September 15, 2000. The last day I saw this sweet face smile. The last day I heard him laugh. The last day I would swing with him in my backyard, completely carefree. The first of many tear filled, sorrowful days to come. The first of asking God how He could be loving and how He could be gracious in allowing such great pain in our lives, and Jacob’s first day Home.

With each passing year, I find myself reflecting more and more on his death and the effect it has had on me. By no means does it get easier each year. There’s still the empty seat at the dinner table, the boxes of his things that sit in storage, and one less person in each family picture.

I can’t help but wonder…would he have been an athlete? A musician? Incredibly smart? A ladies man? Would he have liked video games? Would he be messy or organized? I picture a big, handsome 14 year old boy doing the annoying, silly things 14 year old boys do. I imagine one more uniform to iron, one more bike in the garage, and a lot more dirty laundry, all things that seem so insignificant when compared to just having him here with us.

Despite the kind of boy he would have been or the characteristics he might possess, the most important question would have been whether or not he would grow to love the Lord. Hopefully he would have, but in this fallen world, there is no guarantee of it. Luckily, I can say with full confidence that my baby brother knows and loves Jesus, and is experiencing more joy and satisfaction than this earth could have ever provided him with.

This day twelve years ago didn’t mark an end, it marked a beginning. The beginning of Jacob’s life in heaven completely and perfectly whole, and the beginning of God revealing Himself to me. And since then He has continued to do just that, providing me daily with glimpses of His character and of His perfect, unconditional love. I still don’t understand each and every purpose behind Jacob’s death and I don’t think I ever will. But what I do know is that God used this tragedy in my life to begin to shape and prepare my heart for my future.

This wouldn’t be the last time I’d question God’s goodness, and it was only the first of many trials to come. But God has taught me that He does not act in an arbitrary way. He has a purpose and a plan behind all kinds of pain, and His every act is stamped with perfection. And that knowledge is what drives me to my knees daily. Whether my heart is heavily burdened or filled with joy, each time I’m met with open arms. So overwhelming.

Lastly, Jacob’s death has given the phrase “life is short” an entirely new meaning to me. It leaves me with an inexplicable desire to live with a greater sense of urgency and to truly make the most of my time here on earth.

But on days like today, I can’t help but have an even greater longing for heaven than ever before. My heart yearns for eternal perfection. For the day when sin is crushed in victory and death is swallowed up in strength. But until that day, it is my prayer that I would not find myself so caught up in trying to make this world my heaven, that I cease to desperately long for the Home for which I am bound.