A slight man with blonde hair stood at the end of a lightly yellowed pine pew near the front of the plain country-creamery-turned-church. His face was set in a solemn pose, filled with sadness and yet with peace. The lines that often crinkled at his eyes and the smile that picked up the corners of his mouth were not evident that day. A line of people snaked out the sanctuary doors into the foyer. Most people found a place to stand inside on the March 9, 1977. Person after person stopped and shook the slight man’s hand and spoke words meant to comfort and assuage his grief. Yet so often he was the one offering comfort, hope, and strength.
After they stopped to speak to the man, the people moved forward to stand beside the casket. Inside the casket lay the body of a thirteen year old boy. A framed picture of him rested against the inside of the open casket lid. My Pastor’s Son.
My Pastor’s Son was seven months older than I. He was born on November 11, 1963. He was the only son of My Pastor and his wife, the only biological son they would ever have. Although we knew each other when we were in upper elementary grades, we didn’t hang out much. He was a grade ahead of me and he was a boy . . . and at that age, boys had cooties.
When he was 12, he was diagnosed with leukemia. His parents did all they could to get treatment for their son seeking help from both medical and holistic sources. I don’t remember seeing him much after he was diagnosed, but his dad continued to preach and shepherd our congregation. I remember three things about his dad during this time.
I remember My Pastor telling us several times that he would give his life for his son, that he would gladly die so that his son could live . . . if only he could.
To this day I cannot read 1 John 5:13 without thinking of My Pastor’s Son. My Pastor talked about his son’s imminent death and the normal questions about what would happen after he died. My Pastor’s Son had underlined this verse in his Bible: “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13 KJV). Not only had My Pastor’s Son underlined this verse, but he had circled the word KNOW over and over again. This was the confidence that My Pastor’s Son had regarding what would happen after he died.
The last thing I remember about My Pastor was the obvious depth of his pain and his great strength and faith in the face of that pain. His pain was so stark, so unrelenting, and so all-encompassing and yet his faith was stronger. In the face of his loss and pain, he clung to God with unswerving faith and taught me that in the worst, most terrible losses of life, God is there and able to comfort, strengthen, and provide – even when He chooses not to heal.
Have you had someone in your life that taught you about facing profound loss?
What was he or she like? What did she or he teach you?