Bring Him Home

Sandy and I saw Colm’s signature performance as Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on Broadway for our 10th wedding anniversary in 1993. Our little boy would have been three years old at the time, and – we would never have guessed that this, one of Les Mis’s most-beloved ballads – would have deeper meaning for us by the time our little boy had become a man of 24 – just last year.

The song’s story is that Valjean has taken young Cosette into his care as a promise to Fantine, the child’s prostitute mother, now deceased. When Cosette grows into young womanhood, she falls for the handsome rebel, Marius. Valjean is unsuccessful in his attempts to keep the two separate and, in time, develops a fatherly love for Marius.

Bring Him Home is the prayer of Valjean, sung over the sleeping Marius who insists on fighting with the rebel army at the barricade. Valjean knows they are outmanned and outgunned and the battle will result in great loss. He begs God to spare Cosette’s young man – and his ‘son’ – offering himself to die, if necessary, in the place of Marius.

Its a ‘box of tissue’ type of ballad, emoting on multiple planes. For my wife and me, it bespeaks of our labor and loss with our only child, Graham.

A week before Christmas last year, Graham lost in his battle with his mean world but gained in the end, beating devil and damnation by the grace of God, and entered the bliss of his heavenly home. On the very day we were finding air fares for his imminent Christmas visit, we learned of his unnatural demise, and by the end of the same day, Sandy was touching down in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.

When the medical examiner finished his investigation and released Graham’s body, Sandy would not arrange for her return flight until she knew her boy was in flight and en route to his final resting place in Georgia. There was no way in God’s creation she was going to leave him behind!

Our son had spent the remaining months of his life with his biological family, but his ‘home’ was with us and the full life he had forged in Georgia. While his Minnesota family was gracious in their agreement with the arrangements, as we knew they would be, it was indelibly important to us…that we bring him home.

In the years God gave us with Graham – good and bad – our prayer, like Valjean’s for Marius, was always and ever that His grace would bring our child Home. Graham ran as far and fast as he could in the other direction at times, but in the end, hidden beneath tattoos and wounds and scars and self-hatred, was a soft place where God lived and latched onto our boy. And, because of it, our prayer was answered.

God brought him Home.

God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there.

He is young
He’s afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

He’s like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son;
The summers die
One by one,
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.

Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young,
He is only a boy.

You can take,
You can give
Let him be
Let him live.

If I die, let me die
Let him live, bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

A Son To Pierce Her Heart


I lovingly dedicate this entry to Graham’s ‘mama’ – my Sandy – and her epic love for our sweet boy who left earth one year ago this day; though he pierced her soul and died too soon, he always knew he had a home in her heart.

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And the Child will pierce your heart also, Mary.
- Simeon, Luke 1:35

• • • •

The keen-eyed prophet looked up from his petitions when the young couple gingerly entered the temple grounds. Their eyes darted to and fro, nervously surveying the lay of the property. His own expression, however, told the full story of his mirth as a smile stretched and lit up his face like the gleam of a midday sun.

Their bundle which cooed and giggled and scuffled against its tight wrappings was the hope of his people but the pair appeared not to be aware. But the prophet was! He had lived to see this Day of Visitation after all! And here he was, within feet of Messiah in the guise of an eight-day old baby.

Not wanting to startle the couple, he could barely contain his adulation, but still carefully approached the young parents and when they simultaneously spied his approach, he smiled kindly.

The husband was more on edge but offered a respectful nod as the elderly man drew near. The new mother, quite young, looked shyly down upon her newborn and fiddled playfully with the child’s stubby fingers. The prophet paused, in awe of the scene before him: God Himself, accessible and interactive, gazing up at His mother, eyes alert and sparkling like the stars He had laid out in the night skies eons hence…

It was all too much – but joyfully so!

As Simeon drew up to the cautious pair, he kept bobbing his head in quick, successive and reverential bows and mimicked the quiet clapping and rubbing together of his bony hands. He had no idea, when he awakened this morning, that this day would provide the coda for his entire lifetime. He could fairly burst into song!

The new mother stole another quick glance at their visitor and smiled in return, ever so sweetly. He was struck by how young and innocent she was, little more than a child herself. Her attachment to this newborn was clearly evident, as if her baby boy was her universe.

Dare he ask to hold the Child?

Did she know Whom she was cradling against her breast?

Did he himself know for certain?

Indeed. So much, in very fact, his hands, veined with thin ropes, began shaking and his breaths became shallow in this high and holy moment. This time his bow came from the waist and he lingered in abeyance for a beat or two. The couple seemed uncomfortable with the gesture and eyed him warily.

You needn’t fear me, children,” Simeon offered in whispered tones.

He looked at the bundle in Mary’s arms with a look of reverential awe. “I know Whom you bring today.

They were suddenly alarmed. Mary pressed into her husband’s side for assurance of his handling the matter.

Your Child,” he indicated by tilting his head ever so slightly at the Baby, and continued, ” is our long-awaited One.”

Simeon’s smile broadened and glee spread out across his face, but Joseph quickly looked around, unsure, to see if anyone was listening. Mary looked instinctively at her fidgeting bundle.

The Child, only eight days, was now fixated on the old man who was now at Mary’s side. His round-as-marbles eyes seemed fascinated, taking in the moment, watching the kind man with interest. What could have been a smile – but surely wasn’t! – began to play at the corner of his tiny mouth.

Simeon held out his hands. Mary somehow felt the necessity that called instead of cautioned in the moment and gently released her Baby into the waiting arms of this righteous man. A startled gasp erupted from Simeon as he took Messiah into his palms. He looked down into the face of Deity and appeared to be listening, then looked up and then straight into the wide-eyed wonderment of the young girl before him.


“This Child is given for the salvation of many. But many will also reject Him and perish. He is God’s appointed One and will expose all that is in men’s hearts,” he declared aloud.

But then his eyes dampened as pity softened the edges of his prophecy. Simeon’s voice broke a bit as he added one more word for the sweet young mother of Messiah:


“And you, too, will have your heart pierced by Him…”

And the strangest thing…

Mary already seemed to know…

• • • •

In the fairy-est of tales, fraught with wonder and legend, my wife’s prayers for a child were answered in the fullest of ways. Our Graham came to us like a dream you never want to wake up from.

A year ago today we were looking at air fares for Graham, happily anticipating our son’s visit for Christmas. In mere hours, however, we were scrambling for a flight for Sandy – to be where he was. Well, his body. He wouldn’t make it after all. Death had intervened.

Rather than a festival we made plans for a funeral, and my wife, the mother of our only child, now deceased, was a sight to behold. Through it all – and since – her handling of it has been the stuff of fantasy. I’ve never known someone so deeply and consistently wounded and pierced through, and yet so marvelously forgiving and accepting … and so mythically and stunningly … content.

Mary – grander scale, we know; cosmic, to be sure – kept having more and more drama added to her narrative and yet kept quietly processing, finding sense in, and looking for God’s riches in it all (Luke 2:19,51). I’m watching my bride do this also and I’m fascinated to see Christ being formed in her in these tender days (Galatians 4:19).

Graham?

He’s missed -oh! – you’ve no idea!

Christmas is quiet. Joyeaux Noel is downplayed, though not in Minor key. We cry, but we don’t mourn (as much). We still talk about the could have beens, but without regrets tinged with bitterness. The motion of the world carries forward, but we still want to stay a few steps behind. Our choice. We’ll catch up, but not today. Today, my wife holds her hand over her pierced heart, hurting. And remembering. And treasuring.

And I? I hold my hand over hers.

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One of the last mother-son pics – it says everything