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Updates on Joshua

June 21, 2008
BIG Community celebrations

Summer busy-ness has officially begun and, like many other folks, we are going about our daily activities never knowing what day it is or what will happen tomorrow…  It’s not a bad way to live, actually. 

In the spirit of doing all that we can to enjoy friends and family, A.J., Isaiah, and I made a last-minute decision to visit Travis’ folks up in Pilgrims’ Knob, Virginia for an event they call “Decoration.”  This was my first experience with such a celebration (holiday, I guess you’d call it).  When I first learned about this tradition, it reminded me of  Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead” that is apparently celebrated in Mexico.  I was under the impression that it was a day to honor the dead by decorating their graves.  It is that, but I found that it is also more.

When we approached the cemetery where many of my husband’s kinfolk have been buried, I saw a larger-than-usual quantity of silk flowers on the gravesites, which I might have expected.  There was no air of despair or sorrow, however.  On the contrary, groups of family were scattered among different areas of the cemetery visiting with each other; some even set up lawn chairs with their clan.  It was like a family reunion, only inclusive of the ones who have gone before.  I’m sure it may sound weird to a lot of people, but it was a pretty good feeling.  I looked at the number of people vs. the number of graves.  Proportionally, the figures were appropriate—there were quite a few people at the cemetery, but more still of the neatly kept and decorated gravestones that dotted the hill.  I wonder what those above must think of those of us down below.  So many, many people have gone before us in death and we, ironically, have the nerve to sometimes think that our world exists only within the limits of what we can congregation ofsee.  The world sure felt a lot bigger at Decoration on Pilgrims’ Knob.

We’ve also participated in a more widely enjoyed summer pastime this week, Vacation Bible School at Floyd Baptist Church.  I have thanked God each and every night for the blessings that A.J. and we have received from it.  It’s been just as fun for us to visit every night with friends as it has for A.J., who is just becoming accustomed to the blessings we can receive from social interaction.  It really strengthens my conviction that a great relationship with our community is pleasing to God.  We know that an omnipresent God is always with us, but one of the many things I love about VBS and Christian fellowship is the sense that those above are also smiling with us as we celebrate the best of ourselves together.

I hope we can all have a summer full of such occasions.  Till next time…

June 8, 2008
Things are changing

In light of what Brian said, we feel equally as strong that we should post “updates” more often.  It will never be the same as when our kids were still fighting here (many things won’t)… I know that folks have other issues that demand their attention.  Still, I feel adamant about following through with the ministry that God allowed us to take part in when our families were struck by childhood cancer.  It has changed us.  We want to help others see the beneficial parts of that change.

For starters, I have been meaning to mention that Joshua’s memorial stone was finally set over Easter.  We are pleased with how it turned out.  It is simple but appropriate for Joshua.  My dad, Joel Pratt, drew the sketch that appears on the front.  Mike Quesenberry, one of Floyd’s great closet poets, wrote the verse that we put on the back.  It sits in the front of Pratt Cemetery on Black Ridge Road, and we are not territorial or private about the place, just for everyone’s information.  In fact, we appreciate so much knowing that Joshua is not forgotten by others.  We, of course, visit regularly.  Sometimes when I am in “earthly mode” it upsets me to look at the place where we buried my son’s body and to think about the implications that our mortal minds automatically apply to cemeteries, graves, etc.  BUT there are other times—times that get more and more frequent—when it is a lovely place to visit and reflect and to imagine the day when all of those beautiful souls will reunite with those they loved and who loved them.  I practiced the mantra for awhile,  For we walk by faith, not by sight  and now, on most days, it is well with my soul. 

It would satisfy me greatly to think that my own children might grow accustomed to this way of thinking.  It’s hard, I know, to be open with children about death.  I know for a fact I would not have raised my own talking regularly about those who have passed on.  But in our circumstances, we actually make a point to.  This includes some tough moments when we might have to explain and re-explain that no, we cannot visit Joshua in heaven; no, we cannot see him here again.  However, we communicate just as certainly that one day we are all destined for the same place where Joshua now resides, and we will be together again.

A.J. and Isaiah, by the way, are doing very well.  We hate that we had another scare this week with A.J.  He got stung by a wasp and had to be visited by the ambulance.  We try not to toss this idea around casually, but let’s just say that I feel very sure that A.J.’s special angel was watching over him on Friday morning.  A.J. is always bad to get to take medicine, and he very predictably protested when I got the Benadryl minutes after the stings on his face occurred.   Then very suddenly, he stopped screaming for one second and took the Benadryl on his own without my having to force it down him.  This slowed the reaction, possibly preventing it from affecting his breathing.  If you could have seen his face, you might have wondered how, but he was checked over thoroughly and was fine by that evening.

Isaiah is six months old now and doing so well.  He gives high fives and these incredible melt-your-heart smiles.  He is still our little miracle, “binding up the brokenhearted.”  Nothing short of the great reunion can heal them, but broken hearts can indeed be bound when nourished by kindred spirits here below.  We are truly blessed.

We’ll write again next week… Laura & Travis

Cantrell Family Journal

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