There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die… (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Nothing about the death of a child makes sense.
In our limited, logical understanding of life and death, of time and mortality, we expect death to come for the elderly. And as we ourselves grow older, it is always and only those “even older” than us that we identify of as “elderly.” There is a paradox often mentioned that as we age, time seems to pass with even greater voracity and speed. What seems like only a moment ago was my high school graduation. What happened yesterday is often forgotten.
Parts of the last year seem to have taken very long indeed. So much waiting. Such a long winter. Certainly spring will come – but how long? Yet, parts of this last year vanished like a mist with Isla. When I was at the hospital with her in July, we laughed and sang and looked forward to healing and transplant and…life. Now, only 8 weeks later, time is flipped on its head and death leaves us waiting again for spring, for resurrection.
Spring in the Midwest is its own paradox, sending out hyacinths in February only to be blanketed by snow in March. Wednesday’s sunny breeze invites hope, but Friday’s bitter wind confirms a cold reality. But spring eventually came, right? It is possible I missed it this year. But even during COVID, we still had daffodils and 70 degree days and new shoots of green grass.
In the heat of an August afternoon, we forget.
“Teach us to number our days…” (Ps 90).
When I dream of spring, a couple of images come to mind. One is a butterfly, a perpetual reminder of rebirth, transformation, and resurrection. Isla loved reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Eric Carle did his homework on that one – caterpillars really do eat and eat and eat, multiplying their weight exponentially! How fascinating to see an egg hatch into caterpillar who makes a cocoon, before the stunning metamorphosis into a butterfly! What kind of creator goes to all that trouble for the beauty of a butterfly, whose life cycle ranges only from a week to a few months?
Another image is a flower…in so many shapes and colors that it’s not one picture, but dozens. From the earliest lily of the valley to April lilacs; from June roses to the sunflowers towering overhead in August, here is another species where God simply shows off. Their fleeting beauty and lasting fragrance are visual reminders that creativity and beauty are part of our heritage as God’s image-bearers. Isla loved flowers too, including the tiny yellow ones she gave me in May, now pressed in my bible.
That same month, just after the kids found out Isla would need the trial drug before transplant, Autumn ordered beautiful matching necklaces with an imprint of a cosmos bloom for herself and Isla. Regarding her choice, she wrote, “Not only is cosmos the flower for her birth month, October, but it represents peace, wholeness and joy in life. Cosmos is a hearty flower than can thrive in a variety of soils and conditions much like Isla.” And Isla did thrive in a variety of conditions, her young personality evolving from shy toddler to courageous preschooler during her year in the hospital. She won the hearts of doctors and nurses, therapists, and friends with her fierce determination and joyful spirit, even in the midst of leukemia treatments.
I wish Cosmos were perennial.
Hope does not disappoint… (Rom 5)
Autumn’s post continues, “It is my hope that her body will find wholeness, our family can find peace, and the years ahead will be filled with joy…” Reading her post again today reminded of the scripture that says “…we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Rom 5:3-5).
I’ve seen suffering produce endurance, character, and hope in our family this year.
But I choke on the phrase hope does not disappoint…
Hope disappointed us this time.
Isla’s body did not find wholeness. Peace is still illusive. Joy seems unimaginable.
And then, I remember the butterfly.
For those of us who believe in the power of metamorphosis, of resurrection, we trust that her body will find wholeness in transformation, in the wonder of a life to come.
We believe that which is sown in weakness is raised in power (1 Cor 15:43).
We believe that the peace of God surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7) even when the death of this child doesn’t make any logical sense.
We believe that the God of hope will fill [us] with all joy and peace (Rom 15:13).
Maybe not today. But there’s a time for everything…