This week marks 641 days (91 weeks and 4 days) since Chad and Courtney were ushered into the gates of heaven. Exactly half a lifetime ago for Chase. It seems impossible that they have been gone for so long. Chase was only 21 months and 2 days old. Every day after April 29, 2015, he will spend more time without them than he did with them.
That they lived and loved him at all, is more than enough to make them a part of his world every day. Chase sees multiple photos of his daddy and mommy displayed in our home. They are snapshots filled with loving memories of his parents. You never know how much a preschooler actually understands, but we are positive that he feels a bond with Chad and Courtney—a bond that we desire to keep alive and strong. Like his mommy Chase loves music and seems to have a good ear for a three year old. (We realize that this is the biased perspective of his grandparents.) Daily we surround him with music that we believe Courtney would have loved and approved. His daddy brought a happy, fun countenance to our family gatherings. Chase seems to have his daddy’s quick wit and contagious laugh. He brings joy to every occasion.
Often when we put Chase to bed, he looks at the picture of his sweet family in the Winter/Spring of 2013 that hangs just outside of his bedroom and says, “Daddy and Mommy are in heaven.” It’s quite a statement to hear from a three year old. When we hear this, sorrow crashes down upon us like a wave. Sometimes he says, “I miss them.” We respond with, “We miss them too.” But Chase has no idea to what extent we miss them or to what extent he misses them.
As parents, we could have never imagined a more traumatic experience than the death of our children. All parents naturally expect their children to outlive them. Such a loss is an extraordinary, out-of-order event that brings with it an overwhelming sense of pain and lingering grief. It is a life-altering experience that presents unique challenges as we seek to rebuild our lives without Chad and Courtney. Oh, how we thank God upon every remembrance of them (Philippians 1:3).
We cannot help but see Chase’s loss as so much bigger than ours. We personally know of no one who has lost both parents at 21 months of age. It may be many years before Chase realizes the life-changing impact of the death of Chad and Courtney. Perhaps he will not come to full grips of his loss until the birth of his first child and he holds him (or her) in his own arms. Lord willing, we will do our best to help Chase know that for 21 months God gave him the special gift of godly parents who loved him dearly and loved their Savior first of all. So although Chase’s loss may seem great what he has gained through his god-fearing parents is so much greater.
Ron Hamilton has written a song entitled “Cherish the Moments”. It has always brought a flood of emotions, but today it brings even more. The last 21 months have been a time of holding family and friends closely. During these past months we have come to cherish time spent with loved ones. We live with the realization that life is a vapor that vanishes quickly and each day is a gift from the Lord. It is our hearts desire that Chase will come to know Christ as his Savior at an early age; and that he will find peace as he trusts the good, sovereign hand of the Lord in the past, present, and future events of his life. Our prayer is that the Lord will allow Chase to serve the Savior in a special way as he uses his life to “fan the flame” that his parents started.
WRITTEN BY CHUCK AND LINDA PHELPS (parents of Chad Phelps and grandparents of Chase)