This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to share. The grief our friends are going through is the most unimaginable. The grief we feel for our dear friends is deep. Yet, somehow, through God’s amazing providence, it is the greatest and most humbling honor to be able to share with you a story of faith and redemption in the very face of death. Our friends are grieving to be sure. But, their great faith bears witness to the great faithfulness of the Lord Jesus to be there in the dark times, to be there in their ongoing lives and hopefully revealed in the hearts of everyone who hears this story.
Below is the email that we received last week. May this illustration of faith move any pebble, stone or mountain that exists in our hearts that separates us from the great Redeemer, Savior and death Conqueror.
Hi Dan & Sarah,
I’m so sorry we haven’t had a chance to email you lately, so many things have happened in the last few days. Some very big, and painful things have happened.
On Friday, Cori put Tim (our 3 month old) down for his regular late-afternoon nap, and he never woke up. Yesterday was his funeral. It’s been a hard couple of days here, but we know God is good, and especially good when things like this happen. Tim has been spared all the pain, evil, sin, and destruction that this world has to offer, and he will only know unspeakable joy and love for eternity.
The coroner did a full autopsy and determined it was SIDS: basically, there’s nothing wrong with him, he was completely healthy in every way, no evidence of anything remotely wrong with him. We knew that would be the case even before the coroner did the autopsy, we knew he was healthy, and we also knew that this was just a piece of the puzzle that God has brought to us. It’s another part of our journey, and God simply decided He wanted Tim to be with Him immediately. Having the coroner pronounce it as SIDS was a relief, in a legal sense, however because the county prosecutor’s office had already begun an investigation and were ready to treat this as a full-scale murder if any hint of anything odd turned up in the autopsy. But in our hearts, we knew nothing could have prevented or stopped his death, because this type of thing is what God uses to show His love to the world.
Attached is the bulletin that I made for his funeral. I have occasionally made bulletins for churches before, for weddings or regular Sunday services or special events, but never could I have imagined making a bulletin for my own son’s funeral.
God has been leading us on an “adventure” with Him for the last several years, and He’s taught us so many things about life, pain, and trusting Him. Getting to know the heart of Jesus and his presence in us during the last few years has been getting us ready for this time. I don’t know how those who do not know of God’s unswerving love and His extreme passion for all people, could ever deal with this happening to them. Whenever the thought occurred to me of “WHAT IF… one of my children were to die” I always would say, “God please don’t do that, I can’t handle that.” And it’s true, I can’t handle it, of my own strength, I am powerless to deal with this. But God can, and only God flooding us with His presence and His goodness during this time can see us through.
For each of my kids, for every birth or when we adopted Sonia, as soon as the child was born and I was holding them for the first time, I would hold them in my arms and pray that God would use their lives in some way to spread the Gospel and that He would be glorified in their lives. I always pictured them going off to be a missionary in a jungle somewhere, or smuggling Bibles and encouragement to believers in hostile countries. Yesterday was Tim’s day to spread the Gospel at the funeral. I hope and pray that someone in that group that was gathered there will come to know Christ through it, or at least a believer will find and embrace a deeper walk with God and embark on their own “adventure” with God.
We are all dealing with the pain in different ways. I deal with it like a leaky faucet, sometimes the grief leaks out a few drips at a time, and then stops for a little, and then drips out some more. Cori deals with it like a firehose: when it can’t be turned on and left on, it just stays put, but then when that time of letting loose comes, it all comes out and runs its course all at once. We’re working with our kids, one at a time, to help them grieve also. Amy and Matt seem to be more like me, they have moments of sorrow that comes in waves, and then dries up for a little, and then comes again. Ben I think is more like Cori, he holds it in until he finds a time and way to work on it. The younger two, Bethany & Elyssa, really don’t understand anything except that they miss Tim. Sonia, however, is still coming to grips with it. She has her own 8-mo old son, and her heart knows that there is too much similarity there, and she is probably still in the denial stage. But Cori and I are keeping an eye on all of them,talking with them, giving them times to talk and times to be alone, to process thru it all in whatever way their hearts need to. They’re all a bit different in how they are coping with it. And I know that in a few years, their understandings will be even more developed and they will need probably to re-grieve through it all again as they grasp it better.
We have been so blessed by the Body of Christ, in every possible way. So many people have come to help with either funeral finances, or meals, or just being there to talk or whatever. I could not have anticipated the outpouring of God’s love like this through them all. Our tsunami of grief has been met head-on with a tsunami of holy, fervent, prayer and love.
I know you guys have embarked on a similar type of “adventure” and have gone down deep into that place in God’s heart where He wants you to be, and so I feel so free to share these things with you and I know you can appreciate what we say about knowing God and his love. God’s love is a powerful, strong, unyielding love that never bends, breaks, or weakens. It doesn’t sway or drift, it’s unmovable and solid. The ONLY solid thing in the universe! I would encourage you, because I know you understand this on a level some wouldn’t, that no matter how insanely painful something seems to be, that God is still there. He still loves you, and EVERYTHING He does is out of unimaginably huge love.
