How Does A Four Year Old Process His Grief?

A week ago today Jerard died.
Restlessness floods my soul.
I am up at 3:20a.m.
James must be feeling it too.
He is down at 3:40a.m.
sadness and misery etched on his face.
He went to sleep last night holding one of the bandanas
we'd put around Jerard's neck to catch his drool.
He went to sleep last night asking about Jerard's Elmo and he wants to keep it.
He went to sleep last night saying to me "I miss my brother."

He is restless this morning.
I hold him.
His body relaxes
He sleeps now in my arms.

His brother's departure has left a huge hole in his heart.
How does a four year old process grief?
How do the restless aches of his heart calm?
It will be a long grieving and life long missing of his twin.


He went to the grave site with me yesterday.
Sprawling line designs in the dirt with a stick
He tells me it says, "Jerard, this is Kuya James. I love you.
I miss you so much. See you in Heaven."


and his face registers deep sadness
then in four year old fashion he is off running
but not to far.
He comes back to the grave and says, "Are you sad, Mom?"
I say "yes I am. I'm glad he's in heaven and free of pain but
I really miss my little guy."

He says "I miss my brother, too."

Explaining A Filipino Wake

Recently, Kurt sent an email to his brother explaining a bit of Filipino tradition regarding death, the wake, and funerals.
We will post more on other aspects of Filipino traditions regarding death, but for now I post this:

Thank you for praying and supporting us the way that you do.

We buried Jerard today.

We had a Filipino style wake/funeral/burial, which is much different than the US style but Beth and I both think that it gives us a chance to grieve more/better, though it is a harder process. We can explain more about that sometime.

Beth and my hearts are quite sad and we are finding ourselves breaking into tears at different points of the day.

But that is the grieving process and we don't want to ignore or deny that real grief. Over time and by God's grace our grief will run it's course and we will have more peace than pain - right now there is more pain (but there is still peace).

I will explain one Filipino tradition regarding wakes that exemplifies the sort of people who are surrounding us here. Filipinos never leave the body alone from the point of death until the grave. Funeral homes run 24/7 with people spending the night with the casket in the funeral home.

I (Kurt) spent the night from Friday until Monday morning there (I went home during the day at different points). On Friday, 3 others were with me, Saturday there were 8, Sunday 10, and Monday night there were 14 and then 3 others who visited from 2 am to 4 am that last night.

Many of the people that were there with me, some on successive nights, I had just met.

I think of Churis and John, two young Christian men who are good friends of my friend Jake. These three spent most of the nights with me. Ben spent the last two nights with me too.


John and Mikayla talking


Arlene, our long time helper and Jake, our good friend who
put together the video for Jerard
and did many other things to help us during this time.


People play games or watch movies, talk, take naps when they need to, and otherwise have a good time together through the night. What an amazing tradition.

It is very tiring, but after just having come through it, I feel a bond with these friends that is deeper and truer than if the tradition was not there.

Anyway, that is a little taste of the differences. Thank you for your prayers.

Jerard's Burial 5/22/12

















more photos at my facebook account

The Euology I gave

I tend to think in songs.
Early on in the care of Jerard this song by Twila Paris became a background theme song in my head for our Jerard.
A visitor from Heaven
If only for a while
A gift of love to be returned
We think of you and smile

Jerard had a great laugh. A wonderful smile. His smile and laugh could brighten up my day so well.

A visitor from Heaven
Accompanied by grace
Reminding of a better love
And of a better place

Jerard's life has reminded me of a better love...the deep, deep, love of my Saviour.
Jerard could be messy. I changed diapers on him all his life. He drooled. He liked to bite and pinch.
He'd throw up, get sick, be messy....and isn't that how each of us are? A mess? And yet Jesus continues to love each of us just as we are, no matter what mess we are in.

With aching hearts and empty arms
We send you with a name
It hurts so much to let you go
But we're so glad you came
We're so glad you came

I am so thankful Jerard came. I have no regrets having taken him in and walking him through his life these past four years. He is my son, even if the legal paperwork was not completed. His name is Jerard Gonzales Symanzik.

A visitor from Heaven
If only for a day
We thank Him for the time He gave
And now it's time to say
We trust you to the Father's love
And to His tender care
Held in the everlasting arms
And we're so glad you're there
We're so glad you're there

My arms ache to hold him again. To bathe and feed him, to dress him, rock him, love on him....but I know he is so much happier in heaven and I rejoice for him being there. He can see, he can run and look forward to seeing him again some day.

