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Saturday
Jan182014

Of calendars and light ...

The calendar is an amazing thing. From antiquity, when time was measured by the cycles of the moon, until the present, when years are measured to the fraction of a second, humans have wanted a system that allows them to organize time, plan for the future, and remember the past.

I spent some time this morning working on calendar dates several months in advance, but also remembering years in the past: my calendar tells me that today is the 20th anniversary of my daughter Bethany's death.

Twenty years. It's amazing how sharp memories can be, even after two decades -- and how full the heart can be in reflecting on all the things we've missed over these years. Bethany would have turned 28 on March 9 -- you can imagine how many significant events typically occur during those years. To this day, when attending weddings, I can't stay in the same room when the bride and her father have the first dance.

But there's more to memory and imagination than being maudlin. A lot of joy was packed into the almost eight years of Bethany's life on earth, and though her death changed other lives forever, life has continued and brought other unexpected joys with it.

My son Samuel was born two years after Bethany's death, and brings joy of his own. He knows Bethany only from stories and pictures, and yet he remembers, too. For a project in Latin class this year, he used clay to create a memorial inscription for his sister "Bethaniae." He patterned it after those of early Christians in the Roman empire, which typically expressed the hope of a reunion in Jesus. His teacher liked it so much that she kept it, but not before I took a picture, knowing I'd want to use it today.

I continue to be amazed at others who remember this day, and who send kind words year after year. For a time after Bethany's death, I became fixated on heaven, realizing that if my religious tradition didn't already include some sort of life beyond death, I would have created one on my own. I couldn't bear the thought that Bethany's light had gone out of the universe.

I have no idea if the New Testament's metaphorical images of heaven are anything like what we can really expect after death, but I know this: every memory of Bethany and every person who remembers is testimony to a life and a light that will not be extinguished.

 

[For more memories and lessons learned, see this post from Bethany's mom.]

Reader Comments (5)

Having journeyed on a similar path, you ministered to me today brother. Thank you for sharing. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

Jan 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Hipps

Tony, my baby girl Bonnie Ruth was born and died on this date too. She was 9 months gestation, but was still born. A knot was tied in her umbilical cord. You are so articulate with your words... I do feel your pain. RIP to our sweet angels.

Jan 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMalinda Erwin

Tony, our grandson is Bethany's age. At the time of your tragedy --- and following months of your medical procedures and recovery ---- Leonard and I would pray for all of you as we prayed thanks for Tyler. I believe death of a child must be THE MOST horrible experience for any parent.

Jan 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLucille Yancey

I just read "A WHOLE NEW WORLD: Life Without Bethany" today, in one setting. WOW! how that book ministered to me. I appreciate you Tony! Thanks for sharing your heart and soul on those and so many other pages. Blessings, TIM

Jan 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTim Kunkel

Tony,
20 years -- may your memories and the sharing from others, continue to give you peace. While I did not know Bethany, I knew her through her Baptist Building friends. I will never forget where I was when the word came to your friends in the building. She was loved by so many.
May God bless you.
Kay

Jan 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKay bissette

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