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Light in the Tunnel

A family trip to a local indoor waterpark produced a valuable image to help my surviving son and me persevere. It was shortly after his big brother's death. It felt like the light would never reappear in "the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23) we found ourselves walking through. No matter how we felt, my husband and I were intentional to take moments to create positive memories for our still very young son and daughter. We still needed opportunities to laugh, hold one another, learn and grow. Whether or not we could actually produce a smile or embrace fully the lessons in the moment, was not at all important.

At seven years old, Daniel wanted to ride the big slides. There were quite a variety of which to choose. Some fast, some slow. Some with inner tubes, and others you leaned back, hands tucked behind the head, letting the water rush around your body as you zig-zagged to the pool below. We tackled the first one on an inner tube with two seats. He then confidently rode the tube alone, but he expressed no interest in riding the completely enclosed slide which seemed dark and scary to him. In fact, Daniel gave them a wide berth as we entered the acceptable slides.

We were experiencing a lot of new firsts without Jonathan. The sting of his death was still palpable, and we were navigating a level of grief we had never experienced before. Life felt dark, and yet, Daniel's steps of bravery on those slides penetrated the fog that seemed unable to lift. I smiled in a way I had done not since before my son's death. Daniel squealed with joy as he ventured the slides again and again. I didn't recognize God's hand in it all at the time. It is evident to me now that God was inviting me to be brave with my own fears.

Like my young son, I had no intention of going on the dark, confining slides. As if the lack of light were not enough, there is no getting off the slide, and you can't always see what's coming next. As one who is slightly claustrophobic, I am still traumatized by the first enclosed water tube I rode on as a child that caused me to panic. I've never been on one since.

I'm not even sure what prompted me, later, to go on the dark body slide, but I did. The slide was as dark as the inside of a cavern, but I was already in the darkest place imaginable. Grief feels like it swallows light. My energy was drained. Processing information took longer. Sleep did not come easy, and I was plagued by nightmares of trying to save my son. People tried to encourage, but it often felt like every word and deed were filtered through quicksand. The pull to give up was strong. My world was upside down, and I was trying to live with a large piece missing. I feared losing my husband and little ones. I feared losing my son's friends. I feared all of these devastating experiences would lead to nowhere... would not be able to be redeemed.

Others who experienced similar losses assured me that my sorrow would not always feel this heavy; that I would learn to live in my "new normal." I was blind to the hope they offered. But in that dark place I held onto Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substan