Few parents are given the privilege to witness their child's first and last breaths.
For 21 years we were blessed to be Bryon's parents. At his birth, specialists predicted that "it would be a miracle if he made it through the night," due to a rare, incurable skin disease called epidermylosis bullosa dystrophic recessive.
It was a miracle that Bryon survived the constant infections, frequent blistering, daily bandaging of his open sores and ulcers, frequent hospitalizations, and 15 major operations. Bryon's courage, passion for life, and contagious sense of humor impacted everyone he met.
Acutely aware that every day was a gift from God, Bryon rarely wasted a moment by complaining and often talked about heaven. Even at the age of 7, while hospitalized for a rare lymphatic infection, he was apprehensive about dying. "Mom, I hope I don't die before you!" he cried out. When I inquired why, he answered, "Because there won't be anyone in heaven to change my bandages!"
I gently assured my little fellow that he wouldn't need any bandages in heaven. We discussed the benefits of being in a new heavenly home. Healed bodies. New skin. No more hospitals. No more surgeries. No more pain. It sounded awesome.
Then he asked in a more serious tone, "Mom, does it hurt to die?"
I held my breath and measured every word, "Well, buddy,...sometimes people just fall asleep in the arms of Jesus and they don't feel any pain. But other times people are sick for a long time and it does hurt when they die."
Bryon stared at me with fixed concentration. I could almost hear the wheels turning inside his head. With an air of subtle finality, he declared, "Going to heaven sounds great...but it's the dying stuff that gets to me!"
Bryon was right it's the dying stuff that gets to all of us! Dying to self and natural desires.
Letting go of our will and accepting God's sovereignty in all of life's circumstances. Paul penned these powerful words in Galatians, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (2:20).
Many have suffered painful losses in life, some expected like the slow erosion of the earth and others sudden like an avalanche thundering down a mountain. Your comfortable world and daily routine is changed in a moment, never to be the same again. The one you love is gone. Life comes to a screeching halt and you find it difficult to breathe, brush your teeth, get dressed, or go on with routine events.
In these difficult times, God's Word becomes a shelter of hope and a warm blanket of comfort on a winter-like day.
Jeremiah reminds us in Lamentations 3:23, God's mercies "are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Thank God for His fresh portion of mercy that He provides to us daily.
It has been nine years since we said good-bye to Bryon for the last time. I have learned that it's all right to cry, to feel lonely, and to reminisce about those you love. It is important to celebrate your favorite memories, share your most humorous family event, and talk about God's faithfulness. This will help heal your heart and focus your attention on what's really important.
Bryon's prayers have finally been realized: new, perfect skin; functional fingers and toes; a body that can play basketball, football, or baseball; and freedom from the constant pain he lived in. He believed strongly, even to the end, that God had the power to heal him here. But if He had other plans for his life, as Bryon said it so well, "Either way I still win!"
About the Author
Reverend Lillian Sparks is an ordained minister and internationally known speaker. As the former national director of the Assemblies of God Women's Ministries Department, she coordinated the denomination's Women's Ministries program, involving over 400,000 women and girls. In addition to her administrative responsibilities, Sparks was the editor-in-chief of Woman's Touch.
Lillian is the author of Tough Cookie, Parents Cry Too, and newly released Don't Cry for Me. They tell the story of her eldest son, Bryon, and his lifelong battle with a rare skin disease. Bryon went to be with the Lord in 1995 at the age of 21.
Sparks holds a B.A. in Biblical Literature from Northwest College of the Assemblies of God and a diploma in Sacred Music from Zion Bible Institute. She and her husband, Reverend Stephen Sparks, have three children and reside in Springfield, Missouri.