Well, here we are, almost four months later, and I still don’t really want to write this post. There aren’t
many any times I want to think about Joel’s funeral. During the first two or three months, looking at the pictures brought up all sorts of negative feelings and ugly emotions within me… so I avoided them. It wasn’t the pictures themselves but the memories they represented that made me want to just forget it all. But now I can look at them without the bitterness, and they’re part of Joel’s story, and ours, so here we go…
First, I want to thank Carla Long, my “oldest” friend (in that we’ve known each other since we were four and our parents have been friends for even longer), for coming to the graveside service to share in that private event and take these pictures. I’m very grateful to have them, even though the funeral itself was mostly unpleasant. I know that sounds crazy and confused, but it just ‘is what it is.’ Our moments with Joel were brief, and in that this was truly the end of our time with him, it needed to be recorded.
Soon after Joel’s Trisomy 13 diagnosis, Carla messaged me with an offer to come to the hospital and gift us with her photography services. Months later, when we found out that Joel had slipped away to heaven before birth, we knew we wouldn’t be able to have the kind of in-hospital photo session we had hoped for, with the sweet newborn-and-family pictures we had envisioned. After he was born in a very fragile condition, and given the time-frame we had with our living children, we knew our hospital time would be brief and overwhelming. After much deliberation, I texted Carla and told her we were going to decline her offer. I would do many things differently if I had the benefit of hindsight to help me plan a perfect re-do, including making sure that we ordered the timing of visitors and our leaving to allow for that photo session. But I love that Carla thought of this and offered to be there; truly a gift! While planning Joel’s funeral, I suddenly realized I would need pictures and immediately knew I could text Carla and she would come. She did, and thus we can look back on that cloudy day and reminisce. (By the way, you can check out Carla’s work at https://thejourneyisthelifephotography.com)
Secondly, we are deeply grateful to Eric Kenworthy and Kenworthy Funeral Home for taking care of all arrangements, including setting up a tent and chairs, free of charge. I am still astounded by this generosity. We were so blessed by Mr. Kenworthy’s compassion as he guided us through each step of the process.
And last, but certainly not least, we are thankful to my cousin, Stanley, who dug Joel’s grave, coordinated with Mr. Kenworthy, and stayed after the service to lower Joel’s casket and cover it. Stanley is a wise, yet humble, man who serves many people in very quiet and unassuming ways, and to have his help during this season of our lives was very meaningful to me.
I ended the day of Joel’s funeral, January 15, 2016, with this post on Facebook:
On the evening of January 15, 2000, Jeff and I were on our first date: pizza with anchovies at Genova’s, some shopping at Christian Light bookstore in York, and then root beer floats at the York Street Treat. How could we have known that exactly 16 years later we’d be laying our 6th child to rest in a cemetery just a mile or so from that very ice cream shop? I’m thankful we couldn’t see into the future then (and that we can’t now), and grateful to be sharing the highs and lows of life with such an amazing man, guided by such a great God!
Below are the pages of the simple bulletin we printed for the service. Included was a poem Jeff wrote while I was in labor. When Jeff read this aloud to me there in the hospital room, I instantly developed a mental picture of Joel in heaven that I love and have permanently framed in my heart. The kids and we have had numerous discussions about whether there are babies and children in heaven or just fully grown adults. A definitive answer doesn’t really matter. I picture Joel as a man now… strong, tall, and broad-shouldered like his daddy with wavy dark hair and thoughtful, sensitive, penetrating brown eyes. (He ended up having dark hair and brown eyes like Caleb, Julia, and me.) I like to imagine that when I get to heaven, as Jesus first ‘wipes away every tear’ from my eyes and welcomes me to my eternal rest, Joel will be watching over his shoulder from a distance, waiting to meet me with a warm, strong embrace and lead me to worship at the throne of God. Who knows? When we actually get to heaven, likely all that will matter is glorifying God and not so much the meeting of those we loved on earth. Either way, it’s gonna be ‘all good!’
Also, in a previous post, I wrote about how meaningful the song ‘All the Way My Savior Leads Me’ was to me during one of our ultrasounds. I don’t think I’ve yet mentioned that after Jeff proof-read that post, he told me he’d been planning to include that very hymn in Joel’s memorial service. It was such a sacred moment to realize that God had prompted both of us to meditate on the same song in response to what we were learning about Joel.
(I can’t find a way to clear the ‘bullets,’ so please overlook the poor formatting.)
JOEL DANIEL EYLER
BORN SLEEPING JANUARY 12, 2016
LAID TO REST JANUARY 15, 2016
Order of Service
Welcome and Prayer Jeff Eyler
Reflections Jeff Eyler
All the Way My Savior Leads Me Troy Miller
Devotional and Prayer Carlton Stambaugh
What a Day That Will Be Troy Miller
Balloon Release Jeff Eyler
Unclouded Day Cliff and Laura Eyler
- The pain is so real,
- And the sadness we feel,
- At the loss of Joel,
- How we wish he were whole.
- Jesus’ promise is sure,
- So this trial we’ll endure,
- Believing we again our son will meet,
- Now in Heav’n made complete.
- One day we will stand,
- And embrace the man,
- That we now long to hold,
- But is silent and cold.
- I envision the scene,
- His eyes sparkling and green,
- Strong and fit are his features,
- Of God’s most beautiful creatures.
- With open arms we embrace,
- Chest–to-chest, face-to-face,
- Joy and communion that will last,
- Earth’s hardships have past.
- But till then we must wait,
- Knowing God’s good and God’s great;
- Our days are in His hands,
- Completely numbered, fully planned.
- In this reality we rest,
- For His ways are best,
- So we’ll walk by His light,
- Until our faith becomes sight.
All the Way My Savior Leads Me
- All the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask beside?
- Can I doubt His tender mercy, Who through life has been my guide?
- Heavenly peace, divinest comfort, Here by faith in Him to dwell!
- For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well;
- For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.
- All the way my Savior leads me, cheers each winding path I tread,
- Gives me grace for every trial, feeds me with the living bread.
- Though my weary steps may falter and my soul athirst may be,
- Gushing from the Rock before me, Lo! A spring of joy I see;
- Gushing from the Rock before me, Lo! A spring of joy I see.
- All the way, my Savior leads me, O the fullness of His love!
- Perfect rest to me is promised in my Father’s house above.
- When my spirit, clothed immortal, wings its flight to realms of day,
- This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way;
- This my song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way.
- What a Day That Will Be
- There is coming a day when no heartaches will come,
- No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye;
- All is peace forever more on that happy golden shore.
- What a day, a glorious day, that will be. (Chorus)
- There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
- No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there;
- And forever I will be with the One who died for me.
- What a day, glorious day, that will be. (Chorus)
- What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see,
- And I look upon His face – the One who saved me by His grace;
- When he takes me by the hand, and leads me to the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day, that will be.