Resources for grieving parents and their families

This week our family received the devastating news that my cousin’s 2 year old daughter passed away after battling SCID and the complications of a failed bone marrow transplant.

I’m listing here all the resources I know of geared towards parents who have a lost a child in case the grieving parents ever find themselves looking for resources.

This post is two fold as I’m also including tools and resources geared toward helping the family and friends of the bereaved support their loved ones.

There is a part of a blog by a mother who lost her daughter Emily at 7 months old. I was referred to this blog in the early days of my own grief and 6 years later I still follow it. Also contains a devotional based on the Psalms for grieving families.

https://www.raisingarrows.net/the-grieving-mother/

Steven and Mary Beth Chapman lost their five year old daughter and have been public with their grief including the music album Beauty Will Rise and the book Choosing To See which I’ve written about in the links below. Here is their story-

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/facing-crisis/holding-tight-through-the-loss-of-a-child

This is a list of resources- blog posts and books

http://www.epm.org/resources/2017/Mar/14/resources-those-whove-lost-child/

This past May as we remembered what would have been our son’s 6 birthday my sister in law sent me this article;

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/letter-to-a-parent-grieving-the-loss-of-a-child

Here is a link to a post I wrote titled “books to read during when you’re grieving”- https://snowinlove.wordpress.com/2017/05/16/books-to-read-when-youre-grieving/

And also a list of music- https://snowinlove.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/grief-lamentation-and-worship/

For those wondering how to comfort your grieving loved one,

https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2017/08/comfort-grieving-friend/

Nancy Guthrie and her husband lost two children at six months of age and her website is a ministry both for those who have experienced loss and also for those who love someone who is grieving.

http://www.nancyguthrie.com/about-nancy/

This ministry hosts a get away retreat to minister to grieving parents and yesterday I listened to the video on the home page of the website titled “what grieving people wish you knew” that I think is spot on.

Much love to those who are suffering tonight, I am praying for you.

“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor. 1:3-4

 

Written in loving memory of Lia Rose 9/9/15 – 9/15/17. Forever in our hearts

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Contentment and idols of the heart

At the moment I am enjoying a serene moment with my children sitting in the sandbox playing and me sitting in a lawn chair. This lovely moment really feels like a gracious gift from the Giver of all good things. The gentle breeze, the sound of geese in the distance, my children’s imaginations, the freshness of the air, the serenity of the woods. These are extravagant gifts from God that I am so unworthy of and yet I often fail to even notice them. To be honest when I stepped outside with the children I was feeling pretty grumpy because I was looking at all the yard work that’s not done and thinking what a mess the yard is. If I’m perfectly honest what came into my mind was a friends recently purchased home with a beautiful yard in a cooler area of the country and what came into my heart was covetousness or as the Bible also calls it, idolatry. (Col. 3:5)

What pricked my conscience so badly and grabbed a hold of my idolatrous heart and yanked it back into repentance and thanksgiving was this poem I’ve never read before by 8 year old Fanny Crosby who was accidentally blinded by a physician as an infant; (I read it in Randy Alcorn’s book Happiness)

Oh, what a happy child I am,
Although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world,
Contented I will be.

I’m ashamed that a blind 8 year old would choose to be happy in spite of her disability when I so often fail to even have that same resolve.

As a child Fanny told her mother that even given a choice she would choose to remain blind so that the first face she would see would be the face of God.

Oh to have faith like a child!

Try inserting your own trials into this poem. For me it would look something like this;

Oh, what a happy child I am (child of God in this case since I’m an adult!)
Although I bear the grief of child loss and the daily struggle of a chronic disease
I am resolved that in this world,
Contented I will be

Then use your God given imagination to replace these trials with the glory of endless bliss and healing in eternity with Christ.

Fanny looked forward to the primary joy of seeing God and the secondary joy of restored sight. Just think, in the presence of God surrounded by the family of God I’m going to get to see my child alive, find out what color his eyes are and taste food with out injecting insulin. What a cause for celebration! What gifts the Father has lavished upon me! What hope and joy and happiness I experience today because I’ve been promised that coming day!

