Thursday, March 31, 2016

Road 72 North...and the search for hope

It's Easter Monday morning and I'm driving out of Austin to my sister's home, down the familiar 34 highway with it's bumps and the neighbouring yard sites I see in passing. The kids are with me and are unusually quiet, probably the result of a very busy Easter weekend. I'm quiet too; my heart's been quieted by the chill of death, a silence that settled after days of anxious prayers and the diligent searching done by our community in the wake of a missing toddler. I imagine many are feeling this silence after our lost one was found, a relieved thankfulness for closure and yet the finality crushing us all and so so much more for his loved ones.

With my soul quieted and hands on the wheel I begin to notice the silence of countryside. A misty fog is coming in over the land, it settles in the low places, it softly flows over the waters of the Pine Creek. The sun does not pierce, it's light glows gently through the high places of the bushes and trees, hampered by the morning mist. My breath slows and tears form, and I realize the beauty and the sadness of it all. It is as though the land is being laid back to rest. Road 72 North. In a matter of days hundreds of people were familiar with this area of the country, the roads teeming with search and rescue vehicles, news anchors, volunteers with helping hearts and hands bearing food, and passersby with lifted prayers. All of our attention headed to a small homestead only 1 mile west. The fields of frozen mud were awakened to the pressing onward of teams of searchers, neighbouring yard sites combed through over and again, the dense bushes and tree lines mixed with dead fall and brush were sought through high and low, the meandering creek with it's mystery of frozen sheets of ice, and places of spring thaw, the focal point of that first night. It continued for five days, the radius expanding in kilometers. The countryside alive with the anxiousness and desperation for answers. I can imagine the wildlife finding it's own hiding place and the birds retreating back into the high treetops, maybe holding back their spring song. The weather was uncooperative, up and down quickly with its extremes, much like our emotions. All those travelling this road, were also travelling with the hearts of the parents enduring a pain that we could all imagine we'd feel; as we hold our children closer now.

I've travelled Road 72 all of my childhood and teen years. A long, gravelly road connecting the highway to the farmyards in the miles beyond, a main road for most in the area, but generally travelled with everyday purpose and not much pressing on the heart. I've been down it daily on the school bus, to town, church or friends with my folks, of course a little too fast and independently when driving on my own at sixteen, and maybe a little too late when driving with my honey. Only once did I drive it in dread of what's to come, the day I drove my mom to the spot my Dad lay down with his last breath, not knowing how we'd find him. And then coming home down that road to an empty aching spot at home and in my soul. I cannot relate to the pain of losing a child, I'm sure a mother knows no such a heartache as that. The parents of Chase, who's name is known to so many now, will come home after his funeral to a very empty spot, a large gaping hole in their heart. Their lives and grief have been displayed so publicly and yet they have to face a new kind of lonely back at home. Their yard site was laid flat with hundreds of footsteps, more than 30 000 volunteer hours stretched across the land and it is only the small set of rubber boot footprints and the hours spent with a little tot who loved being out in the yard that they will long for.  A hard road to travel.

I left my children with my sister for a few minutes and took a little drive down the road. I needed to take in that silence and listen. I took pictures and and they can't even do justice to the morning air. A couple days ago, on Good Friday, a few of us drove to a yard site that had been heavily searched, close to his home. We felt the fading hope, the air of desperation. And I was reminded of the fact that it was Good Friday and the road of despair that Jesus walked to his death. The hopelessness of it all, but he pressed on for only He knew the closure and awakening that was to come. At the time of his death there was a darkness that covered the land for hours and suns light faded. Jesus cried out "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" After this it was cried out by a centurion " Certainly this man was innocent!"' and it goes on to say that the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, returned home beating their breasts.' We have all returned home too, beating our breasts over a little innocent boy, so young to be gone.  We've prayed, sang songs, beseeched our God, the family and loved ones have beat the drums and committed his spirit to eternity; finding some closure.

I felt a nudge to drive back to that old yard site and go down to the creek. The fog had a hard time laying down in the sheltered area and the sun shone through the trees. The ice on the water sparkled like diamonds and the flow was just a soft rippling. Hard to fathom that these waters claimed the breath of a little boy. The silence was over with a chorus of birds in the trees, I heard cracking in the bush and knew the wildlife was out of hiding. A different feeling from two days ago. Much like the feeling I imagine that the women who went to Jesus' tomb felt when they did not see his body and found angels instead who asked " Why do you seek the living among the dead?He is not here, but has risen.'' There must have been something different in the air as they looked around the place of His death, which had been surrounded by darkness only days before. In the midst of their grieving, they marvel in unbelief at the angel's claims and wonder how it could be so. Jesus met them on the road, spent time with them while their eyes were kept from recognizing  Him, he listened to their hearts and later that evening he revealed Himself when he broke bread with his disciples. They were astonished at his presence and then he vanished from them. "did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?...The Lord has risen indeed!" He appeared again and said to them, "Peace be to you!"They were startled and frightened and He said "why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts?See my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures and said to them" Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations." While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." (from the book of Luke)

It so hard to find any joy in all of this, for our hearts are blinded by grief and questions and it's hard to recognize Jesus in the fog. When He lifts the fog we see that has been along the road beside us the whole time. He has been searching tirelessly and weeping along side the hurting, given strength for the duty and diligence of our professional patrols and searchers, bonded the hearts of our community as we've loved our neighbours. He hears the unbelief and the criticisms of social media and points us to look at our own selves and the futility of life no matter how hard we try to keep accidents from happening. He takes up life again from the dead and carries the spirit of that precious child safe to his loving arms. He breaks the bread of life with us and nourishes us with healing and strength to carry on, just as the crowd was given nourishment to carry on at the search site. His family may cry why for a long time, there may be no answers for a long time. I hope we all will continue to pray as fervently as was prayed days ago that in time the fog will be lifted, that they can travel a new road, paved with healing and a hope that cannot be lost. The memories of their sweet boy will forever be etched in the road of their heart, there will be reminders, like bumps, that will always surface mingling pain and memory together. The land and the waters will cry out his name for a long time. And in those moments down the road I hear to how the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. Psalm 19:1 And there is hope.

For Easter is celebrated in vain if Jesus had not been resurrected to give us hope. It is a celebration of praise that we do not have to be alone in the pain of death but can rise to a new hope. I heard on Sunday that one can only live four minutes without air and only seconds without hope. Thank our God that death is defeated and that he brings his little ones with love into his sheltered wings. And deal kindly with those suffering the pains on earth and give them hope by continuing to walk along the road beside them. So that they may again hear the birds in the treetops sing their songs.


1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, so heartfelt. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Many blessings to you and your family. Sharon (Taylor)