Tuesday, September 26, 2006
We just returned from a wonderful trip to northern California. On Saturday, we met up with Lindsay and feasted our way through Apple Hill--or Apple Deal, as Jonah called it.
(He had a delightful way of renaming people and objects. For example, he called his great-grandma Glover "Grandma Grape." Much more colorful, don't you think? And he called apples "kitchen balls", which gives you a pretty good idea what he did with them).
Apple Hill is a place laden with pleasant memories. I don't know how we first discovered this treasure in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but it became a yearly trek up the hill for our family. Jonah was three when we first visited the loop that encompassed 50 or so apple ranches, many having bakeries offering applelicious delights, as well as crafts, petting zoos, and pumpkin patches. His favorite place was Grandpa's Cellar, a "U-pick" orchard with a small bakery and gift shop. Jonah loved running wild through the orchard, clambering up trees and devouring apples. He'd usually just take one bite, toss it to the ground, then grab another piece of fruit. We'd feel so bad about all the apples he wasted that we'd buy a box or two to compensate.
There weren't many rules at Apple Hill--you could eat as much dessert as you wanted, climb as many trees as you wanted, and play hide and seek in the pumpkin patch. It was a glorious place for an autistic child who just couldnt mesh with the structure of the "real world." I truly think Apply Hill was a foretaste of heaven for my son.
It felt a bit like heaven this weekend, actually. Hanging out with Lindsay, gorging ourselves on apple treats, tasting apple wine and searching for the perfect pumpkin in perfect Indian Summer weather--it truly was the perfect day.
As was the following day . . .
The main reason we were down in northern California was to share at Mike Cook's retirement party at Sylvan Oaks church. Greg worked with Mike, the senior pastor, from 1981-1990 (when we moved to Alaska). Two of our children were born during this time, and Jonah died while we were part of this church body. (He is buried just a few miles from the church property, and we always visit his grave when we are in the area). We have sweet memories of the comfort and care the Body of Christ poured out on us during this dark time in our lives. Sylvan Oaks will always feel like home.
Anyway, Greg shared at the service (memories like how Mike helped us plan Jonah's funeral because we were both in the hospital, three hours away from Sacramento. He even picked out Jonah's headstone which reads: Jonah Thomas Strannigan; Born December 6, 1879, Made Perfect August 30, 1984) and we caught up with old friends at the reception after church. It was so fun to see the "kids" from our old youth group with teenagers of their own. Can we really be that old?
On our drive home, I thanked God for the rich and colorful tapestry of our lives. I am so grateful for the path He's led us on, even for the rough patches and bumps in the road. Even for the times He's led us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He always brings us back to the foothills of Goodness and Mercy again.
Kind of like Apple Hill . . .