2 Cor. 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

1 Thess. 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Dear Heavenly Father, The Creator and Giver of all good things,
Forgive me for covetous thoughts and discontentment. May things I desire never become idols, distracting me from seeing all the good things You’ve given me. Thank you for my life, for my family, for my home, for food and clothing and all the endless provisions in my life. Most of all, thank You for the provision of Your Son Jesus who was crucified on my behalf and rose again, forever making intercession on behalf. Make me to be content with my life and circumstances. I believe Your word when it says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me and that I can be content in whatever state or circumstance I am in. Work the power of the Holy Spirit in me. In the name of Jesus my Saviour I pray, A-men

Books to read when you’re grieving

Like the collections of songs I put together in the last post I wanted to put together a list of books that I have read that have encouraged and helped me in my grief journey and pass it along to you.

 

(this last one is actually a workbook/ Bible study)

I asked few of my friends who have lost children if they could recommend any books and a friend said she had read this one and recommended it.

Many of these books are written for/ by parents who have lost children but some of them are not. I would say though that even the one’s written by grieving parents are applicable to anyone who is suffering.

grief, lamentation, and worship

As I said before, this month marks 6 years since my son Titus was born and passed away. This is a collection of songs I call, “Titus’ music” because in those early days I listened to these particular songs over and over again. I was listening to them yesterday and missing Titus but also thinking of so many of my friends who are grieving deeply right now. These songs are for them and for whoever else may come upon this in a time of pain.

I can’t be her big brother

“Mommy..” she asks everyday, “will you play with me?” I don’t know how much guilt parents usually have associated with that question from their child but for me it is huge. I think, “If her older brother were alive she would have someone to play with.”

She’s playing in the sand, her little brother is not up for the imaginative game she wants to play. “Mommy, I wish someone would play with me.” I immediately feel like I have to step in and be who her older brother would have been to her. I play the game, I build the blocks I do whatever it is she wants trying desperately to fill the hole the loss of her older sibling that she never knew left in her life. Except I don’t have the energy of a 6 year old boy and I’m not half as fun. I feel guilty for that. I wish I could change the world and history and give back to her the big brother that she never knew but that should be here.

“I wish I had a big brother to play with,” she told me the other day. I feel guilty for not being enough for her and for not being able to be her big brother or bring her big brother back and the guilt feels suffocating. “Yeah me too honey,” my throat tight, trying to sound light hearted as I push back tears.

I wonder how I will feel as T.J grows up. Right now his sister can’t stand his rough housing and constant need to wrestle and I miss the presence of a big brother who could knock him around some like boys do.

Last night we sat down as a family to watch a show. I looked at the beautiful children on either side of me and at my husband. My eyes meet his and I could see the sadness I felt reflected in his eyes. “We have a beautiful family,” I said. “Yeah we do,” he answered. The rest we didn’t have to say aloud, “but there’s one missing.” We squeezed each others hand as if to say, “I know, I feel it to.” It’s random moments like these where the sense of loss is overwhelming. The emotion is an odd one, where profound joy and grief is happening at the same time existing together in this thing we call life.

I think often about how Jesus was “the man of sorrows” and anointed with the oil of gladness above all his fellows. (Heb 1:9) In Jesus sorrow and joy coexisted perfectly and I have to look to him each day to know how to do it.

Parenting after a loss is complicated and it each year brings new levels of grief and complications. The other day I showed E some pictures of Titus and did my best to explain in 4 year old language who he was and what happened. We haven’t kept it a secret from her, we’ve always talked openly about him but I think it was the first time she ever really processed it in her mind because I think seeing the photos made Titus into a person instead of just a name to her. She asked a few questions and once she was satisfied she ran off to play.

She’s been thinking about him and our conversation though. A couple days ago we went to the park and when another child came up to play E immediately said, “Titus died. He was a baby. He’s in heaven. I don’t know how but one day God will make him alive again.”

