Last week I attended a funeral. Without providing too many details, let’s just say it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to witness. She was my grand-niece. She was the daughter of my nephew. Her name was Savannah.
She was just six years old.
We’ve all heard the phrase that one of the greatest tragedies in life is for a parent to bury their own child. After seeing it first hand, it’s absolutely true. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can compare to having to buy a burial outfit or seeing your own child in a coffin.
Or saying what is truly a last good-bye.
Yet the strength I saw in Savannah’s parents borders on inspiring. Maybe they shed most of their tears in the days leading up to the funeral. Perhaps they made the extra effort to display a strong presence in front of friends and family. Maybe, the realization of losing their daughter hadn’t truly sunk in.
Don’t get me wrong. They cried. We all did. But this was no funeral where people gathered around to celebrate a life and to tell funny stories about the deceased. No. We truly mourned a death.
I hope this doesn’t make me a bad person, yet as I watched everything happening around me – the slideshow of pictures, the flowers, people supporting each other, the telling of stories – I couldn’t help but to imagine myself at my own son’s funeral. My own 4-year old who was running around in his Sunday best almost oblivious to what was truly happening.
How would I hold up? Would I be consolable? Could I even be there in the first place?
In situations like this, people continually ask the question: Why? Why do things like this happen? Why would God allow it?
I’ve long stopped looking for those answers. I think it’s a waste of time to ponder “God’s plan”. Does He have one? I’d like to believe so, but I know I’m certainly not capable of understanding it.
But back to the topic at hand.
We’ve also all heard the phrase that time heals all wounds. No one knows how long it might take for Savannah’s parents to recover emotionally and there certainly isn’t a right or wrong way to heal from something like this. Nor, unfortunately, is there a manual that can be referred to. It’ll just take time.
For the rest of us, all we can do is hug our children. To love them more than ever before. To appreciate all the happiness they give to us – whether they realize it or not.
And to never, ever, take for granted that they’ll be around long after we’re not.
Great words Mr. Miller.
Thanks Brian. I appreciate the compliment…
Beautifully expressed. I think it’s absolutely normal to think about what it would be if it were your own child. I have found that every tragedy that befalls a child affects me more deeply only because I imagine the same thing happening to my own child. I think that comes with parenthood. A little over a year ago, two of my daughter’s classmates died suddenly within one week of each other. The boy, my daughter’s chemistry lab partner, drowned in a kayaking accident on Lake Michigan. The girl, a friend of my daughter’s since kindergarten and a former student of mine, died of an undetected heart defect. I remember thinking the same things about the parents. The girl’s mother was clearly being physically held up by her son, but I was incredulous she was even aware of her surroundings. The boy’s parents actually participated in their son’s memorial mass (his body wasn’t found initially; he was fund a week after his memorial mass). I was again floored that his parents even had enough consciousness to be aware enough to participate. Those parents all taught me something about the human spirit. It seems so fragile but it is miraculously strong. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on something so personal and tragic.
Well put on the human spirit. Still, I certainly don’t ever wish to ever put it to a test like that.
“But this was no funeral where people gathered around to celebrate a life and to tell funny stories about the deceased. No. We truly mourned a death.”
Beautifully stated, Mike.
It is terribly distressing when anyone loses life too soon.
Thanks Rod. No doubt, by anyone’s definition, 6 years qualifies as ‘too soon’.