Saturday, February 5, 2011

Grief and Blessing - Anchored in the Eternal

- Peter, to Jesus: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life!

Sarasota, Saturday afternoon:
This was a hard one. I can still see it clearly, standing in a quiet graveyard in the rain, holding an umbrella over Rebekah as she speaks to the small crowd of family and friends gathered around the tiny grave.

Audrey Rose - my niece Hannah's baby - had been doing very well for a little over six months, growing steadily in her mother's womb and waiting for the day she would make her official entry into the family. She was already deeply loved, prayed for, cared for, celebrated and widely anticipated. But then, one sad day this week, a blood clot formed in the umbilical cord and Audrey Rose died.

She was perfect. So very tiny, and weighing in at less than a couple of pounds, Audrey was beautifully formed in every way. There's no need for academic or politically loaded arguments about "the exact moment life begins" if you see a picture of little Audrey Rose. Life, God-breathed, not just latent but loaded, a spirited child, both of Spirit and with spirit.

And so we gathered in the rain around a small grave and in the face of unfathomable love. We came to consider life and to grieve loss and to receive encouragement; we came to affirm the gift that life is, to minister to one another in the name of life, and to ask God hard questions - questions we didn't really require to be answered but that we needed to voice all the same.

Rebekah spoke. She read scripture. She prayed. She committed Audrey's tiny body to the earth. And she shared good words of life; words of eternal life. Our lives cannot be measured or evaluated in the limited language of chronological time. "Living (on earth) alone is not enough of an explanation for LIFE..."

Rebekah said that everyone - irrespective of their religious persuasion, or their interest in Christianity, or their inclination toward the particular practice of faith that we understand -  everyone feels some intuitive response or sense of angst or aching need for some story of truth to fill a nagging void at times like this...

Each one of us has a unique story that can only be fathomed when understood in the context of the Greatest Story Ever Told. Audrey Rose not only is a story, but she has a story too.

Our spirits, mine and yours, are anchored in the eternal. Audrey is now experiencing such completeness of love and she is being nourished in the presence of Jesus.

But to witness such pain in people we care about so deeply! My niece Hannah knelt in the dirt - unconscious of the rain and the mud - to place the tiny coffin in the ground. And she cried with her husband, Andrew - along with little Haley and Hudson - as they tenderly took their leave of this particular hope and promise. And they placed rose petals where the body lay. And the immediate family released pink balloons that floated out over the live oak hammock and into the brooding sky....

I always feel especially close to God at times like this. I believe that moments of birth and of parting - and this was, in a sense, both an introduction and a farewell - are moments when it is unusually simple to reach out and touch divinity.

The point of God in the face of grief is the reality of God's presence more than a corrective intervention designed to make our lives easier or more to our liking. God with us is God for us. God was certainly for the extended Roberts-Maul family today.



Steven Clark said...

There are no words to adequately cover such a thing. Thank you Derek for giving the structure without telling how we should think or feel about it.

13 years ago, my granddaughter Skylar was born and 4 hours later she died. When a little one dies it leaves a hole in us that we didn't even conceive was possible. My heart goes out to your niece and her family. And may Audrey Rose have eternal memory

With the saints give rest, O Christ to Thy child Audrey Rose, where sickness and sorrow are not, neither sighing but life eternal.

Grace maul said...

Thankyou Derek for writing so sensitively and Thankyou Rebekah for leading the beautiful Service ! We grieve but not without Hope ! God is a God of Comfort .!

Janice Phelps Williams said...


Thank you for sharing your family's story and Audrey Rose's story as well. My parents lost a son who lived about six months. His potential and promise have always been missed.

Much love to your family at this time of sorrow, reflection, comfort, and peace.