How simple. “I don’t know how but one day God will make him alive again.”

Oh to have faith like a child.

So what’s my conclusion to this post? There is none. The pain is still searing, the guilt is still paralyzing.

One day though I will be healed. It’s not today and it won’t be in this life. One day though…. I will stand with my feet on the new earth and ask, is this the spot Lord? Is this where he was buried? And then I will truly feel it as my faith is made sight. I will truly ask, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” I will see with my own eyes everything made better by our gracious God and the sting of death will really be gone. It won’t hurt any more.

May is Titus’ birth month. The 17th is his birthday. He would have been 6 years old this year. I’ll probably be writing about him more than I usually do. Pray for me.

 

 

 

 

A shadow of things to come…

A couple weeks ago we meet with Lizette from Capturette Photos http://www.capturettephotos.com by the train depot down town to take some family photos. I wanted to come up with a creative and meaningful way to include our son Titus who passed away at birth May 17, 2011. He has been in heaven for almost 6 years now. I have seen photos like these floating around the internet and I knew this was what I wanted to do. I feel so emotional looking at this because I get to show the world how we see our family. We do not see us as a family of four, we see our family as a family of five.

In the past I have held a lily of the valley (May’s birth flower) in memory of Titus in our family photo’s. I didn’t like it as much though because while I was holding it and looking at the camera I didn’t know whether to smile or cry. I liked this pose and actually copied it exactly from one I saw on-line because you can not see the emotion on our faces. It just looks like our family. What hit me so emotionally was that the shadow of the little boy is looking up at me. I guess I didn’t expect that. It looks so playful, just as I imagine Titus. It makes me wonder, does he miss me too? I see some indications in scripture that the answer could be yes. There are people in heaven asking God ‘how long’? I don’t want to yank that out of context and apply something to it that isn’t there but judging from that passage in Revelation it seems the saints in heaven are in anticipation for everything to be made right and new like we are.

I’ve titled this photo, ‘a shadow of things to come’ (Colossians 2:17).

This is one I’m going to get printed to hang up in our home. I’ve really wanted to hang up photos of Titus but I go back and forth about it. I have a friend who when you walk in her home she has the beautiful photos of her daughter done by now I lay me down to sleep http://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org beside the photos of her other daughter. It’s stunning and beautiful and heart breaking all at the same time. For me, when I put up photos of Titus it’s just too much. It’s too real, he’s too “there.” It feels like I can reach out and touch him but then I can’t and the grief becomes paralyzing. This photo is a little less real, it’s a form and shape that represents him but I can’t see his cleft chin or how much he look like me or any of the details that I carry in my heart but are too painful to have constantly before my eyes but out of reach. Expressions are grief are unique to each individual and my own expressions of it vary at different times.

For the first few years, I had photos of him up everywhere, I didn’t go any where without a photo of him incase an opportunity came to show off my beautiful son. Over time though, it became more raw than comforting. I pull out his photos occasionally but I don’t really need to. Every detail of the few photos I have I have memorized. Each moment of interaction I had with him, his body, I play as a movie in my mind, I feel the weight of him in my arms. I still remember his scent and I can smell it when I think of him. The way his hair and skin felt on my lips. I can recall what he felt like laying on my chest.

Anyways, this is already more than I intended to write about this.

We see through a glass darkly my sisters and brothers, but one day these dark shadowy forms will turn into clear understanding. We’ll worship our God and to quote Stephen Curtis Chapman, “And we’ll sing holy, holy, holy is our God And we will finally really understand what it means..”

When I first heard that song I thought it meant we will understand what our circumstances and tragedies mean but later I realized that was not what he was saying. He’s saying we will say, “holy is our God” and we will finally understand what that means. We will finally see God in all His holiness and nothing else will matter.

Overcoming Discouragement

I’ve been really discouraged today. Without going into details, something happened this morning that I wasn’t expecting that left me really depressed all day.

