Of all the pictures we have of Miriam (Eli) as a young child, this is probably my favorite.
It's an autumn evening, some time before Miriam's first birthday. I've just got home from work - maybe four straight hours of teaching math to Oxford students - good work but demanding. And I have not even had time to take my tie off before I'm swamped by the waves of joy coming from this strong-willed little person. (To the right of the picture my guitar awaits - Miriam loved music.)
It's that enormous joy that I remember so clearly from Miriam's childhood, a joy which began to explode into talk and friendship and sharing soon after this picture was taken. It is that which I am so bitter at mental illness for taking away, so that instead of the bright shining light it was during childhood, joy began to fizzle and sputter like a defective bulb - sometimes there, sometimes hidden but reachable, sometimes seemingly absent - as Eli grew to be an adult. Until darkness fell.
But that grief does not erase the childhood joy. Looking at the giant grin in this picture, I can still feel it.
For those who, like me, believe that in the end God's love will win out and wipe away every tear - it's important that we don't do the opposite thing either, and pretend that the final joy will erase the suffering that Eli endured, or that we have endured. Indeed, the final joy is somehow only possible because God in Jesus walked the road of suffering to its end.
So we will face the road ahead - maybe "good work but demanding", maybe a road more marked by pain and loss. These are real; but as we go, we will look forward to reaching our home. And again being swamped by waves of joy.
As C.S.Lewis wrote, "Joy is the serious business of Heaven".