A Christmas Eve gift

Tomorrow will be our 6th Christmas knowing Jude, yet not being able to celebrate with him. There have been so many moments in these years of grace and peace, even in the midst of the sadness, grief, and longing. But we experienced something today that can only be seen as a true Christmas gift.

For the last couple of weeks, we have been So. Busy. I know it’s cliche to say that, especially during the holiday season, but we have not had many moments of true rest. While I have been checking many things off of my “To Do” list regularly, the one thing that has remained at the top, but never quite gotten done, is going to Jude’s place to set up his Christmas tree and spend a few precious moments with his memory.

But we finally made time today. Christmas Eve. I was feeling both relieved to have finally been able to continue this tradition we started, but I was also feeling the lingering mom-guilt that I can never seem to shake, wishing I had been able to do this weeks ago. It never sits well with me when looking at our holiday-decorated home if Jude’s place isn’t also “decorated.” It’s a way I can share life with his memory and continue to keep his name and place in our home alive. Many won’t understand the importance of this, but many do – those who are also living life, sharing your experiences with those gone before us.

As we pulled up to his spot today, we noticed a lone lady off to the left, obviously spending her own precious moments remembering someone whom she still loves, and mourning that she can’t spend this Christmas with them. I felt bad, because as is our custom at Jude’s place, my kids run and play amok, and generally be LOUD, which isn’t the norm for most people visiting a cemetery. So, I hoped for a peaceful, meaningful visit where we wouldn’t be disturbing her.

And it was a sweet time, as it always is, at his spot. Again, I know and am so thankful that Jude isn’t really there. How gloriously thankful I am that he is spending Christmas face to face with the One whom we are really celebrating this Christmas. But his spot is also sacred to us, for us. In laying him in the ground, we truly released him to the Father and embraced the promises of eternity and the coming resurrection. We held hands, prayed together, and blew kisses to our boy.

At the end of our visit, we were drawing close together around his name plaque and Christmas tree, trying to squeeze in a selfie of all of us. That is when the lady that had been standing off to the side of us, walked over and asked if she could take the picture for us. We were so grateful – what a sweet gift for our day. And then she starting sharing her story of Jude.

Yes, HER story.

She couldn’t believe that she finally got to meet Jude’s family.  She said she comes here often to visit her mother’s spot who passed away years ago, and she brings her 2 young sons with her. As they explored the area around their own precious “spot”, they discovered Jude, and she said her boys absolutely delight in visiting Jude’s spot – especially the windmills that we often put out in the springtime. She went on to tell us how she has often wondered about Jude and his story – and his family – and she said, with tears in her eyes, that she couldn’t believe it when we walked up today. She was nervous to approach us initially, but when she saw us taking the awkward selfie – she thought that was a good chance to help and to share with us how Jude has impacted their lives.

How Jude has impacted their lives.

I was wrecked. God allowed us a glimpse into the truth that we already held in our hearts, but is so hard to believe day in and day out after 6 years.  That Jude’s brief life matters. That he can still make an impact on this world. She shared about how much joy Jude has brought her sons in a potentially sad and depressing situation.  How uplifting it is for them to visit him.  She gave me a hug as we both were in tears, and I got to share with her that our faith gives us the hope of one day seeing him again. That we know this isn’t the final goodbye. That we find joy and hope in decorating his spot for different seasons and holidays, because he is part of us and always will be.

After saying goodbye and promising that visiting her Mom’s spot is now going to be part of our trips to visit Jude, we walked back to the car, and Sean and and I looked at each other in wonder. This was the best gift we could’ve gotten this year. We got to see how our son was bringing joy into people’s lives, how he is still making an impact outside of our small circle. What else could God be doing in our midst that we know nothing about? And then it hit me, this is why I never found the time to put his Christmas tree out before now. God was waiting for His perfect timing even in this. He was waiting to show us His faithfulness, His comfort, His mighty hand working in ways we cannot see. Praise be to God. It was a true thrill of hope! Merry Christmas!

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