When the casket is too small.
I drove my habitual route to the memorial today. My mind and emotions were somewhere between dread and disbelief when I looked up and noticed I was stopped in a long line of traffic on University Ave. Out my window, just yards away I could see hundreds of people gathering for Ball State graduation today. Parents and family members walking toward the accomplishment of another chapter complete, another milestone checked off, and another long awaited moment commenced. It was there, in a caravan of caps and gowns, that the stark reality hit. They won’t see him graduate from college. They won’t see him start Kindergarten. They won’t soothe and swaddle his way into this world. So…much…loss, wrapped up in a 34 week boy born into heaven before he was delivered onto earth.
It’s days like today I need my blog. Days when the human condition turns cold with sorrow and injustice. For me, the best comfort is to open a blank sheet and let the words spell out new hope.
The memorial was a loving tribute to a short life. The parents of the boy in the urn held each other and we held them. It was honest and hopeful, sad and beautiful. In our collective presence, we acknowledged that the right words wouldn’t be found. Words were not our gift. Our presence is what mattered.
As I drove home, the BSU graduation ceremony had ended. The caps had been thrown, the gowns discarded for shorts and flip flops. Another tear fell because today is for crying and grieving and feeling deeply.
At home, I was greeted by a seven year old boy with a mission. A mission to hug me so hard I would fall over. (I guess because that’s what sounds great to 7 year old boys and he isn’t allowed to karate kick me). In the process he managed to laugh and kiss and hug away the tears that were still fresh. I locked him in my arms and realized I was wrestling with my purest love wrapped in skin. And it scared me. The ‘what if’ game started to play. What if he gets hurt? What if he hurts someone else? What if his casket comes before mine? On a day like today, fear sets in. How could it not?
Somewhere today there is a mom laying on a bathroom floor trying to get through first trimester nausea. Another is experiencing a restless night caused from an over-active goal kicker in the womb. Parents of unborn babies everywhere are counting down the days, making plans, rearranging life as they know it…all for love. And yet, there is also sometimes fear. I suppose because that’s what comes with loving someone else more than yourself.
Somewhere else there is a mom with a baby in heaven who is choosing between taking a risk or playing it safe. Can she trust her body to carry a life again? Can she trust God? Can she handle 38 weeks of pregnancy after what she knows? After what happened? Can she let herself love another unborn child? Her heart wants to love again…but there is fear.
Fear is a natural and appropriate response today. Fear means that we care deeply. But there is something beyond the fear, waiting for us. A place beyond the mind-games and what-if scenarios. 1st John 4:17 says “There is no fear in love”. LOVE Wait…not just any love. Don’t I prove that over and over? I fear and fret and worry over my kids riding their bike on the street, going to school with germs and jerks, and ok, really anything where they are not asleep with no covers or pillows, on theirs backs, in their beds. And…even then.
The love John speaks of here is Perfect Love. Perfect love is the very essence of God. He goes on to say, “Perfect Love casts out fear.” God welcomes us into the safe embrace of His perfect love and declares there is no room for fear here. Here, where His grace is enough. Here, where He can be trusted. Here, where His Love is bigger, deeper, and stronger than our own.
In a way, every casket is too small. Too small for the memories. Too small for the lifetime of experiences and joy it holds. Too small to give back the hopes and dreams piled high inside. Age doesn’t matter when we sit together knowing that life on earth is short.
My heart aches today. I ache for parents who held their babies for a moment instead of years and for widows and orphans and….. But, even with an achey heart and weak words, I am praying against fear. I am praying we all press in closer to God’s perfect love rather than our own flawed, injured, human version. I pray our love to those in sorrow and grief would be a barrier against fear. Let our friendship and presence and love be a layer against anything that would stand in the way of God’s safe embrace.
Written with loving thoughts for Oliver, Carter, Amelia, Zoe Dawn, my baby brother Davis, our own middle daughter or son and the others gone too soon. I hope you are all singing and playing in heaven today. We will see you soon.