Today would have been Ethan’s 19th birthday. All week, I had a guilt rock just kind of camping out in the pit of my stomach. This guilt stemmed from a fear I was forgetting.
A little back story.
Since the accident, time and I have not gotten along very well. I have come to dread time passing. There is an underlying fear that with each year, each day, each moment the reality of who Ethan was when he was here will disappear. He will no longer be a part of my life, but some foggy memory, like a childhood friend. You know you loved them and played with them, but you can’t quite remember their name and the best picture you can conjure up in your mind’s eye is some blurry, generic human that you couldn’t pick out of a line up.
So this guilt.
It just sat there, quietly. Telling me that it’s happening. The thing I feared most. I’m forgetting. Ethan is no longer relevant to my life. I am losing the fullness of who he was (or is, idk the right tense). The pull that if I had done something different it wouldn’t have happened. I’m losing him even more and it’s all my fault.
Naturally, my reaction was to just try to ignore the whole thing. I had the mentality of “keep your head down, Zander. don’t focus on, don’t acknowledge it, and just let it pass.” Avoidance, always a good tactic (please know that’s dripping with sarcasm).
This morning, as I took some time to journal, this verse came to mind:
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. – 1st Thessalonians 4:13
I’m tempted to read this as a command to never feel sad, angry, confused, etc. A command to always say, “but I know he’s in a better place,” and smile real big, to always be fine and to fake it if you’re not because, damn it, if I’m not, do I even really trust Jesus?
That is not what it’s saying. It’s saying, go ahead feel your feelings. All of ’em. Don’t deny or ignore them. Be irrational. Don’t set expectations for how you are supposed to be doing. Just be. Know that Jesus is bigger. He is in control. The hope doesn’t rest in me. I’m not the one in charge of figuring it out. I am not and cannot be the one who remembers everything. I will not forget, Jesus will not forget. and the best part of it all- Heaven one day. Oh, what a glorious day.
Steadfastly clinging to that truth, I am remembering him today by asking a lot of questions.
Who would Ethan be now? As we celebrated his 19th birthday would I be calling him because he is away at school? Would he be playing soccer somewhere? Would we still be bickering about the same things? Could he still get under my skin like nobody else in the world? Would his habit of not turning in completed homework carry over into whatever he was doing now? What would his teeth-brushing habits look like? What would have surprised us all? Did he have gifts or skills that were hidden? What would he taught me? What would his walk with Jesus look like? How would this fun-loving, irresponsible, and kinda gross (I can say those things, I’m his older sister) kid with a fierce yet incredible empathetic heart have grown into over his 17th, 18th, and 19th birthdays? (just to name a few)
I don’t doubt it would have been the best to get to watch him grow up over the last couple of years. In January of 2015 Ethan and I took a road trip, just the two of us. It’s one of my favorite memories. During that trip I realized, we were becoming friends. He was maturing into this incredible young man. There were several moments in that car ride where my heart just welled up with older sister pride. He was walking with Jesus in new ways. Learning more and more what it meant to give all of your life to Him. He was being a bit bolder in who he was.
Do I wish I got to see this incredible kid grow up? Every day. But that’s selfish of me. I know though, that Ethan is rejoicing with his Maker now. The tears he cried over his own pain and the pain of those he loved have been wiped away. He is smiling, and laughing, and singing (without his older sister getting annoyed at him in the car), and worshipping, and doing EXACTLY what he was made to do. As an older sister, how could I ask for anything more?