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The Hearts Smile, Even If Our own Faces Do Not

W e went to visit Nick upon Christmas morning. “Visit Nick”—that’s what we’ve decided to call it up when we spend time at their graveside. “Going to the cemetery” focuses on the place, not the individual, so is too impersonal, too abstract. “Paying our respects” is another option, but sounds too formal to describe going to the place where our son’s body lies. So we “visit Nick, ” just like we all did on Christmas morning.

We sleep in for some time, then eat breakfast, after that open gifts. To this point it is often just like every other Christmas for the past 20 years, save for their absence. Now, with individuals well-worn traditions behind us, we have entered into that lull between our morning regimen and our Christmas supper. And so, rather spontaneously, all of us don our coats and boots, our hats plus mitts, and make the brief drive.

Snow has blanketed the town—it began right after nightfall on Christmas Event and ended just as dawn was breaking on Christmas morning. It covers the earth, of course , but also every roofing and every car. It clings to every branch of every shrub. It is the most pristinely white-colored Christmas we have ever witnessed. It’s a special blessing that is breathtaking in its beauty.

As we arrive at the cemetery we see we are not the only ones to visit a loved one nowadays. Tracks lead from the highway to this grave and that a single, sometimes a single, distinct group of bootprints in the snow, occasionally a jumble of children and big ones jointly. Some have left cards or laid wreaths or lit candles. One has carefully removed a plot, leaving the rectangular patch of heavy winter grass standing kampfstark against the surrounding snow.

We blaze a fresh path to the particular farthest grave, the newest plot, the one that has been there so short a time it does not yet have a monument or even a marker. The thick blanket of snow makes it impossible to find the disturbance where a hole continues to be dug and imperfectly refilled. But we know the spot.

All of us stand for a few moments, arm-in-arm, tears trickling down our cheeks and splashing to the snow. We try to talk, yet what is there to say? I had thought I might pray, in order to thank God for the precious gift he gave us in so fine a man, therefore loyal a son, therefore committed a Christian. But now that it comes to it, I have no words. When I try to open my mouth little escapes beyond broken sobs. But I’m confident that will God hears the prayers I cannot speak. He understands what it is to lose a son.

We have brought a present of sorts—sprigs of the poinsettia that for the past few weeks has brought its wintery cheer to our family room. We kneel beside the burial plot and place our gifts properly on the undisturbed snow. They’ve come from the warmth of our house to the chill of this place. Their little splashes of bright red and green are set against the dazzling brilliance of the snow. It isn’t much, but it’s something. It’s from our home. It’s from our hearts.

We think of our son and our own God-given calling to raise him in the discipline and instructions of the Lord. We think of the tiny baby we transported home on a fine Mar morning so long ago. We think of the boy who awoke to the perilous state of his soul and put his faith in Jesus Christ. We think of the teenager who became so kind, therefore humble, so committed the Christian. We think of the young man who ran his short race so very well. “We did what God known as us to do, ” I whisper. “By grace, ” Aileen replies.

Our hearts smile, even if our faces do not. We turn and retrace our tracks returning to the roadway, back to the particular van, back to Christmas. We’ve added a new tradition for all our old ones.


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A article shared by Tim Challies (@challies)