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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

My Journey: Here and Gone

By Joy A. Sterling
Aug. 31, 2014

“But remember, he’s in heaven with Jesus.”

For many who have lost a loved one, such words have offered great comfort. And we believed them when we heard them as well. Still, actually seeing the picture of Jason and Jesus took the statement’s meaning to a deeper level. No, it isn’t an authentic, factual picture. Still, it has blessed countless people.

Born May 6, 1969, and welcomed by four siblings, ages 16, 14, 9, and 4, Jason quickly won the adoration of our entire family. We quickly began spoiling our little charmer. We thought our family was perfect.

Our balloon burst at Jason’s 6-week check-up; the pediatrician detected a heart problem. This began a four-year trek through cardiologists, EKGs, heart cauterizations, potentially fatal illnesses, and surgeries.

Jason’s diagnosis: ventricular septal defect. Translation: Your baby has at least one, probably more, holes in his heart.

“Don’t get attached to him,” one cardiologist glibly advised. “He won’t live very long.”

We hugged Jason even closer. Our lives became a roller coaster of doctors’ visits, health crises, and healing crusades. We used to joke that Jason had participated in every healing line in America. We truly believed God would miraculously heal the holes and he would live a normal life span.

In August, after Jason’s fourth birthday, doctors deemed his veins and arteries finally large enough to be hooked to the heart-lung machine, which would keep him alive while they stopped his heart to patch the holes. We’d been warned Jason had only a 50 percent chance of surviving the surgery, but by this time his heart was so enlarged he would live less than six months without medical intervention.

Our faith was strong. When they wheeled Jason away to surgery, we had no doubt he would come back to us with a functioning heart and a long, happy life ahead. As his gurney went through the swinging doors, he cried, “Mommy, I want to stay with you.” I assured him he would be back with me soon.

We had been advised surgery would take about three hours. After seven anguishing hours, the nurse, with tear-streaked face, reported, “His heart was so badly damaged that after the repairs, doctors couldn’t get it started again.”

Instead of one or two holes, Jason’s heart wall was so full of holes it was a miracle he had lived an active life for even a few months, much less four years. Yet he had.

What do you do when you’ve just been informed your child has died? About 15 friends, prayer partners, and people from our home church 250 miles away were with us when we received the news. We formed a prayer circle for a few minutes of the deepest worship I have ever experienced.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the Holy Spirit was there holding us in His arms, drawing us to himself. I’m sure we were in shock, but the trip home was ethereal. Never have I felt so fully carried in the arms of God.

At home reality set in — calling family, making arrangements, packing Jason’s clothes. It was a dark time.

Our oldest son, John, arrived home from college in Kentucky the next day, totally devastated at being unable to tell his little brother goodbye. As we planned Jason’s memorial service, John kept saying, “I wish there was something I could do. I know he’s in heaven with Jesus, but ... ”

The next morning John approached us with his idea.

In a photography class, John had learned to superimpose one photograph onto another to create a new picture. His idea was to actually show Jason with Jesus.

The following afternoon I searched Sunday School files for the ideal picture; it had to be the right proportions, the correct angle, the proper expression. After viewing dozens of pictures of Jesus, one jumped out at me.

Agreeing it was perfect, John went to work. Since this was long before computers, I have no idea how he accomplished it, but soon he presented his finished product.

 There, right there in front of us, was the photograph of our precious child safe in the arms of Jesus!

The photo was used as the cover for programs at the memorial service. We kept it in the living room for everyone who came to offer their condolences. We printed thank you notes using it. We even put it in the local paper with Jason’s death notice. The response was astounding, and I lost track of the number of people who reported their lives had been touched by that picture.

One of Jason’s little friends who had been informed of his death, exclaimed to her mother, “You said he was in heaven with Jesus, but now I see that he really is.” Even today, more than 40 years later, people fight back tears when they view it.

Jason’s life and death touched believers and unbelievers alike, and actually seeing a picture portraying him with Jesus brought the truth home to many. Yes, I know when a believer dies, he or she is in heaven with Jesus. John’s picture drives that truth home for me every time I see it.

JOY A. STERLING lives in Silverhill, Ala.


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