Thursday, December 06, 2007

let them eat cheesecake

Twenty-three years ago today--December 6th, 1984--we had a birthday party.
We decorated, I baked a cherry cheesecake and we sang "Happy Birthday" to the guest of honor. When I started serving gooey slices of cheesecake, I noticed that Lindsay was missing. A quick search found her shivering on the front porch and gazing up at the wintry sky.

"Honey, what are you doing?" I asked as I ushered my 3 1/2 year-old daughter back into the warm house. "Come and eat birthday cake!"

"But Mom, when is Jonah coming?" she asked, reluctant to leave her post. "Isn't he going to come to his party?"

It was one of the moments when I didn't know if I would laugh or start sobbing. We'd buried Jonah only a few months earlier and we were trying valiantly to keep at least his memory alive. It seemed like a good idea to me to celebrate the day of Jonah's birth, even if he wouldn't be able to join us.

But Lindsay was totally confused. She knew that Jonah's body was buried in the ground (see the "Little Boy Blues" post back in September), but we'd explained to her that he was really up in heaven, playing with Jesus. So when we held a party in his honor, she assumed that he would be able to drop in (literally, since she thought heaven was up in the sky) for a piece of cake.

Tears of disappointment formed in Lindsay's eyes as we informed her that Jonah wouldn't be joining us.

"Jonah lives in heaven now," her dad gently explained. "He can't come to visit us anymore, but someday we'll go to heaven and you will get to play with him again. Isn't that great?"

Lindsay sniffed and nodded, then stuck a forkful of cheesecake in her mouth. She seemed satisfied with our explanation, and we all made it through that bittersweet day. I couldn't help but wonder what she thought about it all, but Lindsay kept her three-year-old thoughts to herself.

We have continued to celebrate Jonah's birthday over the years, although I have to admit Sara Lee usually bakes the cheesecake now (Jonah was allergic to wheat, which is why he always had cheesecake). One year, in 1988 to be exact, we celebrated two birthdays on December 6th. Lindsay had decided to give her life to Jesus and be baptized that fall, but chose to wait until Jonah's birthday to do it.

"That way, I'll always remember the day I was baptized," the precocious 7 year-old told us. "And it will be like a birthday present to Jonah--and we can all eat cherry cheesecake to celebrate!"

And what a gift that day was to us! A group of about 30 people gathered around as Greg baptized his daughter in a friend's backyard hot tub. Laughter and tears definitely mingled that day as we celebrated Jonah's 9th birthday--and Lindsay's new birth in Christ.

They say the angels party in heaven whenever someone gives their heart to Jesus. I'm pretty sure they passed around the cherry cheesecake that day!


danielle said...

shoot. that made me cry in the middle of the john g. mitchell library. i love you so much mom, and i can't wait until that day comes.

lindsay anne said...

aw, happy birthday big brother.

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