I’ve tried to push through and get done everything that needed done the after getting back from a family trip, but it’s been hard to keep my mind on any task because this situation has really upset me.

This afternoon I said to my husband, “If I could only refocus my mind on the fact that Jesus is coming back soon this situation would seem small and wouldn’t have the ability to upset me.”

“Yep, that would be a good thing to think about.” he replied.

Sunday we meet with some friends of ours at their home church in St.Louis. We left so energized in our Christian walk after the men discussed verses reminding us that Jesus is coming back soon!

On the way home I commented to my husband, “When I think about Jesus coming back shortly all the trials in life seem so insignificant and easy to deal with in light of eternity.”

It was easy to say that while on the emotional high of fellowshipping with other believers but on Thursday morning when I faced a trial it wasn’t quite as easy to remember and have that same outlook.

Here are a few verses I’m going to meditate on this evening. I need reminded of an eternal perspective and God’s blessing on me if I handle this situation in a way that honors Him. Be of good cheer my friends! Jesus is coming for His bride!

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
1 Corinthians 15:52 – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 Peter 2:19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

1 Peter 2:20
For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

 

Also remember to pray and cast your cares upon Jesus for He cares for you.

(photo of the Arkansas River taken from Petit Jean Mountain)

 

4 years ago today. Pregnancy and parenting after a loss

4 years ago today I got a positive pregnancy test.

I called my mother in law, it was her birthday. “Happy Birthday,” I told her. “How about for your birthday we give you another grand baby?”

It had been a year and almost 3 months since the birth and loss of my first born.

I still can remember how bad I was shaking that morning, how scared and vulnerable I was. How much I desperately loved this new life and missed my firstborn.

That morning I went into the pregnancy resource clinic I volunteered at and after all the other staff and volunteers had brought up their prayer requests I announces by asking for prayer for my poppy seed sized baby.

I was in such a daze that whole day, on the way home I ran a red light.

That high risk pregnancy after a loss was hard to say the least.

The days, the hours even of that pregnancy dragged on. When she wasn’t moving I was afraid she was dead. When she was moving I was afraid she would strangle herself with her chord.

I survived that pregnancy mentally by taking it one day at a time. I worked hard to control my blood sugar for that day, for that meal to keep my baby healthy. I couldn’t look ahead in my mind to a baby, I was too afraid. Instead I looked forward to pregnancy milestones; movement, sonograms, setting up the nursery, buying clothes, doing a gender reveal.

I also kept myself really busy. I volunteered as much as I could at the pregnancy resource clinic doing my best to help other people which helped the days go by and keep my mind off my own fears.

I talked to people on line in a group for women who were pregnant after a loss. I reached out online to moms who had lost babies the same way I had.

It was a time of surrendering continually to God as every day I had to acknowledge that this child belonged to Him and I had to surrender this child every day to Him.

I wrote Amy from raisingarrows.net as part of her Ask Amy and she wrote this post in response:

 

“Ask Amy – Fear and the Healing Process After the Loss of a Child
FEBRUARY 9, 2013

healing after child loss

It seemed appropriate on the eve of the 5 year anniversary of our daughter’s Home-going that I should answer this particular question.

Two readers submitted questions that, while not entirely similar, were of the same topic…life after the loss of a child.

One reader had lost a child at 7 months (the same age our Emmy was) and wanted to know what we had done to heal from her loss. The other reader lost a son due to complications of childbirth and was pregnant again and wondering how to deal with the fear she was feeling.

For me, the fear was one of the most ongoing things I needed to heal from. In fact, it continues to be something I must give to the Lord over and over again. Just this past week, I sat up late into the night praying through my fears as I held my newborn son. I know I will never fully conquer this fear this side of Heaven, but I do know God is big enough to handle those fears and walk me through them.

The past 5 years have been wrought with ups and downs in the grieving process. Here are a few of the things we have done to help us heal and gain victory over our fears.