We can say that today so much more deeply than we could even a day before this happened. Even in the moments when we first found him dead, even as I attempted CPR & mouth-to-mouth on Tim, I knew Jesus was right there, I knew he was standing there beside me, telling my heart, “Tim is gone, he’s with Me.” When the EMT’s got to our house, and as they continued working on him, I knew without a doubt they would be unable to save him, because he was no longer there to be saved. He was already in Heaven; he was already making introductions to our other two children who went on to Heaven before in miscarriages. I stood watching them thinking, “Do they actually expect all this to work? He’s dead! God has spoken to my heart, Tim is dead, and with Christ this very minute. Nothing they do, no matter what, will bring him back.” At one point, Cori leaned against me and said, “What ARE they doing to him?” The head nurse at the hospital later told us they had given Tim 6 shots of epinephrine to try to restart his heart, because little children often respond to epinephrine pretty well and it restarts their heart. That much epinephrine should give a rock a pulse. But we had already started to find peace in knowing Tim’s location, and his joy and his happiness.
The waves of pain wash over me, sometimes like waves, sometimes like a tsunami, but I know this pain is really my own pain and my concern for my other kids and for Cori, I’m not hurting for Tim, he’s more alive now than he has ever been! I’m hurting because I will miss Tim, and so will the rest of our family.
In my mind’s eye, I do not see a baby. It’s kinda funny, he was born larger than any of our other children, and was already strong enough to lift and turn his head when he came out! I was amazed when I held him and watched him lift his head up like that. He put on the pounds rapidly, very big-boned and lots of chubbiness all around. My best friend, Steve stood beside me yesterday looking at Tim and through tears said, “Yeah, he was a big boy, wasn’t he.” But today I see Tim as an adult, in his prime of life, a tall, strong, powerfully-built man with a quick smile and handsome rugged features. A real man’s-man, with an arm around Jesus’ shoulder, laughing heartily. At the viewing, we looked at Tim and he just didn’t look like himself. Apart from his characteristic hair that he was born with so much of, his face only seemed to be “similar” to Tim. But not really Tim. The picture on the bulletin is how I saw him every day. The body in the casket was so much more a reminder that “Tim is NOT HERE!” Tim is not in that box!
The only need we have right now is just continued prayer for our family. I want to be sensitive to my kids’ needs and their grieving process, and I need God’s understanding on how to help them. Each one will be different, and I know they’ll live their lives remembering that they spent 3 wonderful months with Tim.
I hope my kids can also come to that peace and closure at some point soon, but no doubt there will be times in their lives that are harder than others with this. Maybe this type of thing will happen to someone they know, or to them some day when they have kids. I just know all I can really do about that is pray for them, and be there for them, and just try to be a real dad for them through it all. Only God can help me through this tsunami of pain, and only God can make me a good dad on a day-to-day basis. It’s all about God, himself; not just knowing what certain verses say about God or what commentators have said, but knowing God like you know your best friend. Not a list of God’s characteristics, not just words about God. Knowing God. That’s the only thing that allows this to make sense.
I know a lot of people have talked about “the questions this raises”, but to me, there are really no questions. Not that I “can’t” question God, He’s infinitely bigger than any question anyone could ever throw at Him. God is a very compassionate, thick-skinned, broad-shouldered God who is not offended and petty when someone questions Him, and He can easily handle questioning and anger and discontent directed at Him. It’s just that I don’t have questions because this does, in God’s economy, make sense. Why did God choose to take Tim? Because God would be glorified in it, because we’ve already started to see others flat-out shocked by seeing God’s love in action in this. God is displaying His love to many people this minute through Tim’s short life. I know of people who went through great tragedy, and have screamed WHY WHY? WHY? But, in my heart, there is no need to do that. There is no big “WHY?” because I know why. Not because I think I’m “something special” and I think I have all the answers. I have zero answers of my own. In human terms, nothing makes sense and this is all just a horrible mess without hope. But ONLY and ALWAYS, the answer is because God Himself is in it. God himself loves us, and it overwhelms our hearts.
I thank God that you guys are on a journey like ours in so many ways, because I feel like we share a bit of a kinship that I just can’t express to others. So many people said to us “There are no words to express how sorry we are”, but I just said to them, “I know, really. There ARE no words to express that.” I have no idea who half the people were at the funeral yesterday, so many of them were friends of my in-laws or my parents, all of them expressing their sorrow for us. But I know with you guys, you see the deeper meanings and the deeper issues at work here. Oh, how I sincerely hope no one I know will ever have to go through anything like this, but I just pray that it will help others to grasp just a little better how good God is, how GOD IS LOVE and that He is unshaken by anything. There is no denying the pain, but we are not destroyed by it. I’ve heard of people who lost a child and eventually committed suicide over their grief, but we know our grief is only for a time. We will always love and miss Tim and sometimes wish he were still with us, but when I think of the beauty of what Tim is experiencing, I would not want him back here again and rob him of the love he is experiencing through God, and expressing to others in the presence of God right now.
God is so good.
Thanks for listening to me ramble. If you know anyone else who might benefit from our testimony about God’s love in hard painful times, please feel free to share this with them. Tim only had 3 months, but I hope his story reaches people well beyond that and can bring those who don’t know Christ into the Family, or to deeply touch and encourage other believers who God is calling to go deeper.
May this story of faith cause us to go yet deeper into the arms of Jesus…to ask this question each day, “what more would you have me do for your Kingdom, dear Jesus?”