By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published September 11, 2008
I remember when Joseph was in the womb. It was about four and a half years ago, when a young woman, whose name is Gillian, announced that she was pregnant.
She was a cataloguer in the library where I work, and for the next few months, her tummy grew rounder. She left the job to devote herself full-time to mothering the little one, whom she and her husband named Joseph. A few years later, a daughter came along.
I only met Joseph one time, when his mother brought him to the library to meet people. He was just a little guy, toddling around and bringing smiles to all the folks in the room.
I remember that the library director rummaged in his desk and gave Joseph a small toy to play with, and the boy was very content.
Then bad news struck. Joseph was diagnosed with a very serious brain tumor. His parents began a blog, http://prayforjoseph.blogspot.com/.
And in the next two years, there were hundreds of people all around the country rooting for Joseph’s recovery.
As the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross nears, my heart is heavy with thoughts of this family and the cross they still carry.
The little guy was treated at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis. Gillian and her husband, Allen, did their best to give him a normal life, even as he went through three surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy.
They wrote on the blog about how much he enjoyed trips to Target, where he always added another toy truck to his collection. He also was blessed with a child’s innocence about the future.
His parents dealt with the dread of what would come next. But he did what children are so good at: enjoyed ice cream cones, outings to parks and games with his sister.
The parents went through grueling emotional times, watching their little boy’s symptoms worsen, sitting by his bedside after surgery, taking him for treatments.
Still, the Body of Christ sustained them. “I know we couldn’t make it without the many prayers that are holding us up while we are on wobbly feet,” his mother wrote.
She added that she sometimes found herself singing a hymn of praise, when she didn’t feel like it. And she would realize that someone must have been praying for her at that very moment.
She marveled at God’s amazing presence and “how it can be felt even through the darkest days and deepest pain…”
Faith comes into play when the cross strikes you down on your knees. When the cross breaks your heart into little pieces. When the cross drains your eyes of every tear.
“Sweet Joseph is now at peace,” wrote his parents when their boy died on the day after his fourth birthday. “Four years was too little. We let him go. We had no sudden healing.”
For many people, that terrible cross might weaken their faith in God, but not for Joseph’s mom and dad.
On the day of his death, they quoted the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
These compassionate parents are models of Christian love. They gave their child everything possible to have a happy life. Their prayers brought him to the gates of Heaven. They led him to the crown of Christ.
Like so many parents who have lost a child, they carried a huge cross with much grace. All along, they were sustained by prayers from the Body of Christ.
And all those who prayed for Joseph can take heart in the knowledge that now he is praying for them.
Artwork by Jef Murray (www.jefmurray.com). Lorraine’s latest book is “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.” She also is the author of “Why Me? Why Now?” and “Grace Notes.” The Murrays are parishioners at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. E-mail her at email@example.com.