A month ago today our 24-year old son, Graham, closed his eyes on the brutal winter of his world and opened them in the eternal warmth of heaven. He died alone in a car on a cold, cold Minnesota morning but was not at all alone when he passed from this life. For over a decade he battled demons and fought dragons but, in the end, our baby boy found everything he was looking for when he met Jesus face to face. This is a second installment…
There was a baby sent from God whose name *would be* Graham.
But in the beginning he was simply, in the eyes of the court, “Baby Boy N___________.”
Let me tell you about my son, my only son, whom I love:
I wanted five kids – four girls and one ruggedly handsome, rough-and-tumble boy. When I was newly injured, a 21-year old T-7, T-8 complete para – when reality began to set in – I looked in the direction of my suddenly-diminished male potency, then at my mom from my hospital bed and said, “Well, Mom, I guess you’re going to have to settle for an adopted blue-eyed, blonde-haired little granddaughter.” I remember how her face softened into a tender, doting, couldn’t-be-prouder ‘mom-face’ and how her eyes twinkled when she said, “Oh, I’d love one!” She could’ve even clapped. I can’t fully recall.
So when I heard that sweet young voice say into the phone eight years later, “Congratulations, Dad, you have a son,” my heart, I must confess, gave a momentary whimper. I was pulling for a girl.
Now, don’t you just hate me?
But wait, I’ve gotten wayyyy ahead of myself and need to back up a few city blocks.
I married my college sweetheart, my best friend, and the most selfless person I’ve ever known. Sandy is the bomb. She knew everything about me already, so she walked into our marriage with eyes wide, w i d e open. She knew about catheters, pressure sores, bowel programs, ramps, wheelchairs (remind me to tell you about my wheelchair and her hose sometime), paraplegic “periods”, dysreflexia, and, of course, impotence. Sandy married me knowing there was a very real chance we’d be childless.
But we prayed.
Then prayed for six and a half more years.
Fertility clinics. Tests. Sorry, Mr. Mitchell, you’re less than a man (what I heard, not what they said). Fruitless marriage relations. Adoption agencies. Need your moolah up front. A lot of it. Home studies. A baby abandoned at the hospital. Oh, sorry…somebody else got to it first. A teen-aged girl is thinking about giving her child up…nope, the grandparents are going to adopt, sorry…
And prayed some more.
One August Sunday morning I awakened with preacher-boyish excitement. Only twenty-eight, I was going to fill in for the highly esteemed pastor Wayne Barber at one of Chattanooga’s largest churches. I was to be given the pulpit for both morning services and return that evening as a soloist in a summer mini-concert. Yeah, on the heels of some nobody named Wayne Watson a couple weeks earlier. Mmm-hmm. Pinch me.
I can’t even recall the sermons that day, and the concert was mostly forgettable. What happened that morning, however, is easily remembered because a tearful conversation changed mine and Sandy’s lives forever.
In between the morning services my bride and I were asked to share our stories with a large group of single young adults. I think we’ve got a really romantic tale which only deepens with time, and we love to talk about it. We both shared back and forth and soon offered some time for questions. We didn’t know at the time that a darling pregnant 17-year old was mixed in among those college-aged coeds. As Sandy and I bantered, God was already beginning to write an epic story on her heart. And ours.
That’s for next time.