"Children are not supposed to die...Parents expect to see their children grow and mature. Ultimately, parents expect to die and leave their children behind...This is the natural course of life events, the life cycle continuing as it should. The loss of a child is the loss of innocence, the death of the most vulnerable and dependent. The death of a child signifies the loss of the future, of hopes and dreams, of new strength, and of perfection."
- Arnold, J.H. and P.B. Gemma. A Child Dies: A Portrait of Family Grief. Philadelphia, PA: The Charles Press Publishers. Second Edition. 1994.
Yesterday I spent the day thinking about and praying for Antoine and Mathy and their family. I knew that the funeral was going to be sad and poignant, but I did not expect at all for the undignified tsunami of grief that was shown by the family. The funeral was led by their pastor at a local community church; the pastor is white and the church is very multi-generational and diverse. The service was beautiful and reflective and many shared (including myself) about God's promises and goodness. Then at the end, the undertaker came to take the tiny, open casket and the mother, Mathy wanted to see her baby one more time. This opened a wave of grief that could not be contained and she cried and screamed for the rest of the service and through the following time at the cemetery. She wailed and cried out to God and her baby as if the death was happening again right before our eyes. It was so fresh and tragic to her and I believe she shared her grief openly as was accustomed to her culture, French from the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of the beautiful parts of the service was during the time of sharing when a woman from the back, sitting began to sing a praise song to God and the Congolese persons all shared in the song, including Antoine and Mathy. Then again during a wave of open grief from the family as they lowered the tiny casket into the ground, friends broke out into another French song, reminding us all of the family left behind in the DRC. Before the sand was shoveled over the casket, Antoine asked to share some words, which were to say goodbye to their daughter and to tell her that nothing separates any of them from the love of Christ. Then we all watched as the casket was covered with dirt and flowers were put onto with a cross bearing Lauren's name. The entire sight was devastating and unfair to this tiny life that had not even begun.
Antoine and Mathy's two children, Onesie age 5 and Christ age 3, were there the entire time, and were very well-behaved and a bit somber, although surely unable to fully comprehend what was happening. Although, Antoine did say when we spoke later last night that the funeral and burial helped them to understand now that baby Lauren is gone now forever with Jesus. The children will surely think of their baby sister, but do not understand the loss, whereas Antoine and Mathy have a long journey of healing ahead. I cannot begin to understand their present pain, but I do know with certainty that God is holding them firmly in His hand and that they will not be shaken beyond what they can bear. They are firm on the Rock of Christ and affirmed that with the funeral service that they fully planned. They will continue ahead when they are ready with lives that serve and bless God and others, but want to walk these days of grief with proper speed and attention. I spent many moments with them throughout the service and burial and feel privileged to be so close to these dear people. Surely there is a long journey ahead with them and I pray for the wisdom to know how to navigate the steps ahead. I do believe that the freshness in my mind from Kieren's accident gives me a particular push to help in these desperate moments as I know others helped us to survive during our darks days. This is what community is all about, and I am honored to do for others a tiny piece of what was done for us. Even more, in the community of God , we walk with a hope that never fails us and a peace that holds us in the greatest of storms. I do not feel overwhelmed or hopeless but I know that my God is big enough to carry even this load.
Thanks for your support and continued prayers for this dear family.