With breaking hearts and open hands
We send you with a name
His name is Jerard Gonzales Symanzik. My son. One of my five children.
It hurts so much to let you go
But we're so glad you came
We're so glad you came

Jerard has been precious to me.
Jesus made him just the way he was. In Psalm 139 God says each of us are knitted in our mother's wombs. There are no accidents or mistakes.
Jerard's special needs have been irons of fire Christ has used to mold me more into His likeness.
Jerard's blindness taught me to see the depth of love Christ has for me and for each of His children.
Jerard's weakness helped me discover more deeply the truth in God's word that when I am weak, He is strong.
Jerard's inability to balance taught me the need to lean into my Saviour more.
I loved the way Jerard just seemed to melt into me when I'd hold him.
It was a perfect reminder to me of my own need to lean into my Saviour, resting ever in His arms no matter what storm is raging around me.

I thank God for Jerard.

The road these past four plus years has been hard
I do not regret the road we've traveled with Jerard
It's been a road full of mercy
a road leading me closer to my FATHER's love

And all I know is that all is grace
And my FATHER knew what He was doing when He created Jerard,
When He brought him to our family.
I rest in HIS loving arms
Thanking HIM for HIS gift,
Thanking Him for Jerard.

-- Beth Symanzik

Eulogy

Tomorrow I'll be sharing a short eulogy at the funeral service for Jerard.
I have two written up and am not sure which one I'll be sharing.
But I'll share them both with you here.....

In the past four plus years of caring for Jerard I have been occasionally asked what I've thought about Jerard being in our family, if I ever had regrets that we took him in....and to those questions I say this

Jerard has been precious to me.
Jesus made him just the way he was just as Jesus made me and my other children.
Jerard's special needs have been irons of fire Christ has used to mold me more into His likeness.
Jerard's blindness taught me to see the depth of love Christ has for me and for each of His children.
Jerard's weakness helped me admit my own weaknesses and to discover more deeply the truth in God's word that when I am weak, He is strong.
Jerard's inability to balance taught me the need to lean into my Saviour more.
I loved the way Jerard just seemed to melt into me when I'd hold him.
It was a perfect reminder to me of my own need to lean into my Saviour, resting ever in His arms no matter what storm is raging around me.

I thank God for Jerard.

The road these past four plus years has been hard
steep
strewn with anger, hurt, tears, depression...
strewn with conflict, sullen silences
and yet overarching, God's mercy.
His grace.
Even in the darkness of soul and family life
His light shining through
His love lighting a pathway of healing - personally,
relationally...
I've seen each of us growing in character and Christlikeness
I've seen such tenderness in my sons to their special needs brother
Jerard's vulnerability has taught me the need to rest and trust completely in my Saviour's care and providence no matter what storm is raging around me.

This gift,
Jerard,
our special needs son
His neediness is the gift
His cute smile,
His gentle blind eyes
People wonder why we ever took a special needs kid in in the first place 'ignorance is bliss" but this I do know....
Love is a commitment
Love is not a feeling
Love is doing what's right regardless of the cost
And isn't that the love my Saviour showed for me and each of us who are Christians when He willingly came to earth, lived a man's life, and willingly suffered, walked the road to calvary, and died? I do not regret the road we've traveled with Jerard
It's been a road full of mercy
a road leading me closer to my FATHER's love

And all I know is that all is grace
And my FATHER knew what He was doing when He created Jerard,
When He brought him to our family.
I rest in HIS loving arms
Thanking HIM for HIS gift,
Thanking Him for Jerard.

A comforting thought to me is that now, my Jerard, can see
and the first face he's ever seen is Jesus' face.
And now I can see him dancing in heaven,
smiling,
laughing,
playing,
eating,
seeing Jesus
seeing colours for the first time ever

Jeremiah 29:11 says "For I know the plans I have for you,declares the Lord,..."
Psalm 139 says For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15  My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18  If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.
The gift of caring for Jerard has taught me the reality that no matter what God is with me, caring compassionately, gently, patiently for me.
I've seen the depth of my depravity and selfishness in caring for Jerard - you know, sometimes I just didn't want to.
But the prayer at the end of Psalm 139 has become my prayer - "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!"
Every circumstance God allows to happen in my life is for my good and His glory.
Jerard has been a gift to me.
I thank God for Jerard.
As much as I miss him, I am thankful he is now running free in the fields of heaven,
able to see and use his body. I look forward to seeing him again someday.
Thank you God, for Jerard.