Update on Seth (and his dad)
A Father’s Perspective
July 11, 2017
For who knows a person’s thought except the spirit of that person, which is in him?
(1 Corinthians 2:11)
Seth turned 37 today, much of the time on this birthday riding along with me in his wheel chair van as we headed home on a four-hour trip from Kennewick. For the past several days he and I spent time visiting my mother (91), an annual trip during his birthday week that has become a tradition for the past eight years or so, our having only missed the summer of 2012 when his mother was so ill. I know Seth looks forward to seeing not only G’ma but his uncle and some cousins as well; he was particularly “smiley” the first couple of mornings there. My mother rents a hospital bed that we set up by the large floor-to-ceiling picture windows in her living room that look out over the golf course I myself spent much time on during my own youth, and Seth has a beautiful view of it all, so much more expansive than looking out his own bedroom window at our garden. I can wheel him out onto the folks’ patio where he used to enjoy visiting with his grandfather, now deceased for 13 years. It probably brings back memories of other visits from years gone by and Christmases with the larger clan. For me, it is a nice break from the routine, although preparations for traveling with a minimally-conscious 37-year old man can be a bit daunting (for those of you with children, think traveling with a newborn and all the necessary accessories times three or four).
A few months ago we were privileged to be visited by one of Seth’s former roommates who had shared a room with him while he attended California Baptist University during the year prior to his accident. He wondered why I hadn’t written an update for so long, and I informed him that I had nothing significantly new to write about. This friend of Seth’s—Dan—pointed out that folks might be wondering, after so long a time if everything was okay with us (I know, it’s been a year). So, yes, everything is okay, with no particular changes to our situation. The special blessing from Dan’s visit was hearing how Seth had had such a positive impact on his life during their time together (not the first person from that segment of Seth’s life—otherwise largely unknown to his mother and I—who has shared a similar testimony). It is always gratifying to hear about the good things one’s child has accomplished in his or her life, even now, so many years later. Like any other dad, I welcome fodder for bragging about my kid.
So often I find myself wondering what he is thinking about. I remember asking him some time ago if he had a lot he wished he could talk about and without hesitation he lifted his eyebrows. A couple of weeks ago, on an errand with him along, I pushed him through the local Home Depot, wondering if—after 14 years—the typical sights, smells and sounds were for him a pleasant bout of nostalgia, rekindled by memories from his part-time job at the Home Depot in Riverside during his year at college there. Who knows? I’m not alone. During the last few weeks of Mary’s life, someone asked her if she was looking forward to hearing what Seth had to say when they were reunited in heaven some day. Her response was, “I can’t wait!” Amen.
Update on Seth (and his dad)
A Father’s Perspective
July 11, 2016
Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. ~ Isaiah 50:10
When my late wife, Mary, and I were awaiting the birth of our first child so many years ago, we made the decision to write a birthday letter to each of our (future) children on their special day that would describe for them our current situation at the time of writing, for example, their level of growth, unique personal traits and accomplishments at the time of that birthday and, more importantly, our own thoughts regarding them. This would include our hopes and the challenges we faced in our raising of them, the emotions we were feeling, prayers we were praying for them, and hopeful aspirations for their future. We would hold on to these yearly letters until they reached adulthood and give them to the child as a whole set—an autobiographical history of our love, concern, and otherwise parenting of them. Perhaps these accounts would provide them insights into their parents’ motives and reasoning when they eventually found themselves in a similar role (even empathy, perhaps?). The letters began on the day they were born.
Seth turns 36 this month on the 11th, and recently I came across a copy of the birthday letter I wrote to him when he reached the age of 20 which I would like to share:
July 11, 2000
Two decades have come and gone astonishingly fast since I first laid eyes on you—a small, helpless, squirming thing still attached to your mother by the cord that had been your lifeline for the first nine months of your existence. You have progressed all too rapidly through the stages of infant, toddler, little boy, and teenager, and now the once squirming newborn stands before me transformed as a man and I realize the days of your remaining within our fold are, comparatively speaking, precious few. I wonder how many other fathers look back on twenty such years with the odd mixture of pride, regret, satisfaction, sadness and joy that I now experience. I know my own father wrestled with such emotions concerning me. I imagine that you, too, will one day be standing in similar shoes.
It was good that your grandparents could share your twentieth birthday with us at Seaside (Oregon). I want them to know you and feel as proud of you as I am, and yet each time I see my father I realize that my days left with him are also precious and few. It is not particularly comforting to know that in a few short years I will be bereft, to a greater and lesser extent, of the two most important men in my life.* The nagging question in either case is the same: has my testimony for Jesus Christ been sufficient to make any difference? The manner in which you, my son, demonstrate a response to that question may affect the depth and quality of our relationship in the years ahead.
I am proud that, at your age, you have acquired such a remarkable skill in building and have managed to do well in school besides. Your potential to succeed in life (in a typical manner of speaking) and in areas of leadership is enormous. Whether you stay the course that we’ve tried to steer you in, spiritually and morally, is now up to you. It’s much like your usual method in construction, isn’t it? The foundation has now been laid by others (your mother and me)—not perfectly, perhaps, but with the greatest of care and following as closely to the master blueprint as we could. Now we can only stand back and watch as you frame and finish the house yourself, hoping you stay true to the Master’s plans, but not knowing fully what those plans might entail.
*Of course, I didn’t realize at the time how sadly prophetic that statement would become, since we “lost” the Seth we had always known in the automobile accident only three years later and my father passed away nine months after that.
Life has its unexpected twists and turns. The hopes and aspirations I had for my son (and certainly his own dreams as well) were ultimately dashed alongside a California freeway nearly 13 years ago, and the grief over the loss remains. We had given him the name “Seth” because we wanted our son to live up to the meaning of that name (“appointed”) and so view his life as particularly purposeful. From an earthly perspective, the apparent incongruity of his name’s meaning and his resultant state from the accident is sadly paradoxical. We had publicly dedicated him to the Lord during a church service soon after his birth, releasing our “ownership” of him to God—he was now ours only on loan and God’s to do with as He saw fit.
That notion has surely been tested! Was God’s purpose for Seth thwarted by an “accident”? I don’t believe so, and whether I personally approve of the Lord’s handling of the situation is beside the point. In my own life (at least for the past 13 years), faith has not so much involved believing God for something I want but trusting Him through some deep disappointments, confusion, and images of a daunting future. Still, I am driven to conclude that Seth’s life is still accomplishing unseen things by the sovereign hand of God and that whatever he was divinely “appointed” for will become clear when we meet the Lord face to face some day and I won’t be disappointed then!
Seth’s condition remains relatively unchanged. The Botox shots in his salivary glands every few months along with motion-sickness patches behind his ears continue to lessen his coughing somewhat. He still responds (but inconsistently) to certain statements, questions, and humor with a lifting of his eyebrows, blinking, or smiles. Otherwise, he is in good physical condition, aided by my hands-on therapy, daily workouts in his Quadriciser machine, and bi-weekly sessions on a tilt board.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:8-9