“Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. Whatever that future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it.”
—Jerry Sittser, A Grace Disguised
Last night, we watched Vincent’s memorial video among friends and again this afternoon at our former church in Chicago. Needless to say, many tears were shed, including mine. It doesn’t matter how many dozen times I’ve seen those searing images or whether I’ve memorized the order of pictures and songs; it always crushes my heart. Just thinking about the next time we view it again makes me flinch with dread. I think Theo is the only one in the world who actually enjoys watching it.
I wish Vincent was still breathing, bouncing and communicating like he was in those clips. I wish he could still co-star with his brother in family home movies. I wish he could still sit on my lap for bedtime stories or learn new songs in the living room. I wish he could still participate in life on this planet. I want to see more of my Vincent than the same 18 minutes looped over and over.
Is it pointless to wish for things that will never happen? Is it stupid to think about events nobody can change? Is it foolish to wonder about what could have been?
It often feels like all I have left are memories and emotions. But if God really exists and my son (like all human beings) bears His image as a creature of infinite worth, then I am not the only father who weeps for losing Vincent. If heaven is real, my son’s value is rooted in far more than an earthly family who misses him or a cemetery marker bearing his name. And if Vincent is now truly safe with God in a place beyond this world, there is now hope of an expiration date, both for my despair and the sufferings of humanity across the globe.
None of this means I can simply wear a happy face or float through life minimizing the impact of tragedy and heartache. Far from negating the reality of deep sorrow and lament, the unseen hope of a renewed material creation actually supports and strengthens the idea that life on earth is precious. In fact, the lives of ordinary and peculiar people possess such value that God Himself has come to redeem and renew the world in and through the work of Christ on our behalf. So if my son Vincent is among those for whom He came, then cancer, injustice, separation and grief are among the many things for which He weeps.
If God lost a Son too, at least we’re in good company.