Now We Celebrate Our Son’s Re-Birth Day
If he hadn’t graduated to Heaven we’d be celebrating his 42nd birthday
No more birthday parties to plan
I confess, one of my least favorite parts of parenting was planning birthday parties. The first birthday party for Jason I attended was not one I planned. My next door neighbor planned it. She was Jason’s foster mom. She invited us so we could meet Jason’s sister Sarah in a non-threatening way. She knew we wanted to adopt both children. Sarah’s foster home was in a different city, so we thought Jason’s fifth birthday party would be the ideal place for an introduction.
The picture below was taken at the party in 1982. The people with white faces don’t live on earth anymore. The young blonde ones, Sarah (standing) and Jason (sitting in foreground) became our children. The woman standing was our neighbor who fostered Jason. She later adopted both of the other children in the photo. A few years ago she died of injuries incurred when a motorcycle jumped the curb and hit her when she was out walking her dog. It could have been me. We took frequent walks in our neighborhood together when I still lived next door to her.
I planned the next birthday parties for both children. Sarah’s came first, in April, three days after mine. We let her be a princess on her tenth birthday. It was a hard party for us. She still had a problem making friends or knowing what to do if we arranged a playdate. The traumatic experiences of her early childhood stunted her emotional and social development. She enjoyed being the center of attention but did not know how to interact outside the family. Still, she had wanted a party.
The birthday beach parties
Sarah’s party had been so stressful that I knew we had to do things differently. Jason’s birthday was on June 22. He was a bundle of energy and had many friends. He’d lived in our neighborhood for over a year by then. The thought of planning a party for a group of energetic children was putting pressure on me since I knew Jason would want a party. He was turning six.
As it happened, we lived within walking distance of Mugu State Park. Within it was a trail that began on our side of the park and stretched nine miles to the beach. We decided on a beach party that included families. Jason, my husband, and any of the children and their families who wanted to join them would hike to the beach at Sycamore Canyon on the coast.
I and most of the other mothers would drive with the food, presents, and favors to Sycamore Canyon before the hikers were to arrive. By the time the hikers joined us, the children had worn off a lot of energy. The dads cooked hot dogs and hamburgers while I laid out all the other food.
Jason preferred donuts to cake, so that part was easy. We put a candle on his. Then he got to open his presents. Then the kids played on the beach while the parents of any who ventured into the water kept an eye on them. No organized games were necessary. Those of us who did not have children near the water sat and talked. People remained as long as they pleased.
This went so well we decided to make an annual event of it, changing the date to the middle of May and celebrating both birthdays together at the same party. We continued that for the next four years.
Jason’s thirteenth birthday
When Jason turned thirteen, our home was a sadder place. Sarah had left our home two months earlier to go her own way. Jason missed her. She was in foster care. Although we would have welcomed her, she was not ready to see us yet. Our good friends who lived close to us let us have Jason’s birthday party at their house so the boys could swim in their pool. Jason loved the water. Sometimes I wish he’d not loved it so much.
Unfortunately, a couple of days before the party, Jason made the mistake of carrying a glass of water outside to see something happening on the street and tripped. His glass broke first and he fell on it and cut his leg. We had to take him to get it treated and he was not able to join his friends in the pool on his birthday. He wasn’t happy to stay on the sidelines, but as you can see, he’s still glad his friends are enjoying the party.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV).
Even as a child, Jason had responded to God’s love for him. He already knew at a young age that he had a Good Shepherd. You can read about that in the story below.
Starved for Attention
Jason seemed to have an invisible sign around his neck that said, “Love me.” Maybe that’s why I did
During our family devotional times, as we studied the Bible, he always asked good questions. In his interactions with others, he was compassionate and helpful. We lived three blocks from the church and he was often there helping out if something was going on there. Although the work of God was evident in his life, we don’t know exactly when he decided to follow Christ. But on Palm Sunday, 1990, he made a public profession of his faith, was baptized, and joined our church.
He was very eager to share the occasion with his Christian half-brother's family who came from a distance to be there to celebrate with us. Even Sarah, who had chosen to go back into the foster care system, came to see Jason’s baptism and profession of faith. She is on the far left. Jason is in the middle between his brother and me.
Although we can’t mark the date when Jason was born again to a new and living hope, we can look back on Palm Sunday, 1991, as the day he told everyone about it publicly for the first time. Within three more months this became the day we most celebrated. By then his last birthday would have passed. He would have only two months and five days to enjoy the presents he got at his last party. The one he most loved was his new mountain bike. He was looking forward to riding it a lot. Within a few months, it belonged to a close friend of his. But he had better presents where he was going.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter1:3–5 ESV).
The last ride
“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore”(Psalm 121:7–8 ESV).
Jason’s last ride was not on his new bike. It was on a jet ski. He rode it straight to Heaven on August 27, 1991. Here’s the news clipping of the accident.
So, you may ask, just where was the Lord?
Why did He not keep Jason from this evil, this death?
Didn't He promise to keep Jason’s life, his going out and his coming in?
If He was watching over Jason so carefully, how could this happen?
At first, those questions went through my own mind. But as I’ve mulled it over through these years since Jason’s death, I believe God kept His promises.
First, Jason belonged to God.
He’d been adopted not only into our family but God’s. He rode his jet ski to Heaven. If there was evil anywhere, it was on the earth he left. There are much worse ways to die than almost instantly while doing what one loves to do. He was gone before the paramedics even arrived. He didn’t suffer. I often wonder what suffering might have been in store for a heart as tender as his if he’d stayed here.
As far as keeping his life goes, God does keep it. What place is safer than Heaven in the care of the Good Shepherd? He knew His plan for Jason's life from the beginning. We look at what happened and think Jason’s life was cut short. God says He had given Jason as many days as He had planned to. Jason had accomplished the purposes for which God sent him to us.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:14–16, ESV)
Jason moved on to the place Jesus prepared for him
Yes, we miss him. Yes, we wonder whom he might have married, how many children he might have fathered, what occupation he might have chosen. I’ve also wondered if he might have died a more painful death in some other way. We have no way of knowing what God spared him from by taking him home sooner than we expected.
Had he grown up, he might have moved far away to go to school or pursue a career. We’d still miss him. My friend has two sons in the Army and another who will be. She will miss them while they are gone and will be praying for their safety every day. I, at least, know my son is safe. I don’t have to wonder anymore what might happen.
Jason is enjoying his inheritance — a better one than we ever could have given him.
That’s why I can live with not celebrating his birthday today. Instead, I celebrate with all my heart that he was born again. It is his re-birth that I celebrate.