*Write, write, write. On my Grieving Mother page, I have a lot of links to articles I have written, many of them typed out through tears. I grieved through my writing and I encourage every grieving mother to do the same. It doesn’t have to be a public blog. It can be a quiet journal tucked away by your bedside. Mothers need a place to write their deepest thoughts and feelings without judgement.

*Cling to the Lord and each other. I wrote Psalms for the Grieving Heart because I knew grieving families needed to cling to the Lord during their grief, but they more than likely couldn’t handle lengthy Bible studies and/or devotionals. Music was very important in our healing as well. Songs like Blessed Be Your Name and Be Unto Your Name brought us to tears, but helped us praise the Lord in the middle of it all.

We also grew as a family. We never hesitated to speak of Emily. Even our children who were not born when she passed away know of her and speak as if they remember her. And Ty and I clung to each other. We often found that when one of us was weak, the other was strong.

*Grieve how you need to grieve and say what you need to say, but do it in a safe place. My husband and a select group of friends are my safe place. I know I can say anything to them. I know I can grieve and they will listen and hug me and pray for me. Unfortunately, those who grieve often hear rather thoughtless words spoken to them that can cut like a knife. Don’t open up to those kind of people. Even if they do not mean to hurt you, it is best to only grieve openly with those who understand.

*Don’t do anything hastily, but do keep working through those difficult things. It took me several weeks to take Emily’s clothes out of the closet and put them in a box. It took me 2 years to finally go through them all and tidy them up. There are still places we do not go and things we do not do. We’re just not ready.

There came a time when we felt ready to go back to the city where Emily died. It was hard. We cried. A lot. But, we did it. And sometimes I have been ready to take a step forward before my husband, but I have chosen to wait until he is ready. We do this together even though we heal differently. I have to respect his difficult things just as he has to respect the things that are more difficult for me.

*Focus on serving others. Once the brunt of the storm is passed, it is so very important we begin to serve others with the same comfort and love we were shown. I have sadly watched women cling to their grief as a security blanket, never letting go and reaching out to others. It is okay to find joy. It is okay to live again. It is okay to heal.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that I never cry and I never miss Emily and I never feel like my heart is going to break in two. When you’ve lost a child, there’s never an end to your grief. But, I can attest to the fact that with the Lord’s infinite mercy, you can heal. Ask Him to fight the fears for you. Ask Him to steady your feet on this path. Ask Him to show you what He wants for you.

And thank you, my dear readers. for allowing me to share my precious daughter with you. It is my hope and prayer that her life and her death and how her daddy and I have walked through it all has glorified the Lord and encouraged others along the way. She was such a blessing to us and we will never be the same because of her.”

My water broke 6 hours before her planned c-section. Her delivery was rough as the medical staff denied me insulin and I went into ketoacidosis. Her blood sugar was so critically low she was dying in my arms as I begged for a sugar IV for her and finally the pediatrician showed up late yelling, “Get an IV in that baby!”

There was a lot of joy and a lot of healing in her birth and she gave me a reason to live again. The grief was more intense than we ever could have imagined though. Every one of her milestones was and is a continually reminder of all we lost with her brother. Raising a child after a loss is a continual paradigm of so many conflicting emotions.

Today she is 3. She is daring and passionate and likes pancakes and going to the park. In those rare moments when she is still, I feel her in my arms, listen to her breathing and smell her sweaty hair. I thank God in absolute amazement and awe at the fact that she is here and healthy. I trace my fingers up and down her arms as she begs for more tickles and can not believe that she is really mine. At the same time I still have to acknowledge every day that ultimately she is not mine and that she first belongs to God and is in His hands.

I also now have the privilege of spoon feeding mushy stuff to the 9 month old next to me as I type this out.

If you are pregnant after a loss, I’m so sorry for all you have been through. I pray God comforts you and gives you peace. Remember, God promises grace for today and for the moment and tells us not to worry about tomorrow. Take a deep breath and take some belly photos celebrating today and now.

Steven Curtis’ song Miracle Of The Moment was my mantra in my first pregnancy after my loss.

