The day after we buried Ben the clouds disappeared and a clear warm day somehow escaped past March’s cold rainy grip. We buried Ben about a mile from where we live in a place that we drive by constantly. At first it seemed like a great idea: we would always be near him. But the day after I began to get nervous: what will it be like driving by Ben? Will I feel guilty if I forget to look? Will I not want to look? Will I feel guilty if I don’t have time to stop by? What will it be like when I stop by?
Honestly, I was just scared. I was scared of forgetting. I was scared of remembering too much. I had no clue how I would react when I saw a 1 x 2 foot patch of ground freshly filled in. So the day after I left my son in the hands of God I came back.
It turned out to be one of the most beautiful days of my life.
Pam, Tim, Stacy, and I went together. When we pulled my jeep up to Ben’s grave site you couldn’t miss it: my friends Tim and Carl with the help of the funeral home took all the flowers that people bought for Ben and piled them on his grave site. I had no clue. Not only couldn’t you see the fresh soil; you couldn’t see his plot. There were so many flowers that it covered about a 6×4 foot area piled about 3 feet high.
As dark and empty as the day before felt; today was full of the promise of the resurrection. For the first time I felt a spark of life standing next to my son.
After we left I wanted to come back the next day. And the next. And the next. So I did. Of course it was so sad; but seeing all those flowers gave me hope.
One of those days I took four things with me: a black permanent marker, two large pieces of cardboard, a copy of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and my camera.
The cemetery had put a bench next to the grave. I sat down and read what I needed to hear: chapter 15 of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time. I buried Ben with a stuffed Lion and a copy of this book. Pam and I just bought the same stuffed lion on ebay only a much larger version. I’m designing Ben’s tomb stone now with an image of a lion. All because of the hope that God speaks to me through the Narnia books. This is the chapter where Aslan is dead because he was killed by the false queen of Narnia. The two girls in the story watched it happen and saw Aslan die. When the sun rose the next morning C.S. Lewis says that a deeper magic, one that the queen didn’t know about, reversed the curse on death. Aslan who was dead is now alive. My favorite part in this chapter is the first thing Aslan does when he comes back to life: he plays with the girls; they dance. This is what Jesus did; and this is what Jesus will do when he returns. Dance with my son.
When I finished reading I was overwhelmed with two thoughts that I can’t share with you. Two promises came to me instantly that I made with my son that day. I made a covenant between me, my son, and God. I shared that covenant with just two people. It’s one of the greatest choices I’ve made in my life.
Then I took out my marker and made two signs that I wanted to take pictures of me holding up. I wanted to “Shout into the darkness and squeeze out sparks of light.” My first sign read: “I’ll see you when I go home!” Heaven is my home, and it’s where Ben is. I wanted to scream this out to the world. My second sign read, “We love you Ben.” I’m constantly overwhelmed with my pride in him.
If Ben were alive sitting in the car I know what his reaction would have been. He would have been utterly embarrassed. Here is his dad, setting up the camera, hitting the self timer and running into various positions holding signs up and jumping in the air. I took hundreds of pictures of me jumping in the air, standing on the bench, and posing as much as I could with my signs over all the flowers. Even in my son’s death I managed to pass along my own father’s great ability to make his children wish they could disappear from shear embarrassment. I think this ability is magically given to every dad when they have their first child. I love my son so much I just don’t care what I look like. I wanted the world to see that I love him, miss him, but that I’m choosing to hold on to hope: that one day I will see him when I go to my final home. When I go to heaven.
My dad used a phrase with me that I’ve never heard before about what I did that day. He told me that I was, “practicing the resurrection.” Wow. I had no clue.
I think this is the place hope is born.