There is a title no one ever wants to write, but this past Saturday I was asked to lead a memorial service for a little boy who had not quite reached his fourth month of life. I have removed the names from the blog post, but hope this can be helpful or inspiring for others who find themselves in similarly unthinkable circumstances.
[Baby’s name] had the good fortune of being born into a family that loved him deeply. A family that held him when he needed snuggles, rejoiced in his smiles and laughter, and comforted him in his tears. Unfortunately his time on this earth was cut short and our joy has turned to ashes. We have lost a great gift and we struggle to know how to support our friends and family in such a shocking loss. Over the years to come we will be reminded of this loss and I am sure that many of the people in this room will never “Get over it.” And we cannot expect them to. Life will go on but, especially for those closest to little [Baby’s name], a piece of your heart has been torn out and that is a wound that will take the rest of your life to heal. For those of you who are wondering what you can say to help, there are seven words that you can say that will make a difference in [Parent’s first names] grieving: “I love you and I am here.” No more words are needed and for this kind of wound, more than that can deepen the pain rather than help. I think if we were to look behind the words themselves to what we are trying to say with our attempts at comfort, those seven words really speak the truth of our feelings.
This is the kind of loss that raises questions. All of us are asking why? Some of us are shouting our why with raised fists at a God that doesn’t seem to care. Let me assure you that God, whose eye is on the sparrow, grieves the death of [Baby’s name] as well. Some people will try to tell you that this was God’s will, and I am sure they mean well, but let me tell you that God did not will that an infant would die, that a mother and father would lose their son, that a grandchild would be lost, or that a life which had barely begun would end. No, God’s desire was and is to prosper, not to harm. And still we wait for an answer. I wish I had one for you. We live in a broken world, and events like this remind us of just how broken it is. God is at work however as a redeemer and by our loving presence, our quiet support, everyone here can be an agent of that redemption for the [Family’s Last Name] family. There will be redemption that comes from this tragedy, hold on to that hope friends, and yet we will still bear the marks, the wounds, from such a deep pain.
Let me encourage you to take that woundedness to God. God is probably the only one that can truly handle the raw nerves and rough edges that we have. We can hear each other and attempt to listen, but when we all have rough edges and are filtering every word through the haze of pain and loss, we end up hurting each other through the rawness of our emotions. Let me remind you that God longs to walk beside you in your hurt. Regardless of how you feel about him right now, or the depth of anger, God can take it and the Holy Spirit truly understands. Paul tells us in Romans that we do not suffer alone.
22 For we know that all creation groans in unison with birthing pains up until now. 23 And there is more; it’s not just creation—all of us are groaning together too. Though we have already tasted the first fruits of the Spirit, we are longing for the total redemption of our bodies that comes when our adoption as children of God is complete— 24 for we have been saved in this hope and for this future. But hope does not involve what we already have or see. For who goes around hoping for what he already has? 25 But if we wait expectantly for things we have never seen, then we hope with true perseverance and eager anticipation.
26 A similar thing happens when we pray. We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words.
All of creation groans with us in sorrow, longing for the time of restoration and redemption as we do. It really is tough to be in a position that the only way forward is through hope, but that is where we are, and we are not alone. There will be times when one of us loses hope, when the grief overwhelms us to the point where we see no way forward, no hand of God to comfort us. That is what the rest of us can to, to hold out hope for each other, to be God’s comforting arms wrapped around each other, waiting patiently for grief to run its course and hope to once again be a possibility. There will be times when even the hope others hold for us fails us and we feel like their hope and words aren’t enough. Let’s be honest, who here really does know how to pray for this situation and doesn’t experience some conflicting emotions when attempting to bring this before God? I can’t say that I even know how to start praying, but the Holy Spirit within me knows, and that same Spirit within you understands and knows and articulates our hurts with the profoundest groans.
We will have five minutes of silence to reflect and place our sorrow in the hands of the God who loves us. Take this time to pray especially for [Baby’s name]’s family that God’s peace would rest on them and bring them comfort. I pray that all of you find the space and the grace to grieve well.