I had the sad privilege today of serving at a funeral for an 18-month-old little girl. She had suffered from an illness involving debilitating seizures from the age of 2 months. In spite of the heartbreaking circumstances, the service was filled with hope and joy and peace. The family was firm in their belief that little Arianna was safe in the arms of Jesus, free from pain and surrounded by love. It was beautiful.
But at the same time, it just seemed so wrong. Like something had gone badly awry in the grand scheme of things. Associating the thought of a child with something so final and awful as death...it just doesn't jive. And it brought back some hard memories for me.
We lost a child, once upon a time. Way back in 2007. August 20th. An early miscarriage - at about 7 and a half weeks. It wasn't a very long time, but long enough to have established a firm, unbreakable mother-love connection. The death of a child, no matter how old or young, seems to me a particularly poignant loss - it's not only the present loss that hurts so much, but the loss of a future that will never come to pass.
I have to admit that the years have softened the pain of this loss somewhat- I don't often think of this little one who blessed our lives for so short a time. We've told the boys that they have a brother or sister in Heaven whom they'll meet one day, and they sometimes talk about how that will be. (From the very start, I've had one of those hard-to-explain gut-feelings that the baby was a girl - our little Ceilidh Ila-May.) It's one of those things that changes you, forever.
But life goes on, whether you like it or not. We were delighted and more than a little fearful to discover we were expecting again about six months after the miscarriage. As is often the case after an experience like this, we decided not to tell anyone about the pregnancy until it was "safe", around 14 weeks.
Fast forward 7 weeks to Easter Sunday morning. The choir I directed had prepared a beautiful, powerful Easter presentation. It was just a few minutes before we were scheduled to go on stage. As is common in early pregnancy, I was so tired. I really wanted to tell our good news (and get a little sympathy for the dark circles under my eyes), but I was able to keep our secret. And though I had already made several pit stops that morning (another common early pregnancy issue, as many of you know), I thought I'd rather be safe than sorry and popped into the ladies' room one more time.
My heart froze in my chest. I had begun to bleed. My mind raced back to the other time - it had all started exactly the same way. I was stunned; I simply couldn't believe this was happening to me - again.
But even as I was all ready to cry, panic and go into all out freak-out mode, a thought came to me. I remembered what day it was - Easter! Resurrection Sunday! The ultimate celebration of new life! And I knew I had a choice - I could despair, or I could trust. I prayed right then and there, something like, "God - You raised Jesus from the dead. I believe You can do that for this little life. Your will be done."
So I took a deep breath, gathered my courage, and went out to pray with my choir and lead them in worshiping the resurrected Jesus.
And about seven and a half months later, our sweet Jakey was born. (Thanks be to God.)