We’ve lived so long with the curse of this earth that we’ve failed to recognize it in our daily lives. Like a fish being asked, “How’s the water?” and responding, “What water?” It’s there but nobody sees it.
Death begins the moment we’re born. We grow toward it and don’t notice until its effects begin to draw us down, down to the grave with gravity. But those who have lost a child — in the prime of life — now know the water. We are swimming in it and we see it everywhere.
We recognize the curse of this earth and wear it as a mantle around our shoulders. That’s why everyday things just don’t matter. That’s why intimate songs about God and the grave, heaven, and victory make us cry in church.
It’s not because we need to turn the page. It’s because all the pages of our child’s life were turned at once and we saw their Divine end, one a parent should never have to see.
So we live at that end. The reality of the curse. The reality of heaven. The reality that our time on earth is but a sentence on a page and our eternal lives matter most.
Longing to get there — to the rest of our lives where victory and our child reside — we patiently endure.
And while we’re waiting you may interpret our grief as being stuck or our joy as having moved on. No, any joy is but a respite God graciously gives us from the grief we will ever carry in our hearts. Any sorrow you see is us working through our earthly assignment until the end of our days.
If our sorrow had been given all at once it would’ve killed us. Like Jesus in Gethsemane who was “sorrowful unto death,” sorrow can really truly kill you.
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” Matthew 26:38
God sent angelic help to Jesus to nurse Him back to strength so He could make it to the cross, but God does not send a physical angel to help us. Instead, what would kill us is first filtered through a state of shock, then paced out over a lifetime. Similarly, Jesus had compassion for His closest friends, telling them:
“I still have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” John 16:12
Our Lord is mindful of how much sorrow we can bear at one time. He metes it out over the course of our lives as we work through it — this mighty weight of grief that landed at our feet that eventful day.
Do you know a parent 40 years out, at the end of their days? You will all but have forgotten the day their child died. If remembered it will only be to conclude, “They have finally moved past their loss and lived joyfully in their final chapter.” I promise you, the weightiest thought in that parent’s heart is that after all their sorrow was parcelled out in merciful installments over 40 years, they are now going to be with the one they lost, and the One who took him home.
So when you see a parent with child loss, think of their joy as a respite and their sorrow as a grief installment. It was Mercy that opened their eyes to the true state of this world. They aren’t turning their back on God. Out of necessity, they are closer to Him than most because they now know the water. Then attend and consider against all mortal economy — who is to be pitied now?