When a Child Dies

I am a happy person.  I greet everyone I meet with a smile and talk to the cashiers at the grocery store.  I like to think that I have a better than average handle on why God made us and what we should be doing while we are here.  I understand and accept a lot of the busy work that goes on at church in order to socialize and pass the time until we are called home at the end of our lives.  A lifetime of work, mistakes, accomplishments, failures, and things left undone must be weighed against the knowledge that no mater what we accomplish here, we will die.  We look forward to a reward, a forgiveness, a homecoming at the end of our lives.  There is an order to it all that is understood, birth, childhood, manhood, old age, and death.

Nothing shakes me more than the death of a child.  It is violation of God’s covenant with me to ever let a child die.  It is a break in the natural order, the promise of life, it is a violation of the rules. It causes an anger to swell up in me that if I were able to materialize it would suck in all matter within miles and forge it into an explosive reckoning of such magnitude that all in its path would be destroyed to the molecular level.  It shows me what I am capable of doing if given God like power over matter and time and it frightens me to the core of my very soul.  

What it doesn’t do is lessen my belief in God.  It does strain my faith, but not my belief.  It tells me that the love of God is not captured by learning, or by long hours of prayer, or by attaining wisdom, or strength, or fulfilling goals, or tithing, or passing tests, or walking on water.  It is by faith alone that we are saved and here is no greater faith on earth than the faith of a child.  A child knows that he will be fed, that he will be held, and that he will be loved. If we live long enough our faith will cause us to love.  Not the lust or the longing kind of love but the love that is the decision to take care of those around us about whom we care.

The natural progression of life is not the accomplishment of the final goal but the fruit of the faith with which we are born.  I have been told that I am naïve.  I am not real sure that I don’t believe in Santa Claus.  I do believe what people tell me.  It is a childlike quality and I hope that I never loose it.  It is important to tell children the truth because they will believe what you tell them with faith strong enough to move mountains.  

There are very real limitations here in this small universe that God gave us in which to live.  The reality here in which we interact with our freewill can and often does kill us. This reality is necessary for us to have freewill and this means that tragedy will happen.  We must forgive each other and ourselves for whatever disaster occurs even if we have taken the life of a child.  

I have witnessed the burial of children as young as one week and as old as seven years.  These are children that God loved.  Though he created the air and the earth and the water in which they lived, he did not cause them to fall, or suffocate, or drown.  He did not take them.  He did not need them more than we did.  We sent them to him by accident.  I know that he is happy to have them and that he is sorry for us because he has seen all to many marriages broken by these deaths and more than a few suicides.  The English language doesn’t even have a name for a person or a couple who have lost a child.  It is a condition that we pretend cannot occur or surely we would have a noun with which to name it.  Have you ever gone to a friend and said,” I’m sorry that your daughter died?” Have you ever said to someone,” I’m sorry your baby died.” I haven’t.  I’ve said,” I’m so sorry.” many times, but never any more than that. It is too cruel a picture to paint even with words.

But it still remains, the child is dead.  A child whose life was already complete in God’s eyes.  The faith of a child is all that is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven.  A life complete before it is even started.  In a reality in which time is so critical to our existence, in which minutes, and months, and decades mark the fleeting existence that we call life, to even entertain that a life can be complete in minutes, or hours, or weeks, or a few short years, is obscene to us.  Yet in God’s time a million years is but a second and a second is an eternity because there is no such thing as time in God’s world.  

When you think of it without the yardstick of time, life is only now, whether a second, a year, or a century.  It is only now, and for some of us that is all we get.

Pat Bratton