Stephen and Diana Warwaruk | The Voice of Zion October 2020 --
We have anchors in heaven, not one but two – that is something we are used to hearing. Two of our children have gained their victory. Why us? We don’t know the answer, but we have experienced that God gives strength in times of trial and does not give us more than we can bear.
The death of a close nephew in 2000 and a brother-in-law’s death in 2005 showed us that God provided the needed love and support to those bereaved families. Likewise, the outpouring of love we experienced after the loss of two children still comforts and encourages us. God knows what we need.
Wings in the Sky
Our son Isaac lived a short life. He was born in November 2010 and died in August 2011. We were on our annual camping trip at Clearwater Lake and surrounded by family when Isaac passed away.
Our sister-in-law who was camping with us told us about wings she had seen in the night sky. The wings flew right over our tent when I brought Isaac into the tent at bedtime. We also learned that when we left the campsite to bring Isaac to the hospital, our son Justin reminded everyone else that “no matter what happens tonight, Isaac will be in a good place.” Such wisdom from a 12-year-old.
Hearing this reassured us that it was Isaac’s time to go and that God sent an angel to take Isaac home to heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die.
Escorts Carried Us
During the sorrow filled days and weeks after Isaac’s death it felt like we were in the center of God’s kingdom. Our families and local believers came to comfort and strengthen us. We didn’t have to worry about meals for weeks. These escorts often didn’t know what to say, but their presence showed us they cared, and this caring brought comfort. We also received phone calls, messages and cards from believers throughout North America. We never felt closer to heaven.
After Isaac’s death it hit home that time moves relentlessly forward. We began to accept that there is no turning back the clock to a time when Isaac was still with us.
Time also brought healing, and we felt the blessing of children and a busy household. The younger ones helped by asking many questions about where Isaac went, why he couldn’t come back to us and why we couldn’t go to him. We tried to explain that we would see Isaac again if we endeavor to keep faith until our life on earth ends.
Our family again suffered loss in 2017, when Stephen’s dad passed away after a short battle with cancer. We experienced simultaneous grief and great joy, since he’d been given grace to repent a few years before, after a lifetime of unbelief. We missed him but rejoiced in his victory.
Justin’s Last Swim
Then, just a few weeks after dad’s passing, we lost another child. Stephen was a counselor and teacher at our first confirmation school in Saskatchewan in 40 years. Our son Andrew was one of the students. One lesson Stephen prepared was on prayer – perhaps that lesson helped to prepare him for what was to come.
We were surrounded by friends in faith. Stephen was at confirmation school studying God’s Word as a teacher. Andrew was there as a student. I was visiting with believing friends on a Sunday afternoon. It was there that Justin and his friends decided to go for a swim.
Later on Sunday, the mothers began to wonder why the boys weren’t back from their swim. The afternoon was turning into evening. Then they received a phone call from the boys. “We need help. Justin is missing.”
At confirmation school, Stephen was enjoying song services when his phone rang. The display showed I was calling. “Justin is missing. The boys went swimming in the river and now they can’t find him.” “Oh Justin,” Stephen moaned as he sank to his knees.
Justin was missing for five days. The first day, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police coordinated a search with the help of Saskatoon Search and Rescue and a host of family and friends. At the end of the day, the RCMP ended their search. They promised they would provide support, but continuing the search would be up to us.
Every day, close to one hundred people helped with the search. Lookout points were strategically coordinated along the river to ensure that Justin’s body would be seen when it surfaced. After four days of searching and a severe thunderstorm, a spotter with binoculars saw Justin’s body in the water near a green pool noodle.
Andrew chose to stay at confirmation school when he learned that Justin was missing. It was the best place for him to be, surrounded by believing friends and studying God’s Word. God answered our prayer that Justin’s body would be found before the weekend so we could focus on Andrew’s confirmation.
Until We Meet Again
In the days and weeks following Justin’s death, God gave us strength to carry on. We were comforted and encouraged by our believing family and friends. We didn’t have to worry about meals for weeks. Even three years later, we are comforted by people that remind us we are still in their thoughts and prayers.
There are times we feel especially down. We miss our boys who are in heaven, and we wonder what life would be like if they were still here with us. Isaac would be celebrating his tenth birthday in November. Justin would probably be entering his final year of engineering at the University of Saskatchewan and wrestling with how to do it successfully with online classes.
Though we have sad times, we still experience joy in our lives. Our children keep us focused on our day to day. Our household continues to be busy. The deaths of Isaac and Justin have helped us focus on what is important. They reveal that our life on earth is short and we don’t know when it will end. We want to endeavor in child-like faith, putting sin away. If we can remain in faith until the end, we will see our boys again in heaven.