Finding Redemption At A Baby Funeral
I spent the afternoon at a baby funeral. It isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last.
I walk with families every week who are saying goodbye to their baby or child, and I’m personally no stranger to loss, having lost three of my own children. What I get to learn in the moments when we’re stripped of the masks we wear to get through the day, when a soul is laid open and bare before me…whether at the bedside of a laboring mother or in the heart-wrenching testimony of God’s grace and redemption from the heart of a father at the funeral of his only child…is immeasurable. Immeasurable beauty has been woven deep into the human spirit. We are created by God with an infinite capacity to hope and to survive. And, as we stand amidst the ruins of the dreams we once held for our lives, God whispers a promise to redeem all, to restore all, to rebuild all.
I met baby Grayson’s mother and father on Valentine’s Day. She labored for about 36 hours. I was with them for about 20 or so. He spoke with a tough and endearing Boston accent. He felt all the feelings a father feels as he watches the woman he loves in physical and emotional pain he cannot fix. Helpless, angry, protective, sorrowful. He felt all the years of his own childhood and adulthood riddled with broken plans and dreams…a longing for redemption that seemingly would come wrapped in the life of his son. His one and only son. And, yet even that would be taken from him. He made her laugh in impossible circumstances. Their smiles told a deeper story…the story of a love that had survived trials, an overcoming, abiding love. She was a picture of strength and grace in the midst of the storm. In those hours when I am welcomed into the most sacred of spaces with a family, pieces of their story become a part of my own and I become a tiny part of theirs. Encounters you don’t get in the everydayness of life. We walk past a person and barely notice. But, time stops when a baby dies. Time stops at the end of our earthly lives, for a moment. And, we reflect on that was…all that we hoped for…all that could’ve been…all that will be.
Part of my job is to be a safe space in the place where heaven reaches down to kiss earth and time swirls with the past, present, and future. The other part is to help create within that space a time of celebration of the life we are about to welcome earthside, to capture the memories and the story, to help the parents get back a tiny piece of what feels stolen in that moment when we hear that a tiny heart stopped beating. I was honored to companion these beautiful parents and grandparents as they waited to meet baby Grayson…to capture the joy they felt when they met him, to help them get footprints and handprints that forever testify as tangible evidence that this very loved little boy lived here.
And today, I was greeted with hugs and gratefulness from Grayson’s family. As his grandparents read the words shared in our Walking With You for Grieving Grandparents book, they found sentiments that resonate in their own hearts. For a grandparent carries not only the grief they feel at the loss of their grandchild, but the pain of watching their child endure an agony they cannot fix. As Grayson’s brave mommy read a poem from the Dreams of You book about all that parents wanted for their sweet baby, I was overwhelmed with the beauty and strength shining from her momma-heart. Grayson’s daddy then gave his testimony…a powerful story of redemption and God’s grace. You’ve heard it said that there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still (Corrie Ten Boom). Not even the pits we dig for ourselves. He told a story of a life filled with regret and struggle…alcoholism passed down from father to son. Hitting rock bottom again and again…struggling to rid himself of the illness that gripped him. Even losing his love for a time. When God brought them back together through his precious stepdaughter, and through the years as he found sobriety, God gave him a son. And although all of his plans to redeem what had been broken in his relationship with his father would not come through years of a relationship watching his son grow up on Earth, there is still redemption. There is still beauty. There is still hope. Because for the time they had him, they loved him well. Because in the moments of great adversity…love and strength and grace prevailed. Because they filled the moments they were given with great beauty and songs and kisses and special gifts meant for their boy. Because they loved him his whole life. And, because he lives on. Because love lives on. And, because the impact of his life echoes throughout their lives and into eternity. We have the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, because he lived and he lives. And, in the midst of their great grief, they embodied the gift of hope and promise of a future filled with love.