Thursday, August 1, 2013

How do you choose the right words for your forever 10 year old son's headstone?

A few months ago I mentioned, at the end of one of my blogposts, the difficulty in deciding on a headstone. As a parent there are many scenarios that play out in your mind as you journey through parenthood. "What will I do for my child's birthday? What school is best for my child? Is homeschool or public/private school right for my child? What is the best method for discipline?" These are just to name a few. The list can be endless and I was definitely one who tried to explore every possible situation I might face as a parent. Yes, I was (and still am) a thinker and a worrier. 

But never did I think about choosing a headstone for one of my children. I remember one time, well before July 4, 2012, waking up sobbing after dreaming about losing someone close to me. I recalled the dream later and remember thinking, "how would I ever deal with the loss of one of my children?" I quickly pushed the thought out of my mind not even being able to comprehend it. Not wanting to comprehend it and went on about my day. 

So many decisions had to be made just days after Noah's death. "Would we do one service for Noah and Nate? What music do we play? Who sings? What clothes do we dress him in? Where do we bury them? Do we see Noah or is that too much?" We were a young family who, besides the fact we were not emotionally ready, we were not financially ready for any of it.

I will be very honest. I was probably the least one prepared for any of this and I had no reasoning about me. To say that I was mentally "out of it" would be an understatement. I couldn't make any decision. Choices were made for me and no one knew if it was right or wrong but who knew what was the right thing to do at time like that. It was like we were all operating in a fog not being able to see very far ahead. There was no rule book for us to go by and then, even if there was, one had to factor in all the emotions that followed our situation. So many people involved. So many feelings carried over and were intensified by Noah's and Nate's deaths. 

Fast forward months later and as time went on I got a little bit stronger in many areas of my life. In my parenting, in my ministry, in my relationships and most importantly, in my own spiritual journey. I still am not anywhere I was a few years ago but I've come to realize that may not be such a bad thing. I don't have to balance a million things at one time. I don't have to pretend to have it all together. I am becoming who, I believe, I was meant to be. Faults, failure, a few successes and all. 

But there was still the headstone issue and, for lack of a better term, it kind of hung over us. I wasn't ready to memorialize him in such a permanent way. And I'm still not...but it had to be done. It needed to be done. For Noah, for his family...and for closure in this aspect. At home, I wanted some sort of rememberance of Noah for us. So we created our own little memorial for him and that was very appropriate...but still......

A headstone had to be ordered. 

It had to be decided on. Words that would last forever needed to be chosen. Scripture that represented Noah,his life, his faith, his family's faith. It was time and it was left up to the two people who knew and loved him best and there was no avoiding it, sooner or later, it had to be done. 

But how?

How do you sum up Noah's life on a piece of stone so that years and years later people will get some sort of idea of him and know how much fun he was. How much he was loved and how he believed? How do I represent him well so that when Haleigh Raye's own family see this they come to understand something about a boy they never knew but is so much a part of their heritage and their life. 

I finally decided I can't. I have to do the best I can with the space I have and just hope that people will get some sort of glimpse of the Noah Dean we all knew. 

We struggled with this for months. It was thought over, prayed over, discussed over, and, more than once, was a source of frustration. Rough drafts were drawn up and rough drafts were discarded.  Too formal. Not formal enough. Wording didn't make sense.

But slowly it evolved. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

This was one of the first verses Noah memorized in AWANA and was probably the last verse Noah wrote just a few weeks before he died and taped it to his bathroom mirror.
He knew it by heart (even if he couldn't quite spell it all correctly.) He knew what it meant. It was written on his heart. 

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

I love this verse. We included it, not necessarily for Noah, but for us when we visit the Noah we knew. It encourages us to wait and be patient and to put our faith in the Lord and He will renew us and it's true. When I try to do it on my own, I falter and fail. When I ask for strength, that can only come from above and I work from that, I am renewed. 

