Thursday, March 9, 2017

Joy in the Mourning

There's always a bit of poetry that comes with this time of year.

We watch the old turn over to new as winter threatens to leave and we bounce between short sleeves and warm coats. Buds wait patiently for the perfect temperature, and we teeter on the brink of two lives. While there's all sorts of metaphors and similes and I could weave into this time of year and this season of life, it's been a difficult few weeks.

Jonathan lost his dad last week after a battle with ALS. He died on Ash Wednesday and while we mourn the loss of an incredibly strong man, we rejoice in the fact that his battle was won. "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." He is where he was always meant to be, and he is better off for it.

While I could write a book on what my father-in-law meant to my family, I am going to stick with a different perspective today. I can't imagine the pain his children and wife are going through in learning to live without a piece of their heart, but I can see how it's affected my kids... and you might be surprised.

It was with a heavy heart that Jonathan had to tell Owen his Poppy was gone on their way home from school last Wednesday afternoon. After we gathered in the living room for hugs and tears, I noticed a shift in Owen's eyes. I knew five would be a hard age to deal with death, and I worried how he'd wrap his brain around it. It turns out he ended up teaching us a thing or two.

Owen broke away from our family huddle and darted through the back door. I followed him and watched as he climbed into a chair and lifted his small arms toward the sky. Shouts of "Hi Poppy! Can you hear me? You're in heaven now!" filled my yard and every inch of my soul. I stared a hole through my son who understood the joy that comes with knowing Jesus. Our death was destroyed on the cross, and Owen was psyched that Poppy was able to realize that.

When I approached him, he bubbled over. He was so excited that his Poppy could run laps without a wheelchair, speak plain as day, and see every goal scored this soccer season. He named all the dogs ready to play fetch in heaven, and he was floored when I told him Poppy's mom and dad were there, too. Never before have I seen someone thrilled about the end of a loved one's life, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. It made perfect sense. Life without our father, father-in-law, and Poppy is proving to be tough to navigate, but we are the ones suffering. Owen admits he misses Poppy, but loves that he's been made perfect and whole.

I'm also fairly certain he's having a good time rocking a grand-baby we never got to meet.

We have been a bit overrun with emotions lately. It will be hard for a while, but we feel the prayers and support and love. Thank you to all who helped honor Rickie during his memorial services, and for giving his family a place to lean. Jonathan's sister Bridget told me she adopted a new mantra: WWOBD? While it's not the best question to ask when it comes to deciding whether to jump off the top bunk, it's fitting in matters of the heart.

When it comes to his Poppy's new beginning, Owen Bauer has it figured out. Like Owen, we're all trying to find peace, but we're also looking forward to the day we join him.

PS: In lieu of flowers, we asked for donations to the organizations that helped improve Poppy's quality of life and help him live it to the fullest. Memorials may be made to ALS in Wonderland, Arkansas Hospice, and ALS Association.

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