Linda, Steve, Eric, Colleen –
As I told you the other day, I, too, am a parent who has experienced the death of a child. It was nineteen years ago, now, and the circumstances were different – our son died in infancy, just thirteen hours after his birth. Sadly, I can tell you from experience, that a parent never gets over the death of a child, but by the grace of God, and the support of caring families and friends, it is possible to get through such a tragedy.
Among the healing flood of letters that followed our son’s death was one carrying this wonderful quote from the end of Earnest Hemingway’s story, FAREWELL TO ARMS: “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
Of course, our prayer for all of you, those who love Jason more than a little and miss him more than much is that your broken hearts will one day mend. I pray that you will also come to know something that I have learned over the last nineteen years: it is that love not only begets love, it transmits strength. When a person dies and especially when that death is tragically accidental, there are some things which can be said, but there is at least one thing that should never be said.
A couple of days after our son’s death, I got a call from a friend of mine – another clergy person who said to me, “I guess I’ll never understand God’s will – we just have to accept what we may never understand.”
I didn’t explode over the telephone. I remained civil. But inside, I was angry, fuming. I wanted to say, “Now just a minute. Do you think it is God’s will that an infant’s heart would not develop sufficiently to sustain life? Do you think it is God’s will to destroy the hopes and dreams of parents who had planned for, hoped for, and longed for a child for years. You just don’t understand God’s will -well, I’ll say you don’t!” That’s what I wanted to say.
I believe that God is dead set against all un-natural deaths. Jesus spent much of his ministry delivering people from paralysis, blindness, illness, disease. He gave himself that we might have life.
The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is, “It was the will of God.” Never do we know enough to say that. In fact, we believe the opposite. We heard the words of Jesus last Sunday morning. “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” Your own consolation lies in knowing that it was not the will of God that Jason die. You are convinced, as am I, that of all the hearts that would break last Sunday afternoon, God’s own heart was the first to break.