Remembering Justin

Keeping Justin’s life alive

Even though time has passed Justin remains very much a part of our lives and how we raise Andy and Lily. The University of Michigan Mott Children’s Department has a Children’s Remembrance Ceremony in April, which we have attended each year since Justin’s passing. They have a craft time prior to the service and our crafts are displayed in our home. The service includes music, special readings and a parent and health care professional sharing about a child who has passed away. It’s incredible to be in a room with other parents who have gone through similar situations and share in this journey. The University also has a Walk to Remember and Tree Planting Ceremony in October, which we also attend yearly. It’s a beautiful walk alongside the path near a river to the opening where the trees are. We have taken Andy and Lily and they have helped plant trees and it’s another reminder of how life` can come after a loss. This service also includes music and a parent sharing about their child who has passed away.

We visit Justin’s spot at the cemetery often as well. We never would have imagined taking our (at the time) nearly 2 year old (Andy) and now Lily to the cemetery as often as we do. It’s not a typical place you take children on the weekend, in the evening or on holidays. But for our family, it’s very typical. It’s a great place to connect, decorate his spot with flowers, toys and little mementos and share with him about what’s going on in each of our lives. The kids enjoy running around as there’s a lot of open space and a statue to walk around. We also go as a group yearly with Jess and Dan’s families to celebrate his birthday. We share something meaningful about Justin, listen to music and send off balloons with messages. We know Justin isn’t really there, just his physical body is. However, we enjoy visiting the place he was buried and keeping Andy and Lily part of remembering his life. We’ve lit candles, danced, listened to music, cried and laughed there. We know he is in heaven with Jesus where he isn’t in any more pain or hooked up to multiple machines to keep him alive. He has life more abundantly now than any of us can feel, but will feel someday if we know the Way.

Justin’s life made us reevaluate our priorities and because of our experience with him, God has shown us just how much we need Him and how we can’t do this on our own. As a result, Dan and Jess’ marriage grew stronger and more solid because of the firm foundation that was laid and continues to be strengthened. Enduring the loss of a child can do terrible things to people. It can cause decay in relationships, blame, depression, etc. It would be so easy to fall into a negative mental place, but only God can pull us out of those dark places and it’s when we are broken that His Light shines through to give us hope and a future.

So as we pleaded in a previous post (Justin’s Celebration Ceremony) about reaching out to learn more about our need for a Savior, we reiterate that here. No matter what you are going through, God is bigger than your struggle. We are living proof of how God pursues us and strengthens us and continues to do so. We still have tough days: February 26 (Justin’s birthday), March 3 (Heavenly birthday), April 25 (due date), holidays, etc. There are also those moments that catch us “off guard” when we hear a song that was played at his ceremony or come across something to remind us of him and it’s like that wound is still raw. Grief changes, it doesn’t go away. However, realizing that we can’t do it on our own and we need something bigger, someone bigger helps the weight not be so burdensome and overwhelming. There’s no one else we’d want to help carry our load than the one who carried our load on the cross.

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