Fr. Glenn: Au Revoir, Little Dove

By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

“Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow … I weep; my eyes flow with tears…” (Lamentations 1:12)

“A voice is heard … lamentation and bitter weeping. [She] is weeping for her child; she refused to be comforted for her child, because she is no more.”  (cf., Jeremiah 31:15)

Few scripture verses better capture the agony of parents who have lost a child to the scourge of death, which came Friday to a beautiful 27-day-old angel who stretched her wings and flew back to God … “the silver cord is snapped … and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7) With her flight came the invariable (and necessary) torrents of tears, the torn heart, and the agonized emptiness of arms, which had embraced sweetness itself.

No, there is no agony like a parent’s agony. To a mother is given that incomparable privilege of carrying her child in her womb and nourishing him/her from her own body, as they are always babes in her mind, regardless of time’s passing. Always is her remembrance of the movement in the womb, the feedings at the breast, the nights of watching in illness, the pride of little ones maturing. And then, if possible, even greater joy in her children’s children; even scripture recognizes that “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged…” (Proverbs 17:6)

Sitting with weeping parents in the emergency room, there is little to be—or can be—said. Often the best words are those not spoken … simply a reassuring embrace, quiet presence and silent prayer are the best that one can give as they grieve for their precious one … for even in your presence is unspoken love and comfort. With a wound so deep, platitudes—as well meaning as they are—become trite … inane … bereft of meaning or succor. Even vocal prayer ought be concise, knowing that God hears heart and tears regardless of spoken words.

Why is such suffering allowed by God? There are myriad theological speculations, from the simplistic to the ludicrously convoluted. And yet … with the death of a beloved child, the Father gazes through the lens of the cross and assures us: “Be assured that I know and feel your pain … for I, too, experienced the death of a Beloved Child … My Son.” Yet, with death is our faith in—and knowledge of—the resurrection to eternal life … not a fantasy, not a delusional hope, but truly a coming reality. Thus, even in the midst of sorrow, trials and angst, our eyes remained fixed upon Jesus, who bids us come to Him across the stormy waters of this life.

A moving scene in the movie “Glory” comes when the soldiers are expressing fears and emotions before an impending assault. Even though certain that many will perish in the assault, they nevertheless sing spirituals of enduring faith, and one exclaims: “Sweet Jesus! Sweet Jesus!” Yes … even before the ominous spectre which is death, we call out in trust and hope the name of death’s conqueror: “Sweet Jesus!” 

I like to think that perhaps Our Lord appeared to our little angel in her dreams, beckoning her to Himself … and she, in wonder, called out “I’m a’comin’ … sweet Jesus! Sweet Jesus!” At such times, who cannot but find solace in His tender words: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

Yes, we weep for the loss of one so young. But our weeping is for ourselves, not for her … for she will not know—and will never know—the pain of disease, sorrows at the loss of loved ones, the common struggles, stress and trials of daily life. From now on, our little innocent knows only pure love—the love of God who Himself IS love. (1 John 4:16)

So know, sweet mother, that little A sees your pain, and says: “Mommy, don’t be sad; I know only love in the arms of God! Stay close to Jesus, and help daddy stay close to Jesus, and one day I will rest in your arms once again.” And to Dad: “Oh, daddy … don’t cry for me; I will always be your little girl. Stay close to Jesus, and help mommy stay close to Jesus, so that I may hug you both when we come together again with our sweet Jesus. You will not walk me down the aisle, but I will be watching to walk you through the gates of Heaven!”

“Mommy and Daddy, thank you for your love during my short life … and as our sweet Jesus says: ‘Love one another’, remembering Our Lord’s unbreakable promise that will soon be realized: ‘He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.’ (Isaiah 25:8) … and ‘…at night there is weeping, but joy comes with the dawn.’”  (Psalm 30:5)

And so, little dove: au revoir … hasta la vista … and truly, “a-dieu”— to God with you! … to dwell in the arms of Our Father forever. Our Lord keeps the light on for us, for He IS the light … and “He will bring me forth to the light; I shall behold his deliverance.” (Micah 7:9)