Today is Daniel’s birthday.
My beautiful, prince-like, brown-eyed son. We named him for the prophet Daniel after these words,
“Youths without blemish, well-favored in appearance and skillful in all wisdom, discernment, and understanding, apt in learning knowledge, competent to stand and serve in the king’s palace.” ~ Daniel 1:4
He would be 35. Today marks another milestone that I will not celebrate with him. Try as I might to focus on life today with all its fullness and blessing, grief resolutely stands at the door of my mind and requires my presence. Despite deadlines and obligations and time-pressures, I cannot make my thoughts or hands obey my will or string together another sentence about Shakespeare for school. Accepting the truth of this is liberating.
Every year it seems I unconsciously try to push away the reality of Daniel’s absence with tasks and relationships occupying the space in my life he would have still claimed. Mostly I try to avoid walking too near to such devastating and sacred ground. I fill the hours with present day tasks to divert my attention to things less knee-bending. And yet every year I am called to kneel in heart and mind before the great I AM and make memorial with Him. Twenty years later, I could still cry myself into hysteria if I let myself look at this too long or feel it too openly.
Over this chasm of separation my hope is lain.
Long years now I have spent coming to terms with the Psalmist’s wisdom “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting]. Oh Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever. ~ Psalm 131, Amplified
I know better now than to ask the fruitless question “Why?” I am content to rest quieted in trust of God’s character.
The day Daniel was born I could not have remotely imagined the impact that he would have on me or how profoundly I would become bound to him, even beyond this world. The day he died I could not have remotely imagined how permanent the alteration would be for me as well as for him. Daniel’s death compelled me to come into the presence of God on a level that, had he lived, I never could have. Nothing else in this life — other than the death of either of his sisters, should that have happened — could have broken me more deeply. Nothing else would ever have ushered me into that level of acknowledgement of my condition and God’s nature. No where else would I have met so thoroughly the furious, holy, immeasurable love of God Who made us both for Himself. The God Who holds us both in His great hands still and Whose plan for our lives exceeds all my imagination and comprehension.
All these tears have watered ground to bear good fruit. I have loved other women’s sons with more open-heartedness and humility than I would have had Daniel lived. I have encouraged creativity in everyone I’ve found it harbored in, to honour all that I loved, and love still, in him. I have come to terms with and confessed on the most elemental level that I can experience, that God is God and I am not. I can say truly with Daniel and Job that the Lord is my High King of old and though He slay me yet will I trust Him. I hold in fierce, unyielding confidence to the prophet Jeremiah’s recounting of the Lord’s own heart that
“He does not willingly grieve the children of men.” ~ Jeremiah 3.33
Today I will water the garden and give my respectful nod to grief. Tonight I will make a good dinner, enjoy the company of my husband, and go to sleep in trust that Daniel is indeed standing in the Lord’s presence and serving in His palace, just as the scripture we named him for says.
Tomorrow I will write.
The opening image is titled “Eye to eye” and is copyright of Regina Marie Mountjoy.
It was shot in Boulder many years ago when she was just learning to shoot.
This image, for many reasons, is precious to me. ♥
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is passionate about disciple making. Reflecting an irresistible calling to the intersection of faith and the arts, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Cultivating, and of The Cultivating Project, a discipling initiative for Christians engaged in the arts. She is President and CEO of a thriving environmental consulting and construction firm based in northern Colorado which she runs with her husband Peter. They are parents to seven children, and are grandparents to a beloved flock of grandchildren. An inveterate book collector and giver, Lancia loves website and garden design, beautiful typography, David Austin roses, Marvel movies, road trips and being read aloud to by Peter. She cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.