By Jim Langham
Last week, I carried out a very special birthday tradition that I have done for many years.
In the small Indiana town where I was raised, dear friends suffered a heartbreaking tragedy many years ago. They were on vacation in the south. One evening, as they were taking a walk, a driver under the influence crossed the road, went off the road and struck one of two 9-year-old boys, taking his life immediately.
That was many years ago. The remaining twin is now in his mid-20s, had an extremely successful wrestling career, has served our country with honor and is engaged to marry a girl from Scandinavia, a beautiful girl who has warmly been received by the family.
Over the years, the family has suffered emotional lows and lowers as they have sought to grieve and put their late son’s tragedy in some type of perspective. During that time, we have experienced a deep friendship, embracing each other many times in prayers and tears.
The twins share my birthday; they were also born on April 1. Each year on that day, the family gathers and takes balloons to the son’s grave in a cemetery just east of Geneva, Ind. There, after a time of meditation, and a placement on the grave of some of the lad’s favorite toys, the balloons are released with the hope that they will ascend towards heaven where they are fully certain that their son is with Jesus and they will some day be reunited with him.
Many years ago, they asked me to join that activity and we would all celebrate our birthdays together. Following the visit to the graveyard, we return to their home for pizza and birthday cake.
Ironically, the mother, especially, is a “cardinal heart” person all of the way. Each year when I visit the family for our special celebration, I take her a cardinal. These days, an entire cabinet in the family home is full of pictures of the son and cardinals. One day when I was visiting with her, we stepped on to their front porch and a beautiful cardinal swooped to us and kept circling us as we were talking.
“That is so comforting,” she said at the time. “I know that our son is okay.”
One day in a stroke of cardinal inspiration, she wrote a poem as though the son had written it to her. I feel it is appropriate to share that at the end of this column. In her scrapbook, a beautiful cardinal is pasted above her poem:
Song Of The Cardinal
I sang outside your window today
Telling you it was going to be a wonderful day
I know you miss me I miss you too
But here in heaven the birds sing all day
And every day is a wonderful day
Jesus and I are waiting for you
Tell my brothers and Dad I want them to come too
Heaven is such a wonderful place...
Everyone can come here by God’s amazing grace
So Mom every time you shed a tear
Remember Mom I am still near
Until then I’ll sing you a song
Walking with Jesus till you come along