be this past year or ten years ago, I invite you to give them a copy of this book (maybe after you have read it) and share together. I believe it’s a book that should be in every church library, read by pastors, counselors, teachers, etc.
This Thursday, December 11th will mark our “9/11” as Dennis Apple also calls the death of his child. I will be sharing more this week on Matthew, the choking game, and the hope and peace we have . I can truly rejoice again that one of Matthew’s favorite songs that is also partly inscripted on his gravestone from “I Can Only Imagine” is not imagined by him. He truly is forever surrounded by God’s glory, forever praising Him. For now, it’s us left behind, still imagining, still wiping remaining tears away.
You can listen to the broadcast or read the transcripts with Dennis Apple on FamilyLife Radio:
You can find the book on Amazon: Life After the Death of My Son: What I am Learning