Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Today marks our son Micah's 5th birthday. As in each of the past few years, we will mark his birthday later today by birthday cupcakes eaten by our living children, and after a birthday song, birthday candles blown out by Micah's exuberant (although somewhat confused) younger siblings. It's also typically marked by a visit to the grave and by a few tears. With each passing year, we've grown increasingly certain that while God has already used Micah's life and death to accomplish some good and noble purposes, we can't hope to possibly understand all those purposes on this side of eternity. As with most grieving parents, we yearn to know what those purposes are; to be able to offset the pain and anguish we have experienced by reason of his shortened life and death with tangible and noteworthy eternal purposes. We have already greatly benefitted from the knowledge of certain blessings that have arisen by reason of Micah's death. But we groan to know more. We groan to know what blessings have come to us and others by reason of these present sufferings. In one of the passages that Heather and I most frequently recite to one another in encouragement, Paul tells us, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God....And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved..." Romans 8:18, 19, 23. Tonight, if you were in our home here in Minnetonka, you would hear the sound of children celebrating a birthday. But the overriding theme here is not one of celebration, as is the case with our other birthdays, but one of groaning. Just as in Paul's letter to the Romans, we have a heartfelt desire for what is ahead. For every human suffering through this present age, Christ is our only hope. For at that great day of Reunion, when Christ meets us face to face, we will have our greatest appetites for glory met in God, our thirst for significance in suffering fully satisfied in our Savior. We will see how all our sufferings, both large and small, were worked out in these past few temporal earthly days, and that our son Micah's short life on earth accomplished more than we can ever currently possibly conceive.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
This past Saturday, Heather and I hosted about 100 people at Nokomis Community Center in honor of Micah's Fifth Birthday. We were so appreciative of everyone who was able to attend. This year’s celebration was a significant milestone because it would have been his 5th birthday. How we wish he could be here to celebrate his own birthday with his three younger siblings. While nothing on this side of eternity can make up for his loss, we are always so encouraged by the friends and family members who attend in Micah’s honor. Once again, we feel so grateful for your love, encouragement and support. As most of you already know, Heather and I created the Micah Wessman Foundation in 2009 in order to assist other families grieving the death of a young child. Since October of 2011, the organization has been administered through the Hope for the Mourning website. The website includes a significant amount of teaching for parents grieving the loss of a young child, and includes links to outside resources. Additionally, the website provides the opportunity for grieving parents, or friends of grieving parents, to request that a care package be sent to them. This care package includes three books written on grief, all from a Christian perspective, and for those receiving gift cards in the United States, two restaurant gift cards. Since January 1, 2013, Hope for the Mourning has sent 63 care packages. While most of these care package requests come from the continental United States, we also have received requests from all around the world. By reason of these care packages, we have been blessed to communicate with numerous grieving parents. Now with three living children in our home, and my busy law practice, we wouldn’t be able to manage the logistics of the care package ministry without the support of my mom, Karen, who has taken on the responsibilities associated with the care packages. Thanks to her work, grieving parents from around the world are receiving care packages. Lord willing, we will continue to operate Hope for the Mourning and the care package ministry. As you might imagine, sending this number of care packages comes with significant costs. (One care package costs approximately $100). As always, the organization would be happy to receive donations of any amount, which of course are fully tax-deductible. Whether now, at year-end, or at any time in the future, please keep our organization in mind. On behalf of Heather, Owen, Brendan and Kinsley, thanks again for your love and support!
Sunday, October 6, 2013
I have recently been reading an historical account about the American military campaigns in North Africa and Italy in World War II. In it, much discussion centers around the decisions made by the American leadership, and whether the high level of "casualties" suffered by the Americans in various battles were worth the strategic benefits obtained. Until recently, I found it curious how a "war casualty” is calculated. A “casualty of war” is defined to include those killed, injured or displaced by war. I previously felt that the casualty of war figure was misleading because, in measuring the impact to a particular side of a particular battle, the number of soldiers killed is an altogether different impact than the number of soldiers injured or taken prisoner. But having lost a child (albeit not in a war), I believe that the "casulty of war" definition is in fact appropriate. As the particular account I have read demonstrates, the collateral damage to war extends far beyond simply those who died. Those suffering physical injuries during a battle (a) might not be able to return to battle at all and (b) regardless of whether they do, the impact of their physical injuries will impact them for the rest of their lives. Apart from physical injuries, how many thousands of war veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, either diagnosed or not, by reason of their involvement in the war. Trully, the negative impact of war experiences lasts a lifetime. Simillarly, it is nearly impossible to calculate the emotional and relational impact that a child’s death has on friends, families, communities. Just as I ignorantly limited a “war casualty” to a solider killed in battle, so also would it be ignorant to think that the only persons adversely impacted by the unexpected death of a child are the immediate family members. Grandparents of the deceased are left powerless to bring their child back from the dead, or to fully assuage the grief of their own children, the greiving parents. Friends and family members, who might previously have enjoyed close relationships with the greiving parents, lose the same ability to relate to their friends, the grieving parents. Work colleagues of the parents lose the drive and desire of the grieving parents as the mom or dadd shift their mental attention away from their careers in order to grieve. Even the physicians treating the child wonder how a life could have been saved had the child been treated differently. As we seek to minister to our fellow greiving parents, I think it is helpful to remember how broad the death impacts the communities and, as a result, be open to how the Lord is not only using a child's death to work on the hearts of the parents (certainly one "casualty") but also the broader community, many of whom are also "casualties" of the death of the child.