I found myself at Kyleigh’s grave the other day and this time I was alone. I love going out there with the family. Taking the boys out there gives us a certain freedom to talk about her. I also enjoy talking about the other things that we see. Walking around we see tributes that other people have left to their loved ones and I think it helps the boys understand life. It certainly gives them a perspective most boys and girls their age don’t generally tend to have. My favorite thing is when we’ve been there for a few minutes, and Garrison asks, “Go see Jesus?” There’s a life-size Jesus, perhaps better said – there’s a person sized Jesus not far from Kyleigh’s grave and Garrison likes to walk over and see it. His statue is standing on an engraving of the 23rd Psalm, and there’s comfort in that.
When all of the family is not there however; and it’s just Leann and I, or when I’m alone, my thoughts are focused differently. I mostly think of Kyleigh; but often times I find myself thinking of God as well. The things that I think about quite often surprise me. On Thursday when I was alone, it wasn’t all that different from other times. I was sad for sure, missing her and longing for the day in the distant future when I’ll have the privilege to hold her again. I found my mind swirling, my grief overwhelming, and I found my thoughts stuck on the fact that she simply did not deserve this. She didn’t deserve to live for 39 weeks, 4 days in the womb only to depart her body just moments before her birth. She should have taken that breath, lived a long life and enjoyed the celebrations and milestones that we expect of all our children. I kept coming back to that word – deserve.
I saw this in the grief of the folks that would love her most deeply in the hours at the hospital following her birth. More than once I heard people say, “It should have been me, not her.” It’s a common reaction for sure. You see it on the news every time a grieving family member is interviewed in the hours following their loved ones death (most often with children or a teenager). There’s the expectancy of so much promise – so much anticipation about what life would have been like had their child been permitted one more day, month, year or decade. So I think we say it, even without fully knowing what we’re saying, “she didn’t deserve to die.”
It was then as I was sitting in the cool air beside her grave that it hit me like a freight train. What exactly did she not deserve? If I say that to deserve means to earn, is it really fair that I say that she didn’t earn death? Yet if death is nothing more than the separation of the body from the soul (as I outlined in the previous post), and we affirm that the soul is immediately taken to be with God upon our death (2 Corinthians 5:8; Luke 23:43), then is it fair of me to cry out that she didn’t deserve death? Do I really mean that she doesn’t deserve heaven? Surly that’s not what I mean; yet that’s precisely what I’m saying. To unpack this emotion, I need to pause briefly to describe what I mean when I say “heaven.” Biblically, heaven is described as:
- a place far better than earth (Phil 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8)
- a place of no sorrow (Rev 21:4)
- a place of no darkness (Rev 21:23, 25)
- a place of no sickness (Rev 22:2)
- a place of no death (Rev 21:4)
- a place of perfect bodies (Phil 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:51-53)
- a place of completed salvation [i.e. glorification] (1 John 3:1-2; Rom 8:30)
- a place of many mansions (John 14:1-3)
- a place of everlasting service (Rev 22:3)
- a place of abundant life (John 10:10; 1 Tim. 4:8; Rev 22:1-2)
- a place of overflowing joy (1 Tim. 6:17; Luke 15:10)
- a place of grand reunion (1 Thess. 4:13-18) – “Christians never say a final good-bye; rather, it’s ‘so long – I’ll see you there.’”
- a place of incredible beauty (1 Cor. 2:9; Rev 21:18-21)
- a place of eternal rest (Rev 14:13)
- a place of eternal reward (1 Cor. 3:12-14)
- a place of indescribable glory (Rom 8:18)
[NOTE – I’m especially grateful to God for Dr. Norman Geisler’s, Systematic Theology – Volume 4, pages 298 and following on the Nature of Heaven.]
Most assuredly my sweet and precious daughter deserves all of these things! These are all things that I know she would want. They are all things that I want for her, yet these are precisely the things that I am incapable of giving to her. Only God, the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) is capable of providing the pathway to these things. As difficult as it is for me to write, I’m in fact blessed that she has these things now and wasn’t required to suffer the trials and tribulations of life before they were given to her.
I think that also explains the emotion, the reasons why we say those things. When we say our loved one didn’t deserve this, I think what we’re trying to say is that we don’t deserve this. What did we do to earn the pain and suffering that we must now endure because of the fact that she is no longer with us? It’s at this point that I’m forced to think again about the Cross. When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) I suspect He knew that He wasn’t forsaken. He’s God. How could He forsake Himself? It’s the same plea from David in Psalm 22:1 that was recorded centuries before Jesus was hung outside Jerusalem. It’s the same plea of my heart as I sit next to her grave and wonder why He welcomed her home and left me longing to be with her again. It was Jesus in His humanity feeling the pain of separation as God dealt with the problem of sin once and for all thus enabling us today to so boldly proclaim:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
A few months after our daughter, Sarah, died a very wise woman said to me that Sarah was so lucky to already be sitting at the feet of Jesus worshipping while we worship from afar. This woman pointed out to me (in much the same way you do here) that my sadness was not for Sarah but for myself. That helped change my outlook. I now rejoice in knowing that our perfect baby girl is in Heaven and I will see her again.