With each birthday, no matter whether it was a family or family and friends party, I always did homemade invitations for the kids. I would make up a cute little poem about them.
They couldn't wait to see what the invitation looked like. I admit I lack in creativity but I did have fun doing them each year and I think they enjoyed it too (or perhaps they enjoyed watching me entertain myself as I spent days thinking of little rhymes.)
As Noah's birthday rolled around this year, I realized that was something I would miss and I wanted to be able to do just one more for him from me. And then it hit me. I can do one more because he is really is having the biggest celebration. The mother of all birthday parties. He's in heaven. How much bigger does it get? So I went to work on a cute little poem for....his headstone. 

I wanted to somehow incorporate a verse that has saved me time and time again when I couldn't reign in my emotions and wanted to know why? "Why did this happen? Why was it Noah? Why did you allow it God?"
This is actually my own version and it sits in my living room. It is one of the verses I remember my pastor reciting these words to me very early on. My friends said it to me over and over. We prayed over it so many times and it's on notecards in several places for me to run across as I go about my day. I would cry out to God, "promise me one day I won't be puzzled anymore. I will understand just like Noah does now."

When I asked Haleigh Raye if she wanted any input on the headstone, she answered a very resounding, "NO!" Despite her reluctance to participate, I wanted to make sure she was included somehow and asked her if I could include her signature word, "LOVE!" which is what she says before leaving someone in case something happens to one of them goodbye is not the last word exchanged. With enthusiasm she responded, "YES!"(She actually started saying "LOVE!" before July 4 and one of her biggest regrets with Noah is that was one time she didn't say "LOVE!" but rather "see you in a minute!" Reflecting on her final words to him maybe, when we see him again, it will feel like it's just been a minute.) I knew, with her blessing,we had our last line. It was encouraging, it was positive and we meant it. 

And this....was our final result. 

Nate, no doubt, got his creative talent and artistic abilities from his mom and when she designed Nate's headstone as a Lego Monument, I was grateful she let us use the idea too. Their headstones match and are beautiful. Noah's etching begins this week and should be ready in just a few weeks. 

I have no doubt when Noah stood before God he earned the "Well done, good and faithful servant" not only for what he did while he was living but what he continues to do even in death. His memories, his testimony lives on. At 10 years old he left a legacy it takes some people a full lifetime to build up, if that. 

Our church used this song when Noah was a baby as we entered the early stages of building our children's building that opens in just a few short weeks. No doubt his and Nate's absence will be felt as we enter those doors for the first time and the years afterwards. But, with all I can and until the Lord calls me elsewhere, I will do my absolute best to carry on a legacy. 



  1. Jessica, I have read this and it brought tears to my eyes reading your turmoil in finding the right words for Noah's headstone...I think you have done a fabulous job and I love the way it looks and I am going to go visit Noah one of these days soon...I love you and you continue to be in my prayers...

    1. Thank you Lisa! I feel privileged to be able to share it with people who care and you are more than welcome to go visit him anytime! So glad you like the song. I LOVE it too!!!!

  2. I forgot to mention the song I LOVE it!! I think it is very fitting!

  3. i cried as i read your blog, but know u have the strength and the faith to keep on keeping on for HR and yourself too. God's blessing on both of u. i pray your heartache will lessen and the good memories increase. hugs

    1. i forgot to leave my name, its Judy Erwin, your facebook friend!i couldnt get my google acct to work!

    2. Thank you Judy for your words and most of all your prayers! Yay! Glad you got your google account to work sweet friend!

  4. Jessica this brought tears to my eyes Noah's tombstone is very beautiful. I think you are a wonderful person & Noah & HR are so blessed to have u as a mom......... I look forward to going & vist Noah again & taking something for his case if that is ok with you......

    1. Thank you Melissa. I think you are pretty special too! It is very ok for you to go visit him and take what you want out there. I appreciate you thinking of him...and us.

  5. Precious, precious blog...I continue to be amazed by your DAILY strength. For your daughter's sake, I am glad you are able to cope.

    1. Thank you. I am glad I am able to cope too!

  6. This is absolutely perfect, Jessica...Thank you for sharing with us who love you as well as those who don't really know you. You'll never know on this earth how many have been strengthened by your witness!

    1. Aaaahhhh! Thank you Dixie. I really appreciate those words. I do hope people get to know Noah Dean...even if it just a little....most importantly I hope they see his faith.

  7. Replies
    1. Thank you! I think it is too for what it is!!