Friday, August 04, 2006

The Sting of Death

I wish I was writing this from somewhere in South America. The story doesn't even begin there, though. I am well above the Mason-Dixon Line, in the heartland. It is here that my daughter and son-in-law live. And it is here that I experienced a level of pain I have never known.

Kory, my son-in-law, called me the evening of July 27th. His voice forbode bad news. My mind raced to all the possibilities as he asked me if I was alone, and as I closed the office door. I told him I was and he told me of the evening's events.

Michelle had laid her firstborn baby down for a nap at about 4:30. After some time she went in to check on little Grace, now just a week shy of 3 months. And there she lay, not breathing. As easily as you just read this e mail, in a matter of seconds, Grace departed from this world into the presence of God.

We were stunned. We wailed. We wept. We asked why. We walked in circles in the house. We held one another. We gripped ourselves, wrapping our arms around in a tight body hug, trying to keep our heart from exploding.

Pam, Melissa, and I were on a plane the next morning; we made it to Nebraska before midnight on the 28th. Our hearts felt like stones within us, but we did what we could to maintain our composure.

We buried our first grandchild a few days later.

The pain we felt from death's stinger is much abated now. It's still there, to be sure. There are still certain triggers that cause our emotions to overflow. But we do not dwell on the pain. We have a blessed hope in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I once heard of some heretic who went to a Southern Baptist seminary to speak. This pea-brained and dead-spirited man had the gumption to tell that crowd of men and women that he believed babies were divided into two classes. Should they die, one of those classes of babies goes on to heaven; the other goes to hell. The trouble with his shock theolodgy was, aside from the sheer madness of it, there were women and men present whose babies had died in the past few weeks and months. Those men and women had come to chapel for a fresh word of comfort; their hearts were wounded. And this foolish man was Satan's sharp sword to reopen those wounds.

I am far more Calvinistic in my theology than I am anything else. But God help the man who looks me in the face and tells me my 3-month-old granddaughter (or anyone else's) is burning in hell! There is enough pain in death without such heresy being spewed onto wounded spirits.

Life moves on. We are learning to enjoy the sunsets again. We are learning that pain is lessened by "group hugs." We are learning that resting in Jesus is the only sure way to make it through a time like this. We are learning that we have more friends than you can shake the proverbial stick at. We are learning that Jesus also shares his love with us through their love. We are learning the importance of faith, of walking in the Spirit (before calamity comes), and of the power of prayer.

Above all, we are learning that the sharpest part of the spear on death's shaft went into God's heart. We feel a small part of the sting Jesus felt for us. By faith we await the day we will walk the roads of heaven, hand in hand with Grace Elizabeth. Until that day, we let the Holy Spirit rub our hearts with the healing balm he carries in his hand.


Michael and Kristi Rains said...

Kevin, I will be the first to break the silence. By doing so, I by no means imply that I understand or know how you feel. As a hospital trauma chaplain in my former career, I have stood with, cried with, and even been on the floor with families that experienced what you are experiencing. During this part of my ministry, I learned the power of presence. Most people will never remember any words you say but they will remember that you stayed with them during a very difficult time. I want you to know that we are with you in spirit and are lifting the whole family to the Father. As I read your blog, I could hear a song in the back of mind and wanted to share it with you. It is a song by Rich Mullins. I pray that it will minister to you.
Hold Me Jesus

Well, sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big and my faith just seems so small
So hold me Jesus cause I’m shaking like a leaf,
You have been King of my glory
Want You be my Prince of Peace
And I wake in the night and fear the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul, I swear there must be blisters on my heart
So hold me Jesus cause I’m shaking like a leaf,
You have been King of my glory
Want You be my Prince of Peace
Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight you for something I don’t really want
Then take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees
And the Salvation Army Band is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin
So hold me Jesus cause I’m shaking like a leaf,
You have been King of my glory
Want You be my Prince of Peace

Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...

Michael and Kristi,

Thanks for your words. It's interesting that you used Rich Mullins' song. Michelle and Kory wanted that in their funeral service for Grace, but for some reason we could not work that part out. It's very special and meaningful to them, and now to us.


PHICKS said...

Next week will be 10 years since we lost our 8 month old son. During the time of his illness, i kept a prayer journal. A year after losing him, I ran across the journal, picked it up and began to read through it. I felt the need to make a "final" entry. As I listed all of the things about Sam that I missed, I realized I also missed the presence of God's hand on my shoulder. Sometimes if someone has a hand on your shoulder, you may forget that it is there. But the moment it is removed, you remember that it had been there all along. It was as if God was saying, "it is time to move on".

I still miss Sam, as do all parents and grandparents miss their children who have passed on before them.

We can have comfort from the scriptures about where they are now. David said upon the loss of a child that the child could not come back to him but that one day he would go to where the child was (and is). David was looking to spend eternity with God.

Also, when the children of Israel disobeyed God by not entering the Promise Land, He said they would all die in the wilderness. However, the children where allowed because they had not yet known sin. The hisory of Israel teach us much about God and His mercy. I am thankful for His mercy.

May God's comfort and peace be with you and your family in the days, weeks and years ahead.

GuyMuse said...

Kevin and Pam,

I simply couldn't believe it when we received the prayer request to pray for you all in the death of little Grace. I wrote immediately our prayer rep asking for details of what had happened, and my wife and I both have been praying for you guys ever since. May God's GRACE, that He so mysteriously took away, be given back to you in its other form of comfort, strength, and renewed committment to love and serve Him.