The intense July sun beat down relentlessly as we huddled under a faded green cemetery tent. Surrounded by simple grave markers, each one bearing the name of a little child, we sat in silence, wondering who they represented, how their lives had ended, if their moms and dads had been able to go on.
Not What I Expected
Since my children were small, I had daydreamed about the important and anticipated milestones in their lives: birthday parties, graduations, weddings, the births of their own children. I used to hold their tiny hands while nursing, imagining wedding bands on those sweet baby fingers! And I pictured myself during those events, too. I was the young mom decorating the Star Wars cake, the proud mama standing next to a smiling young man in cap and gown, the mother-of-the-groom, clutching a lace-trimmed hankie. But not once, in any dream, was I the grieving grandmother. That morning, I felt overwhelmed and unprepared. There had been no dress rehearsal for this moment.
The past few days had been painful. Instead of learning the gender of their new baby during an ultrasound, my son and daughter-in-law were given the heartbreaking news that their much-loved baby had died. Labor was induced and a perfect but tiny child was delivered into the arms of his grieving parents. I boarded the next plane and three hours later was greeted by both details of funeral arrangements and excited little grandchildren who were happy to see me. We talked, we cried, we tenderly held the tiny hospital treasures that had been tucked away in a special box.
So my mind raced as I sat under that tent. If I was not prepared for this time, how had I equipped my son? In all our years of homeschooling, there was no curriculum package that covered how to properly lose a child, how to comfort a grieving young mother, or how to explain the realities of life and death to little ones. Honestly, my perfect writing program and my award-winning math textbooks, once so seemingly important, didn’t even come to mind.
A Precious Remembrance
Slowly, a long white hearse wound its way through the field and stopped at the end of a narrow walk. My son carefully lifted the baby-sized white casket and brought it to those of us who waited. I could barely look at this dear young man; his heart was broken, his life would never be the same. I glanced down to see, inscribed on the side of the miniature coffin, the words from Job 1:
“The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.”
It was then that the Lord gave me the precious gift of a memory from long ago. I pictured my wiggly and exuberant children gathered around a paste-and-crayon-covered table. They were memorizing Scripture from their Awana workbooks, serious but silly, engaged but daydreaming. I wondered how anyone could learn Bible verses, let alone understand them, in the midst of such chaos. On the floor next to us was a giggling toddler and my own pregnant belly allowed me to barely reach the table. Loving and honoring both a sovereign God and his unchangeable Word was the greatest priority in our home. Loving one another, born and unborn, were simply part of who we were, day in and day out. These were the organic threads that held the tapestry of our lives together.
In those early years of homeschooling, I claimed a promise from Scripture. I didn’t pray for my children to achieve success as the world knows it. Rather, I prayed the truth found in Isaiah 55:10-11:
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (NASB)
In that moment, sitting in a dusty field and overwhelmed by grief, God showed me that he had, indeed, answered that prayer!