When a Child Dies #10
This excerpt is from my book Megan’s Secrets and is used by permission:
We live with grief. Life doesn’t turn out the way we expect, and we suffer the loss. The health we expected into old age is suddenly lost. The child we thought was “normal” turns out to have special challenges. The teenager we love more than life makes destructive choices. The job we worked hard for is suddenly lost in a downsized economy. The marriage we thought was perfect turns out to be wearisome. The one we love so much dies. Rachel keeps weeping for her children.*
The years roll by and grief changes. But it doesn’t leave. And sometimes it sneaks up and bites us unexpectedly.
Long before I’d ever heard of Dick Hoyt, Megan was my frequent companion as I trained for marathons. She loved the feel of the wind and the up-close view of the outdoors. As I ran and pushed, she clapped her hands, sang little bits of her favorite songs, and would occasionally yell, “Hey, I’m Megan!”
I didn’t know how much I missed those running experiences together until ten or eleven years after her death. On the Sunday that our congregation is full of parents dropping off children at college, I took the stroller (which remains in an honored place in the garage) as a prop to talk about the challenge of letting go.
But in both services, the moment — the MOMENT! — I touched the stroller, I melted down. Through the years, I had some emotional moments while preaching. But never like this. The memories were just too strong.
What I’ve learned about grief, though, is this: it’s the only way. I can’t ignore it; I can’t set it aside; I can’t pretend. I must grieve my way through the sorrow and the loss. Painful as it is, grief is a gift—a part of the healing process.
It allows me to remember; it forces me to remember how strong love was and is; it slowly—slowly!—allows me to imagine a new future. And it keeps me dependent on God, eventually looking back over the many miles and realizing how true the words of the Psalmist are: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
This is not a naive, Pollyannaish joy. This is the joy of those who have known deep loss, who have wept the tears of Rachel, who have lived in friendship with others who allow the balm of healing to slowly work (and who are themselves part of that balm of healing), who have been turned by God back to life in this desperate world, and who have learned to hope.
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*See Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18. I write earlier in the chapter that Rachel is the “patron saint of all those who have lost a child, all those who’ve suffered greatly, all those who think God has forgotten them.”