One hundred is one of those numbers that sticks with you. When you hear it, it has a gravitas, a sense of importance. One hundred years is a century. One hundred dollars is a “Benjamin” — so many songs and memes about that. I scored 100 on my exam — can’t beat that. We give 100%; we talk about Top 100s; and Hot 100s. If someone reaches 100 years old, it becomes a community event, a celebration.
This month is the 100th month since our son passed away. It struck me a few weeks ago that this milestone was approaching. I really didn’t know how I would feel as the day approached. Like so many people in similar circumstances, I’ve spent the time looking at pictures, thinking about all the good and bad times. You’d think more than eight years would diminish the memories, but so many of them remain so real. I can still hear Robert’s voice and see his smile and actions in my memories. It’s so odd that so many of the difficult events and times that occurred over the years of his illness fade into the cobwebs. I now have to concentrate to remember those times. But the good memories flow back so easily if given the chance.
There are different points in our lives — places each of us mark and think “This is Incredible.” I’m reminded of sports championships, finding faith, high school graduation, meeting my wife, marriage, college graduation, your first child, … on and on. You realize that these can occur many times during your life. Each of us sees and values things differently. There are people, places and things that carry different emotional and psychological meaning for each of us based on who we are and what we’ve experienced. At any point in your life, that last event can seem like the greatest or most important occurrence you’ve lived through. The rest of your life can fade away in the light of the latest breakthrough. That is who we are; we frequently live in the moment. But there are a few moments that stick with you and not only change your life’s circumstances, but they also actually change who you are.
What is evident is that what happened 100 months ago is one of those moments for me. To be sure, what happened was not greater than finding my wife, or the birth of any of my five children. But that moment was so final and shattering that it penetrated deep into me and intrinsically changed who I am. As Juli often says, my life is divided into before and after that loss. The question is: What type of change did that loss bring?
I honestly feel that when we reach these places in life, the answer to that question — what actually changes — is left in our hands. The path to finding that answer may not and often does not resolve swiftly. The overwhelming impact of that moment has to be absorbed and processed, and that takes time. I felt this way about getting married and, after 42 years, I’m still changing. Each of my children grabbed my heart and changed me into a father and then a friend. Who I am today has been immeasurably impacted by their handprints on my life.
Robert’s death occurred 100 months ago, but I am not 100% finished. I would like to think as I’ve walked the pathway of grief that the initial devastation has begun transforming in strength, compassion and joy. I see things differently now. We tend to judge the world and those in it from our own internal viewpoint, but often fail to be willing to incorporate the external. I’ve been learning to see things the way Robert always seemed to see them, with his endless smile and ferocious hugs even when he was suffering.
I have not reached the end of that journey, but I can say that I have been able to sit with numerous families going through the loss of a loved one and share a little of their pain as it resonates within me. I have been able to counsel others facing difficult decisions that seem to have no path to positive outcome.
Loving Robert and losing Robert has taught me to be here — in this moment — understanding that the next one is not guaranteed. Finding what will wring the greatest value out of that next moment, because it will never exist again, becomes a goal on this path I am on.
So right now, I raise another milestone here — in biblical terms, my Ebenezer, much like the one I placed in my heart on that day 100 months ago. I will not forget what I have gone through, what has been changed, and what needs to change to both honor and commemorate that day.
There is more; one more Ebenezer. Throughout his life, Robert gave everyone who knew him so much love, overwhelming any disability or limitation. It’s important to know that finally, in my heart, by faith, Robert is now 100 — 100% complete and 100% free. No more suffering or crying or limitations — just perfect.
Listening Library: Ebenezer (Bob Bailey)
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” (1 Samuel 7:12)
Nobody said that the road would be easy Nobody said that there would be no strife But we’ve got a promise, that we can hold onto ‘Cause when it’s all over we’ll see Christ
So on through the struggle
We march to victory
Reminded of those who’ve gone before
And not just for their sake, but because of the promise
We’ll press toward the mark of the high calling
And Lord we reach our Ebenezer It’s taken us miles and years And we’ve cried many tears
But Lord we reach our Ebenezer
Look how much you’ve taught us
Look how far you’ve brought us
But look how far we have to go
Grace isn’t given to the strong or the mighty
But he that endures unto the end
So we’ll join the battle And we’ll keep on fighting
‘Cause when it’s all over I know that we’re gonna see Christ
We’ll offer assistance to those who have fallen
And we’ll make them to know that they’re not alone
And not just for their sake, but because of God’s promise
We’re gonna press toward the mark of the high calling
And Lord we reach our Ebenezer You’ve taken us through miles and years And through it all, we’ve cried a lot of tears
But here and now Lord we raise our Ebenezer
Remembering how much you’ve taught us
Looking back on how far you’ve brought us
See that silver lining; And oh, now the Sun is shining
But it hasn’t always been easy; many many times we failed to please you Lord
Look how much you’ve taught us
Look how far you’ve brought us, Lord
But look how far we have to go… Ebenezer.
Words and Music by Bob Bailey