Grieving Parents

Welcome May 30, 2011
If you are a parent who has lost a child, someone who is in the depths of grief or someone learning how to live the "new normal," I hope that the following will be of some help.
When the Waters are Deep May 30, 2011
Howard Edington, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Orlando, FL preached this sermon after his twenty-two year old son John David died after accidentally driving his car into a tree during a rainstorm.
A Random Act of Violence May 9, 2011
This article is about how a church in Illinois is healing following the murder of their pastor during a Sunday service. There are interviews with the murdered pastor's wife, the worship pastor and the minister of pastoral care.
Where the Children Can Dance May 2, 2011
Philip Turner, a former dean of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale wrote the following meditation and read it at his son, Brendan's funeral. Brendan, was delivered after his death, with spina bifida, a cleft palate, and club feet.
Anne Elizabeth Kuzee March 18, 2011
Anne Kuzee died of cancer when she was thirteen. Jack Roeda, her pastor, responded first by acknowledging the abyss of despair and unbelief that could surround the moment. Like biblical lament, he does not soften despair with sentimentality, but also does not let despair be the final word.
Alex's Death March 9, 2011
William Sloane Coffin preached this sermon less than two weeks after his son drove his car into Boston Harbour.
When I Endure Grief February 14, 2011
This is an excerpt from Lloyd John Ogilve's book "Praying Through the Tough Times."
Casey William Alley January 20, 2011
The following is Craig Barnes's funeral sermon for Casey William Alley, a three-week old baby boy.
Giving Birth to Grief January 18, 2011
"Like a mother's pangs, the death of a child brings painful contractions and release." Jack Rehill is a pastor in Pennsylvania and this is his story of the last days of his son's life.

Anne Elizabeth Kuzee

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” John 11:21-25

Dear family and friends of Anne Kuzee,

It was not for lack of love that Anne died. She was deeply loved, and she dearly loved family and friends, and creatures large and small, especially horses.

Nor was it for lack of will that Anne died. She was full of determination, upbeat, spunky. “I will beat this cancer,” she said.

Nor was it for lack of medical treatment. For eight years Anne was in and out of the best hospitals. She was cared for be excellent doctors and wonderful nurses.

Nor was it for lack of prayers. Anne prayed, her family prayed. She joined her sister, Lisa, in California for a prayer and healing service. I remember one Sunday our chapel was full of people on their knees, praying for Anne. It was not for lack of prayers that Anne died.

We brought all we had to the table, we brought the best we had, and it was not enough. Anne has died, and our hearts are broken, our throats constricted. We want to cry, scream our loss, our frustration, our rage.

This past week in the newspaper a priest in Belgium, at a funeral service for two small children, is reported to have said, “Is our Lord deaf”? We are shocked to hear the question said out loud, “Is our Lord deaf?” But we know that question. We ourselves wonder, “Does God even care? Can we ever again live and pray confidently?”

There are people, perhaps some of you, who say that death, and especially the death of someone so young and promising, shows that we can never be truly confident again. Life’s great sadnesses convict them that we are not the beloved children of any Heavenly Father. They would say that it is best we accept that we are castaways, adrift in a vast ocean of space. There is no Father’s strong hand here, no safe harbor.

We are acquainted with such despair: even now we are afraid that it may enter and take possession of our souls. But we do not agree, and we have gathered here, in large part, to help one another to resist the darkness, to listen for God. We want to encourage each other to listen for him in the songs and in the prayers and in the Gospel readings. We have come here in the hope that where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, there he will be. A s a deer pants for water, so our souls pant to know that Christ is present and stronger than death.

We know death is strong. Who would deny it? It has taken Anne from us. It can steal from us nearly everything that is dear and precious. But for all death’s fearsome strength, the Christian faith says, it is not the strongest. Jesus Christ is. The drawing on the cover of the funeral liturgy, of Jesus and a child holding hands was drawn by Anne’s sister, Julie. And Anne would say, if she could speak to us, Jesus holds my hand, and don’t be afraid, he won’t let me go.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus makes a staggering claim: “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25). It tells us that the resurrection is no mere doctrine or holy possibility. Jesus himself is the embodied presence of that resurrection life. “I am the resurrection.” Jesus is God’s life to a dying world. In him death has been defeated, and to be sheltered in him is to have here and now the life that is eternal. Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” Martha said she did. So did Anne.

Dr. Diane Komp, a pediatric cancer specialist who teaches at the Yale University School of Medicine, became a believer in Jesus through the testimonies of children she treated for cancer. In one of her books, she writes, “A few years ago a close friend struggled with widespread cancer. On a drive to Boston following a chemotherapy cycle, we made many emergency stops. . . . One time, she got back in the car, looked up at me with a mischievous little-child grin to say, “This is going to sound very corny. The big C is not cancer: the big C is Christ.’”

An ancient Easter hymn makes a similar declaration:

Sin’s bonds severed, we’re delivered;
Christ has crushed the serpent’s head.
Death no longer is the stronger;
Hell itself is captive led.
Christ has risen from death’s prison;
O’er the tomb his light has shed.

The big C is Christ.
Before we moved to our present facilities, we worshipped in a school gym. In between the two morning services, I would sometimes sit in a large closet off the gym floor to collect my thoughts. While I was sitting there one Sunday morning, some children of the church began playing a game of tag outside my door. Anyone tagged was out of the game, but, as I heard the rules, if you had your hand on the closet doorknob you were safe. So as I sat there, more or less in the dark, I heard the children running and shouting and playing their game. And now and again I would one of them shout, “No, you can’t tag me. I had my hand on the knob. I’m safe; I’m not out.” Now years later at this funeral service, sitting more or less in the dark, we tell ourselves, Anne has her hand on Jesus. Listen . . . we can hear her: “I’m safe. Suffering and death cannot touch me here. I’m not out. I’m safe.”

We and Anne belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. It is our only comfort.

This posting is a chapter in "This Incomplete One: Words Occasioned by the Death of a Young Person," a book edited by Michael D. Bush. You can purchase it on Amazon.