A Father's Thoughts

As a father, having had my first baby taken by death over seven years ago, I now, find myself in a peculiarly similar situation – this time with Amelia. I know something of the shock, the sadness, the longing. I’ve felt of the peace and love that comes by the Holy Spirit and I know something of the healing that comes through time. It seems in some ways that I’m desensitized this time having already experienced a similar situation. Or perhaps it is not desensitization, but rather the different perspective that first-hand experience can bring. Nonetheless, it doesn’t change the loss I feel, the times I’ll wonder what she would be like at age 2, at 6, and at 16 as the years pass.

Somehow the loss of a child can be more difficult than the loss of a loved one that’s lived a long and complete life. Perhaps that’s due in part to the loss of what might have been.

Questions are asked at a time like this. Questions like: Why do sad things happen in life? Why do children die? If there is a loving God, why is there be sorrow and misery, especially among the innocent and helpless? Surely God, the great Creator, could prevent such sorrow. Where is the God of miracles? Why raise the daughter of Jarius from the dead (Luke 8:41-56), but not my daughter? Why heal the blind, the lame, sick, but not heal Amelia? (e.g. Matthew 4:23-24, 3 Nephi 17:6-9) I do not know all the reasons Marinda and I face this challenge. But, I do know that we can choose how we deal with it. Each can choose their response and reaction. While there wasn’t a miracle of healing for Amelia, I can remember other miracles. Is not life in and of itself a miracle? Isn’t it miraculous that the combination of two cells can produce a new life, a new person? Is it not miraculous that birth goes “right” as often as it does? Is it not miraculous that I have three other children running around the house – doing the things that children do from showing unconditional love and tenderness to terrorizing the house with crayons to growing and developing from a helpless infant to a fully functional adult? In its own way, it is a miracle that Marinda and I could have the brief experience we had with Amelia, with Hope.  (The God That Doest Wonders)

The reality of mortality is that sad things happen, nature is full of accidents, full of causes and effects, full of choices that bring consequences – impacting both individuals making the choice and others affected by choices. God cannot send his children to earth to see whether they will choose to follow him while intervening whenever a choice or natural causes may bring sorrow. But, perhaps one day I may find that there are other reasons why our experience with Amelia is actually God’s hand shaping and guiding our lives and Amelia’s, in ways that are miraculous. Nevertheless, the physical reality or spiritual unknowns don’t take away the loss, the sadness, the mourning that comes as once again, Marinda and I left the hospital separately from our baby, or rather her body. She left still, cold, lifeless, and separately. (2 Nephi 2:11-16

Death of a loved one can be an intense experience, a magnifying glass of sorts, focusing thought on the most important things of one’s life - on family, on faith, on eternal future. Under that magnifying glass, one examines the lasting things of this life. Yet, the lasting things of life are made and built, one day at a time. Each day I make choices that slowly build my life and influence the life of others around me. How valuable to remember the important things of life and ensure that appropriate balance be kept between daily routines and trivial but necessary needs and the easily forgotten but eternally essential parts of life. 

There is fear – the unfounded fear of wondering, what if another of my children die or what if I forget those who have passed on or what if I somehow contributed to their death. From an eternal perspective, perhaps the more important question for me to ask is what if I fail to teach them faith in Christ? What if I fail amidst the decisions of life to help them learn to communicate with God through prayer? To find an eternal perspective? To follow the Savior? Each person, including each of my children will, whether intentional or not, make choices that affect them eternally. Perhaps my real fear should be: what if I neglect, as a parent, to help lay the groundwork for them to gain understanding and hopefully through their own choice, faith in Christ that leads to action? 

My grief is comforted through belief, through understanding, through knowledge that our time between birth and death is not the only time of our existence (Plan of Happiness). Rather, Amelia missing out on life between birth and death does not mean she has no lasting existence. Her spirit existed before joining with her physical body and her spirit continues to exist even as her body is laid to rest. She, as with each of us, is part of God’s family with opportunity to return to be with him. Perhaps her short mortal existence could be akin to somehow skipping teenage years – yes, she has bypassed some exciting and challenging times, but there’s much more than just those years. There’s more before birth (Jeremiah 1:5) and after death. “Ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:41)

 The words from a hymn "Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace . . .Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only One… He answers privately…In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend. Gentle the peace He finds for my beseeching…” (Where Can I Turn for Peace). Jesus Christ comforts and understands, having descended below all things (Alma 7:11-12). I find strength in eternal family – through a temple marriage, Marinda and I are married not just “till death do us part”, but will continue to be so after this life. Similarly, our family unit, including our children, can remain as a family after death. My other children are a source of solace. It is my experience that Heavenly Father will not leave us comfortless as we turn to Him. Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, each person may find hope and peace and more importantly, eternal life.  “In Christ shall all be made alive.”  (1 Corinthians 15:22

The loss of one’s child is not a pleasant experience. While I do not know why Marinda and I have this experience, I testify that we are strengthened through Christ, knowing that we can be reunited with our eternal daughter again one day. For this is part of God’s plan for each of his children who seek to follow him.