For Rissa on her birthday
I was just looking through all our apple-picking pictures over the years. I remember how you were the one to insist on all the photos, how you would gather the groups and make sure all the various combinations were taken.
Those pictures represent some of our happiest memories–all of us running away to the mountains together. Feeding the sheep and eating hot doughnuts and drinking apple cider.
I think of the kindness of our Father when I see them. I look at you, your joyful face. I touch each picture with gratefulness.
We have our last family picture hanging on the wall, taken in January of 2017. I love it because we are all together, but I can see the strain behind our eyes. You had just gotten home from the hospital where we had received the worst kind of news. You had oxygen waiting in the car, and we wheeled you to the field in the wheelchair. The unspoken pressure was there to capture the last family portrait. All of the siblings took a picture alone with you. We laughed (as we do) and did the best we could.
When I see that picture, I see your face full of grace. Your hair is short and your face is puffy from the steroids. You have endured more than many 80-year-olds. You are tired and sad and maybe a little confused. But you are standing straight, and I see your unwavering heart in your face.
I love your heart, Beanie.
Today is your birthday, and we’ll do our best to celebrate the things you love. We’ll take new flowers to the cemetery. We’ll look at old photos.
And even though the pictures only reflect a snippet of your life, a fragment of your time here, they are precious.
They help us remember all the days of you, all the ways of you. How blessed we are to be your people, your family.
I think about heaven and how little we really know about it. God only gives us glimpses of its beauty. It doesn’t always feel like enough, and we are left wondering and longing and reaching.
But that’s how pictures are. Just snapshots of the whole.
Your smile does not reflect the whole of you, the fullness of your story. And my small assurances of heaven cannot reflect the majesty and power and glory in your present, unseen picture.
But I cherish the pictures, those I can hold and those I can’t. The glimpses of past joy and the promises of the future. I’m grateful for all the pieces.
And by faith, I believe in the whole. The glorious expanse of what God has prepared for those who love Him.
Unknown and unseen, but as real as your smile. As real and as eternal as you.
Today I am touching all the pictures with faith.
I am touching them with full assurance.
I am touching them with gratefulness.
Happy birthday, Rissa. I love you forever.