When Ethan passed away in June of last year, we had to do what no parent should have to do--plan a funeral. Since we are military and did not live back home in Texas, we planned two funerals. That was a challenge that I do not wish on anyone to ever have to experience, but with the grace of God, we did what needed to be done. We were blessed with many friends who helped us so much, a great staff at both funeral homes (especially Palm there in Las Vegas), and help from the military (Survivor Relations). My dad flew out to help us, and that was a blessing as well.
We had two funerals because we had our family in Las Vegas that we had become very close to during that assignment. We had been in Las Vegas for over four years. Our military family there was really the only family our boys truly knew. They were the people that we all interacted with on an almost daily basis. Now I'm not discounting our family back home in the various states, but when you're a military family you truly have to cling to and support those in your military community.
The other funeral was in my hometown of San Antonio, TX. We chose San Antonio because that is where Josh and I met and married four months (yes, that quickly) later, and welcomed Ethan's birth several months later. Evan was also born in San Antonio, and well, it's a very sentimental place for us. Both Josh and I have family and friends in San Antonio...so it just made sense for it to be Ethan's final resting place for his earthly body. He was laid to rest at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.
At Ethan's Nellis AFB service, I remember being in a frantic just before the service began. Josh and I were in Chaplain Brown's office discussing the type of service to be performed (what to be said, music to be played, etc.). Chaplain Brown had suggested "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe. That song was absolutely at the top of my list of songs I wanted to be played. We had just seen them in concert April 16, 2008 on Nellis. It was a wonderful concert, and we are huge fans of their songs that glorify the Lord. "I Can Only Imagine" was the song played at that service. It now holds, I think, a much different meaning to many when they hear that song. I know that it does for Josh, Evan and I. We here on earth can only imagine the glory that Ethan is witnessing in heaven! What a wonderful place heaven must be, and how happy Ethan must be there with his heavenly Father.
At Ethan's San Antonio service, MercyMe's song was played as well. But I had been on a long, hard search for Chris Tomlin's "Our God." It was a newer song that was released in 2010, and the CD had just been released shortly before Ethan's passing. The reason why I picked that song is that the boys and I would often sing that song together while driving. Ethan would smile and sing along, as would Evan. Ethan often would say if he heard a song somewhere (store, restaurant, etc.) that wasn't about God, that is was a yucky song! Yes, Ethan knew the true heart of a Christ follower and what they should do, listen to, etc. that would glorify the Lord.
In desperate search for Chris Tomlin's new song, I went to Family Christian Bookstores in San Antonio. I remember walking in there searching frantically for the CD. It didn't exist. Then I went up to the counter and explained that I needed the song for my son's funeral, and how important it was that I find that CD quickly. Of course, this created tears from the kindhearted elderly lady who so graciously helped me. She got on the phone and called KLOVE (a Christian radio station) and asked them what CD the song was on. Turns out, it was on a compilation CD. Nonetheless, I bought the CD and was on my way. Our God was played at the San Antonio Service.
When you hear either song on the radio, you just might stop and think of Ethan being in heaven with the Lord, having a great time! I believe surely he is smiling down on all of us, hoping that one day we won't have to imagine heaven...we will know it as a reality.
I Can Only Imagine