Thursday, June 23, 2011

Losing Memories of Your Child

We recently received a thoughtful and honest letter from another grieving parent. The parent retold her very sad story of losing her child while the child was sleeping at a day care provider. The parent recounted to us how, a few weeks following her son's sudden death, she "lost it" when she realized that she was beginning to forget all of the “little things” associated with her son. Whether it was the smell and feel of his skin, the color of his eyes, or the sound of his voice, all of these things were becoming lost in her memory.

We can relate to this unique aspect of grief. Over the past two years, Heather and I have similarly struggled with not merely losing our son in death, but losing bits and pieces of our memory of him as well. Once your child is gone, it seems that you begin, almost immediately, to forget those “little things” that make the child unique. I’m glad that Heather and I made it to a point to sit down together soon after Micah’s death and write down everything we could remember about our son, so that as years pass and new memories compete for the same neuron space between our ears, we will never forget all of the unique traits of our first-born son.

Last year, we attended a grief group at a local church. One of the leaders of the group told us that, as we have more children, the memories of Micah, our deceased son, would "merge" into the memories of our subsequently-born children. While the leader meant to comfort us with this promise, it was not comforting. Why would we want our memories to merge together? Is it because we want to dull the pain of what we have lost? To avoid squarely face the truth that we have lost a son, a child who God uniquely created and whose attributes will never be duplicated? No, I think parents do better long-term in their grief when they can remember and recount what makes his or her child unique.

As I have previously discussed on this blog, all of the parents I know who have lost children appreciate the opportunity to talk about their deceased child. Perhaps our appreciation for the opportunity to talk about our deceased child comes from this underlying desire to never forget what makes our child special. Regardless of whether the child was old or young, big or small, a good sleeper or a night wailer, a talker or a watcher, we want people to know and understand the beauty that God displayed in creating each of our children. We want to remember everything about our son Micah that God chose to use to make him unique.

In the end, Revelation 21:5 tells us that Jesus will “make all things new.” I’ve wondered what Jesus will do with our memory when He “makes all things new.” Will the restoration of our memory be part of God's restoration? Will he give us full memory, or only selective memory? Will Heather be able to remember every single sweet moment with Micah, and not have to deal with the terrible memories of giving Micah mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then to watch him die? Or will we be so transfixed in the present act of worshipping God, face to face, and overjoyed with the presence of lost loved ones like Micah that we will have no need to rely upon memories of the past to add to our worship of him? Speed that day, Lord, when faith becomes sight.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Trusting God for the Salvation of our Infant Children

At various times over the last two years, I have struggled with the issue of Micah’s eternal salvation. While there is strong Biblical evidence for the salvation of infants (the subject of other future blog entries), most of these references are only indirect references. There are no direct, unambiguous promises in scripture that children who die in infancy are saved by reason of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I’ve struggled with God over why He did not say anything directly about this issue in scripture. God, could you have not spared just one sentence somewhere in scripture to give us certainty on this issue?

Gradually, God has given me confidence that He has saved Micah. This confidence did not arise out of a new interpretation of passage or a clever argument. God has impressed upon me the importance of simply trusting in His goodness and mercy towards us, his elect.

Obviously, an infant doesn’t need to know whether or not scripture says they are saved. The Bible doesn’t need to include a promise for these illiterate children in order for God to save them. For us parents, I have come to believe that the issue is not whether there is enough “proof” in scripture, but whether we will hold on, in faith, to the promise of God’s goodness to us, even through the storms of doubt, despair, anger and pain. I believe that even if there was an unambiguous promise in scripture about the eternal destiny of our children, many parents might still question the goodness and mercy of a God who allowed an infant child to die. Therefore, the battle is whether those of us who would otherwise question God’s goodness will submit in faith to God’s demonstrated attributes of justice, love and mercy.

The issue of our child’s eternal salvation is a specific example of what all of us are called to do—to submit, in faith, to the ways of a loving and merciful God. For those of us who have lost our children, we place our hopes for seeing our children again squarely on the goodness of God. As the Psalmist says about God, “Though art good and doest good.” Psalm 119:68. We place our lives, our hopes our dreams, everything about the future in the hands of a sovereign God who only does good for those who love Him. Romans 8:28.

Too much of my life has taken the form of unfaithfulness. Whether it has been demanding a specific response from God, or questioning His ways, I have acted unfaithfully towards my God, a God who has always loved me and orchestrated my life for my ultimate good. To demand a specific response from God explaining his ways, whether about my son’s seemingly premature death, or any other trials we might face, is a lack of faith. It means we are requiring God to fit his behavior into our beliefs of moral righteousness and justice. Instead, we should be living in faith knowing that ALL that God does is good.