We’ve been worried about Noah. He underwent very dangerous surgery but came through it with the resilience of a blessed nine-year-old. The tumors were benign. The prognosis looked very good for him to have a long and healthy life. He was moved from ICU to a private room last night.
This morning he passed away.
Emotions riot at such times. We ask why, knowing there is no answer. We think of him, his parents and his brother, and our hearts are ripped open, raw and wounded for and with them.
We remember the last time we saw him, all of them, the occasion, the conversations, the laughter. Now we feel the pain and shed the tears.
The practical issues will be dealt with in time, but for now, emotions reign. We know he’s heaven bound. That he isn’t alone but in the palm of the purest love. We know he hasn’t left home but gone home.
And yet we mourn. For the loss of him in daily life. For his family. For those who love him, and those loved by those who love him. We think of their pain and the emptiness they are feeling, and we pray that God will mercifully fill that space with peace, and we regret that the season for mourning coincides with the season for celebration of Christ’s birth. It offers reassurance, yes, but to a freshly grieving heart, all that is felt is the isolation and loss, the pain, and so the season of comfort and reassurance is not now, but will follow after this season passes.
Some will offer platitudes and well-intended words, hoping to offer some germ of something that will ease the suffering. Their efforts will be appreciated, but the suffering remains. Grief is a merciless master and demands its due. It can’t be ignored or denied; at best, only postponed for a time. But it returns. It always returns. And only after it has can the healing begin.
I watched my mother bury a child. I’ve watched too many friends bury their children. The pain runs so deep it can’t be pinpointed or expressed. Not with words. It’s like describing faith or love. Every attempt falls far short.
One thinks of seemingly strange things at such times. Thoughts of the gifts for the child waiting at home under the tree. Gifts he will never open now. Of his parents looking at them, and doing something with them–the symbolism of which is letting go. Of doing so knowing that a parent truly never lets go of a child. A parent endures the loss and survives it, but always remembers. Memories burn strong forever in that mind, in that heart. Tormenting and heart-wrenching long before they become fond and comforting.
This I know, and I think today of Noah and in particular of his father, whom I’ve known well since he was in high school. I know that never again will life for him be the same. Never again will Christmas be the same. Not for him, not for his other son. There will come a time when life and Christmas will be good and laughter will again fill his home, but that will take time, and even when it has, he will always remember the child gone home, first with inconsolable grief, then with a sad, empty ache. With time, with tugs at the heart, and then with wistful longing for what was a bright and shining time in life that is no more.
These passages each will be difficult, but finally comfort will come, and eventually with it dulling the sharp pains to dull aches he will find acceptance. And then there will be room in his heart again to hold joy. Then, Christmas will again hold joy. He’ll still remember, still speak a Christmas wish to his child and feel pangs of sadness that he isn’t with him, but heart will also embrace hope and joy and laughter.
My wish this morning is that grief is tempered and the only Comforter who can comfort comes to them all and sustains them, strengthens them, consoles them in their journey to acceptance and to peace.
Until then, I’ll pray for them, and cry with them. Godspeed, Noah.