Twenty-five years ago this coming July 1, my wife Nancy and I moved to Santa Barbara. I had grown up on the east coast and she in the midwest. We came to the west to begin my full-time ministry. We didn't know exactly what we would find. What we found was a loving a church and ultimately two families who would become our "family." We began as a Bible study where we prayed and cared for one another. At some point we decided it would be fun to try a little vacation together. We finished the vacation still liking each other so decided this was different and good. Along the way we continued to pray for one another and study the Bible but then saw the benefit of simply "doing life" together. Little did we know how important this would be.
Fast forward to 2006 and eight children now among us. We found ourselves sitting at what would be the final earthly birthday party of Alyssa, daughter of our friends Russell and Allison. In the fall of 2005 she had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and so together as families we faced those days with little hope of recovery. Alyssa had a great 15th birthday party that day surrounded by friends and family. We did a lot of laughing and loving.
On July 4th of that same year Alyssa went to be with God.
Now it is May 28th, 2009 and a day she would have turned 18 in a year she would have been in the high school musical, sung her final high school concert with Madrigals, been awarded honors for accomplishments, graduated high school and looked forward to the dreams of college.
We will celebrate this day without her, we will laugh, we will cry, we will feel the loneliness, we will imagine her at all the great events of her senior year and we will wish it all could have been different. Though I am blessed to have three healthy children in my own immediate family, Alyssa was one of my daughters too. I feel the pain of her departure, I long to know what she would have looked like now, what her career plans might have been or if she still would eat grilled cheese for breakfast.
Even so, I cling to hope. She is in God's eternal care and I am inspired to be sure I never take for granted my life here and now and my life forever with the Lord.
Happy Birthday, Alyssa! Thanks for the happiness you brought to my life. I can only imagine how it was to experience the most amazing of graduations. Someday you will be clapping at my graduation. I'll be looking for you.