Praying for grieving parents

As our 40 days of prayer for children continues, I am thinking of two mothers who are friends of ours.

28 years ago in the heat of July a baby was born to a young mother. Later she reported to her friends that a nurse told her to cherish every moment. Even the bad ones. The nurse said that someday she would miss those moments. Their life together had a few hard moments. Things didn’t always work out. Sometimes the timing was off. But her baby grew and she grew and time passed. She hurried home from work to have time with her little boy. The years passed and he became an adult. And then one night she found herself in the hospital holding his hand and listening to the rhythm of a ventilator helping him breathe. The doctor said, “I’m sorry. We did everything we could.” She struggled with how she could say good bye to her baby. But that night wasn’t the time to say good bye. They received the gift of more time. Cancer and treatments followed with no breaks for birthdays or holidays. The road was bumpy with lots of ups and downs. Almost a year after that night in the hospital, she posted a single sentence on Facebook: “After a year of battle, Tony passed away last night.” The youth group that continues to support each other 30 years after their high school days was quick to respond with notes of condolence and love. Other friends chipped in with notes as well. The love and the support are deeply appreciated, but they do not quell the depth of grief that floods over his mother.

It isn’t the way the world is supposed to work. Mothers are not supposed to outlive their babies.

It isn’t the first time death has visited the members of that youth group. Her cousin, who was a member of the youth group passed away a few years ago. Another member of the group who became a mother lost one of her twins who was born with multiple health issues and died in infancy. They are strong supporters of each other, but the pain and the grief and sadness and darkness are real. The road ahead is long and tough.

Thinking of her, I could not help but think of another friend of mine, one who is the age of her son. This young friend lived a nightmare that many parents have only visited in their dreams. She went to check on her 2 year old and discovered he was not breathing. Trained in CPR, she immediately administered first aid, followed by an ambulance ride and a harrowing night in the hospital. The next day there was a transfer by air ambulance to a higher level of care in a distant town. She, too, had to hear the doctors say, “We’ve done everything that we could.” They continued life support until arrangements could be made for organ and tissue donations and the life of her son ended way, way too soon. Her husband held her as she sobbed. And now there is never a day when she doesn’t think of her baby. She looks through the pictures - and there are a lot of happy pictures. She listens to the friends and relatives who say that her memories will be her friends, and the pain will not go away. The darkness threatens to overwhelm her every day. She goes to work and she comes home and she thinks of what might have been.

People say things like “God needed another angel,” and it makes her angry at God. People say things like “You’ll get over this,” and she doesn’t want to get “over” her precious little one. People say “You’re looking good,” and she doesn’t feel good at all.

Today I am praying for children who have become adults who have lost children.

It is a powerful reality of the Christian faith that we understand God to know exactly what it is like to have a child die. The cross toward which we turn is a constant reminder of the crucifixion of Jesus whose life was ended by those in power. God knows the tears of a grieving parent. God knows the pain of the constant thoughts of what might have been. God knows the dark days that cloud vision and hide hope.

Our father, whenever we begin our prayers with those words, we are reminded that you know the realities of being a parent. You also know the pain of watching your son die. So we do not need to tell you the stories of our friends who are walking in grief over the death of a child. You are with them in every aspect of their experiences. You weep with them as they wonder about the meaning of having loved so deeply for all too short of a time.

Remind grieving parents that this is not the end. Remind them of the simple truth that love never dies.

As their memories become their friends and companions in ways that they never though would be possible, help them to feel the pulse of life in the midst of grief. As their grief demands more time and energy than they knew could be demanded, give them your strength. Give them your consolation. Give them your peace.

We know that you embrace their children in your everlasting care. We know that you treasure them a deeply as their parents. We know that you grant them peace in a way that is not possible in this life. And we give you our gratitude for accepting their lives as complete and acceptable and welcoming them into your realm where they are united with all of your faithful people of every generation. Remind us once again that love knows no limits of time or space.

You, who hold every child in your tender loving care, embrace all of the parents who have experienced the death of a child.

And, gracious God, give us the vision and strength and presence to reflect a bit of your love as we reach out to comfort our grieving friends.

Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!