Its time for letting go
All of our if onlys
Cause we dont have a time machine

And even if we did
Would we really want to use it?
Would we really want to go change everything?

Cause we are who and where
And what we are for now
And this is the only moment
We can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

Theres only one who knows
Whats really out there waiting
In all the moments yet to be

And all we need to know
Is Hes out there waiting
To Him the futures history

And He has given us
A treasure called right now
And this is the only moment
We can do anything about

So breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

And if it brings you tears
Then taste them as they fall
And let them soften your heart

And if it brings you laughter
Then throw your head back
And let it go, let it go, yeah
You gotta let it go
And listen to your heartbeat, yeah

Breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

Breathe it in and breathe it out
And listen to your heartbeat
Theres a wonder in the here and now
Its right there in front of you
I dont want you to miss the miracle of the moment

 

 

Delivered

My heart is pregnant and heavy with you, as I was the night I labored with you, for you.

My soul in the travail of labor

Until I get to hold you, finally,  on the other side

Each day a more intense contraction

The ticking clock a crescendo of anticipation

Under me I feel the damp rocky clay as I stand bare foot at your grave.

Holy ground.

It’s cool and the soft rain makes it even colder.

Startled, my bowed head jerks upward. I hold my breath.

I shake violently as adrenaline begins to course through my body.

Transition.

That was unmistakable. I fall to my knees and hands raised shout, “Hallelujah!”

The notes I have been waiting for tear through the atmosphere, filling the sky, louder, purer, higher than any earthly noise

The earth under me begins to shake and with the terrifying strength of Jehovah splits open wide.

Crowning.

And in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, there you are being raised whole before me,

I weep tears of thanksgiving and rejoice as I meet you in the air with the Overcomer of the grave.

I can finally rest from my labour. You are finally delivered.

And so am I.

 

I finished this poem near midnight, 5 years to the hour that my water broke with my first born child Titus Bristow.

Today on his birthday I remember that our great God is not the God of the dead but of the living. I used to not know what that phrase meant. When Titus was laid to rest during a severe thunderstorm, Tanner’s grandpa keep shouting to make himself heard over the sound of the thunder and the rain, “God is the God of the living!” “God is the God of the living!” I understood then that it means we never die. Today, Titus is living a full exciting life in the presence of the Lord and one day all things will be restored and his body will be resurrected. I don’t know if I will sleep in Christ or meet him at his second coming but either way, I’m full of hope, looking forward to that blessed day.

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began”

Titus 1:2

 

 

Samuel Rutherford on childloss

I recently read this letter written in 1628 by Samuel Rutherford, a Scottish Presbyterian Pastor. It is addressed to a woman who had recently lost her daughter and who it sounds from the letter had also lost other children. It’s wording is a little archaic because it was written 388 years ago, but it contains a lot of truth that is applicable and encouraging today.

 

I want to note that I read an abridged version of this letter that changed ‘O blessed Second’ to ‘O blessed Savior.” I don’t think the reference of ‘blessed Second’ is to mean Christ was second to God, it sounds to me that it is a reference to Christ as the Second Adam. 1 Corinthians 15:45-47  “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthly; the second man is the Lord from heaven.”

 

My favorite lines from this are, “for you daughter was a part of yourself; and therefore nature in you, being, as it were , cut and halved, will indeed be grieved; but you have to rejoice, that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.”

“Go through all fires to your rest,; and now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and he is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away, frustrated of his design. Now honor God, and shame the roaring lion, when you seem weakest.”

and

“Lift up your head; you do not know how near your redemption doth draw.”

 

 

To A Christian Gentlewoman
[on the death of a daughter]

Anwoth, 23 April 1628

Mistress:

My love in Christ remembered to you. I was indeed sorrowful at my departure from you, especially since you were in such heaviness after your daughter’s death; yet I do persuade myself, you know that the weightiest end of the cross of Christ that is laid upon you, lieth upon your strong Saviour. For Isaiah saith that in all your afflictions he is afflicted [63.9]. O blessed Second, who suffereth with you! and glad may your soul be, even to walk in the fiery furnace, with one like unto the Son of man, who is also the Son of God. Courage up your heart; when you tire, he will bear both you and your burden [Psalm 55.22]. Yet a little while, and you shall see the salvation of God.

