Lately, because of different events, I have been thinking about death, dying, and grief. One of those events is the death of Vivian Gregory, the infant daughter of a seminary family. Vivian was born prematurely and died last week after being hospitalized for six months. My heart goes out to Vivian's parents and all who are grieving because of the loss of this tiny baby.
Second, I was given a manuscript to review that is about coping with grief during the first thirty days of a loss of a loved one. It is well-written, practical, and speaks to the emotions of everyone who has experienced loss.
Third, I have been toying with the idea of writing about grief for children for quite awhile now. And finally now, I think I can write something.
Funerals remind us of all of our losses. As we stand in the pews, we might remember other funerals we've attended. We remember the widow's bewilderment and tears. The widower's trembling hands. The children's faces full of confusion and fear. We know what grief looks like. We've felt it ourselves. And it all comes sweeping back over us when we attend a funeral.
At the funeral of a baby, the pain in the church is palpable. It is so wrong, so evil, so terrible that this baby with little fingers and toes, with the little smiles and the hopes and dreams of her parents is the one lying there in that tiny coffin. We feel the outrage of it all. We can't understand it.
On the afternoon of the funeral this week, Jane posted one of the hymns we sang. This hymn, "God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It" is wonderfully comforting. It also brings back a lot of Pittsburgh memories for me. I taught the kids in our church to sing it, and for awhile, I had the kids sing it at most baptisms, so whenever I hear it or sing it myself, I imagine those little voices in the choir loft singing away. The hymn has a wonderful melody and even better text. And it spells out in poetic verse what we cling to at all times, but especially during times of loss: I am God's own child and because of the death and resurrection of Christ, I have no fear of death or loss or pain or grief. Yes, death and loss are painful; it should hurt. This is not the way God intended for our existence to be. Death is not a natural part of life. But God provided the way out of death, pain, loss, sin, and sorrow. He gave us Jesus. "I am baptized into Christ; I'm a child of paradise."