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A Message Delivered by Fire

Only my son’s own words could comfort me after his death.

Credit: Fotgraf Fredrik Larsson

 I was almost grateful for the fire. It had sparked mysteriously in a rental property my husband and I own. Luckily no one was hurt. Dealing with the contractors and insurance agents kept me busy, a distraction I needed. It helped me get my mind off my son Johnny.  A few days earlier, his progressive MS had taken his life, at only 54 years old.

He’d held on until my 80th birthday so he could come to Lake Tahoe and celebrate my milestone with the rest of our family. By then, his motor skills had declined so much that he could no longer walk, read, or write, and could barely eat. Still, he was determined to be with us. It always amazed me how he dealt with the burden of his illness. I wished I could take it from him.

The day before my birthday, Johnny arrived in a van designed for his motorized wheelchair. The long ride had practically annihilated him with pain. I gave him some watermelon, one thing he could swallow. I knew the end was close. That night, five minutes after midnight, he passed away. He had been released from his suffering, but that was only a small comfort. It should have been me, I thought.

Now that his funeral was behind us, I forced myself to deal with the aftermath of the fire. I sat at my desk and flipped through the folders of deeds and other records I always kept meticulously organized. One had a sheet of paper sticking out, like someone had just shoved it in. Printed in the corner was a small cross. Why was this with our insurance records? My husband knew better than to mess with my files. I pulled the paper out. It was a letter, dated three years earlier.

Happy Easter Mom and Dad,

Thank you for all you do for me and most of all, thank you for your prayers. I know you wish you could bear this burden for me, but God chose me and someday he will reveal the reason. I am humbled by God every year at this time, by the burden Jesus accepted. And so, arrogant me is learning humility and acceptance. I wish you all the blessings available to us.

Love, Johnny.

I couldn’t ignore my son’s words. He’d accepted his burden, so could I. A message I wouldn’t have found right then, if not for the fire.

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