Remember of what age your daughter was, and that just so long was your lease of her. If she were eighteen, nineteen, or twenty years old, I know not, but sure I am, seeing her term was come, and your lease run out, you can no more justly quarrel against your great Superior for taking his own, at his just term-day, than a poor farmer can complain, that his master taketh a portion of his own land to himself, when his lease is expired. Good mistress, if you would not be content that Christ

would hold from you the heavenly inheritance, which is made yours by his death, will not that same Christ think hardly of you, if you refuse to give him your daughter willingly, who is part of his inheritance and conquest? I pray the Lord to give you all your own, and to grace you with patience to give God his also. He is an ill debtor who payeth that which he hath borrowed with a grudge.

Indeed that long loan of such a good daughter, an heir of grace, a member of Christ (as I believe) deserveth more thanks at your creditor’s hand, than that you should murmur, when he craveth but his own. I believe you would judge them to be but thankless neighbours who would pay you a sum of money after this manner.

But what! do you think her lost, when she is but sleeping in the bosom of the Almighty? Think her not absent who is in such a friend’s house. Is she lost to you who is found to Christ? If she were with a dear friend, although you should never see her again, your care for her would be but small. Oh now, is she not with a dear friend, and gone higher, upon a certain hope that you shall in the resurrection see her again, when (be you sure) she shall neither be hectic nor consumed in body! You would be sorry either to be, or be esteemed an atheist; and yet not I, but the apostle [I Thess. 4.13] thinketh those to be hopeless atheists who mourn excessively for the dead. But this is not a challenge on my part; I speak this, only fearing your weakness; for your daughter was a part of yourself; and therefore nature in you, being, as it were, cut and halved, will indeed be grieved; but you have to rejoice, that when a part of you is on earth, a great part of you is glorified in heaven.

Follow her, but envy her not; for indeed it is self-love in us that maketh us mourn for them that die in the Lord. Why? because for them we cannot mourn, since they are never happy till they be dead; therefore we mourn on our own private account. Take heed then, that in showing your affection in mourning for your daughter, you be not, out of self-affection, mourning for yourself.

Consider what the Lord is doing in it; your daughter is plucked out of the fire, and she resteth from her labours; and your Lord in that is trying you, and casting you in the fire. Go through all fires to your rest; and now remember, that the eye of God is upon the burning bush, and it is not consumed; and he is gladly content that such a weak woman as you should send Satan away, frustrated of his design. Now honour God, and shame the strong roaring lion, when you seem weakest.

Should such an one as you faint in the day of adversity? Call to mind the days of old; the Lord yet liveth; trust in him, although he should slay you. Faith is exceedingly charitable, and believeth no evil of God. Now is the Lord laying, in the one scale of the balance, your making conscience of submission to his gracious will; and in the other, your affection and love to your daughter. Which of the two will you then choose to satisfy? Be wise then; and, as I trust you love Christ better than a sinful woman, pass by your daughter, and kiss the Lord’s rod. Men lop the branches off their trees round about, to the end they may grow up high and tall. The Lord hath this way lopped your branch in taking from you many children, to the end you should grow upward, like one of the Lord’s cedars, setting your heart above, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father. What is next, but that your Lord cut down the stock, after he hath cut the branches?

Prepare yourself; you are nearer your daughter this day than you were yesterday. While you prodigally spend time in mourning for her, you are speedily posting after her. Run your race with patience; let God have his own, and ask of him, instead of your daughter, whom he hath taken from you, the daughter of faith, which is patience; and in patience possess your soul. Lift up your head; you do not know how near your redemption doth draw. Thus, recommending you to the Lord, who is able to establish you, I rest.

Your loving and affectionate friend in the Lord Jesus,

s.r.

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