Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jay!

On February 8, 1968, I informed my doctor that the baby HAD to arrive on February 10. Dr. Girard laughed at me and said that the little one wasn’t finished cooking and that it would be at least two more weeks before he or she arrived (back then, we had no way of knowing the sex of a baby ahead of time . . . just knew that if a mother carried the baby low, it might be a boy – or maybe it might be a girl. I forget. Pretty much speculation back in those days.). I implored him to induce labor so that Cassie or Jay would be born on the second weekend in February, the last weekend that Dr. Girard would be on duty in February. I didn’t want that doctor with the big fat hands to deliver our little baby.

Finished cooking or not, Jay needed to be born on Saturday, February 10, 1968. Those who knew Jay well in his adult years seldom heard him say that he wanted something; he always needed it. And why did he need to be born then? Because he knew that his papa was having a hard time even thinking of having another grandchild. Wendy was my dad’s heart, and Jay needed an advantage in order to really be accepted. He got just that! Two things immediately made him special: the fact that he was a boy and the fact that he was born on his papa’s birthday. Pretty neat, huh?

By 1968, the Lord had given us two beautiful children. We brought up both Wendy and Jay thinking that they would be alive throughout our lives and would live to keep our memories alive for their children and grandchildren; however, in 1992, we found that Jay was just “lent” to us. Here’s a beautiful poem that has brought much comfort to me through the years and which proves to me how much God loves me.

LENT FOR AWHILE by Edgar Guest

“I’ll lend you for a little time a child of Mine,” He said,
“For you to love the while he lives, and mourn for, when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three.
But will you till I call him back, take care of him for Me?

“He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.
I cannot promise he will stay since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I wish this child to learn.

“I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have selected you.
Nor will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate me when I come to call to take him back again?”

I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known , forever grateful stay.

“And should the Angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes, and try to understand.”

I love this poem. I discovered it for myself a few years before Jay died, and I cried as I read it, thinking of the grief that poor bereaved parents must feel. I wondered how they could survive. A student brought the poem to me a year or so before Jay died because she was so moved by it. She and I cried together. The third time I read it was in a sympathy card sent to us shortly after July 2, 1992. Frank and I wept. Edgar Guest touched my heart three times years ago. He touches me still.

Another selection that I love is by Marjorie Holmes . . .


He was so young, God.
So young and strong and filled with promise. So vital, so radiant, giving so much joy wherever he went.
He was so brilliant. On this one boy you lavished so many talents that could have enriched your world. He had already received so many honors, and there were so many honors to come.
Why, then? In our agony we ask. Why him?
Why not someone less gifted? Someone less good? Some hop-head, rioter, thief, brute, hood?
Yet we know, even as we demand what seems to us a rational answer, that we are only intensifying our grief. Plunging deeper into the blind and witless place where all hope is gone. A dark lost place where our own gifts will be blunted and ruin replace the goodness he brought and wished for us.

Instead, let us thank you for the marvel that this boy was. That we can say good-by to him without shame or regret, rejoicing in the blessed years he was given to us. Knowing that his bright young life, his many gifts, have not truly been stilled or wasted, only lifted to a higher level where the rest of us can’t follow yet.
Separation? Yes. Loss? Never.
For his spirit will be with us always. And when we meet him again, we will be even more proud.
Thank you for this answer, God.

I may love this piece even more that the first one. Both brought great comfort to me in the early days after Jay died, and they continue to do so.

So . . . today, on this Jay’s 40th birthday, I’m wondering what my boy would have been like had he lived. Would music still be his life? Would he still love the crowds and the joy of having them in his hands? Would he still eagerly anticipate the breaks between sets when he could “work the crowds,” as he called that time? Would he still want his dad and me at gigs? Would he and Wendy still crack me up as no one else has ever been able to do? Would his hair still be long? Would he still say, “My mom’s always hot!”? Would he still have a charisma that drew people to him like a magnet? So many things to wonder about. Such a reunion to look forward to!

If you’re a talk show listener, as I am, you may be familiar with Rush Limbaugh’s very conceited comment about him and God. I just roll my eyes every time he says it. I’ll borrow from him, though, and say that Jay truly was “on loan from God.”

Lord, we are forever grateful for that loan. You know that I wish full payment hadn’t come due as soon as it did, but I firmly believe that You don’t make mistakes about anything. Thank you for trusting us with Jay. To say that having him with us was a pleasure is surely an understatement. It was a glorious adventure!


Anonymous said...

Oh Jay, sorry I was out of town when this was posted, but I just want to say "my dear friend" Happy 40th Birthday. You are in my thoughts and I take comfort in the fact I know you are looking out for my baby brother up there! Please teach him how to play some sort of musical instrument, because Lord knows he cant sing. He He He "I love ya" Jay!

Monica Wales Markham

Anonymous said...

Whatever Jay would be doing right now I hope that he would be having as much fun as he did when he played music. We all felt that fun right along with him. Jay made all the "Melon-Heads" feel like we were in the band, we just didn't play instruments and he shouldn't have allowed me to sing with the band, but he did. I still to this day I have my original Velvet Melon T-shirt that Jay gave me. It is so extremly faded that you can barely read the print. Though any other t-shirt would have been thrown out or donated many years ago, I still wear it because of Jay and the guys in the band. He touched my life as a friend that letting go of that shirt is like letting go of him. I think it says a lot about Jay that there are so many of us that to this day feel that way about him. I think I am going to go put that old, worn out T-shirt on. Happy Birthday my friend!

Brad Forsythe
Woodham High 84
Coconut Bay

Anonymous said...

I know how it feels to have a birthday for a son who is no longer here. Like you, I remember the joy and the adventure of having such a unique son. The three of us must be very strong women; we love, we grieve and we continue smiling just like our boys would want us to. I always remember the day Jay left us for that is also the birth of our first grandchild. Who knows what life has in store for us, but we must remain strong and ready for whatever it is. I loved Jay's spirit, his optimism and his love for his family. You and Frank were the best parents for God to place him with.

SagHarborGifts said...

Sandy, I am so sorry! There are no other adequate words. My borther Michael was "lent" to us from 72 -90, exactly a month to the day before he was 18.

My deepest condolences!

Nancy Posey said...

I keep thinking of how serendipitous our meeting as we did in Chicago a few years ago. Until then, though, I remember Nannie and Jimmie keeping up with you and with your family. I remember hearing about Jay's death and sharing your sorrow before I had a chance to get to know you and love you, my favorite English teacher cousin.

What a beautiful tribute to him. Thank you for sharing.