It Is No More Death, But A Sweet Departure

Those who have lost a child, or who have lost another loved one, inevitably face the pain of separation and the longing for reunification. In my own sorrows I have often been comforted by some sweet words written by Thomas Smyth, a man who on one day laid two precious children in the very same grave. Though he writes specifically to bereaved parents, his words will resonate with all of those who have loved and lost. Can we not with …

Sorrowful Departures and Joyful Arrivals

Like most major airports, Toronto’s Pearson International divides the arrivals area from the departures so that one is a level above the other. I have passed through both of them hundreds of times and have made this observation: The upper level is a place of sorrow while the lower level is a place of celebration. The upstairs departures area is distinguished by family members weeping and saying farewell, the downstairs arrivals area by family members waving and hugging and crying …

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Do You Knock at the Gates of the Grave?

There is a sense in which we are less familiar with death than our forebears, more insulated from its horrors. Of course the death rate in the twenty-first century is identical to every century before and every century to come—“it is appointed for [each and every] man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” So perhaps it is better to say we are less familiar with what we consider premature death—the death of infants, children, and young adults. Because …

All Will Be Well

The young boy had a privileged upbringing and spent his childhood on a fine estate that boasted a large and carefully-tended garden with bright flowers, cobbled paths, high walls, trimmed lawns. He spent hours of every day playing in this garden, exploring it, and delighting in its many wonders. But there was one part where he never ventured to go. At the very end of the garden stood a grove of trees that grew tall and full and cast dark …

He Gives His Beloved Sleep

Of all the divine thoughts recorded in the pages of sacred writ, of all the promises God provides to humanity, perhaps none is more moving, none more blessed, none more needful than this: He gives his beloved sleep. What would we give to those we love if we had all the power of God Almighty, if we could dispense any gift from his endless storehouse? We would give the courage of a hero, the voice of an angel, the wealth …

Helpful Things You Can Say to Grieving Parents

It can be awkward to reach out to those who are deep in grief. It can be hard to know what to say and easy to believe that our words are more likely to offend than comfort, to make a situation worse rather than better. We sense that our words ought to be few, but also that the worst thing to say is nothing at all. I recently consulted with a few other parents who have experienced the loss of …

Life Is Fleeting

I draw a deep breath and put pen to paper. But the words won’t flow. Not yet. I pause for a moment to gather my thoughts. I know I need to prepare an expression of sympathy, to write out a letter of condolence to a friend who has suffered a tragic loss. I want him to know my love, my support, my comfort in this, his hardest hour. I picture the one who lived and then died, who flourished for …

If Just One Person Returned

Amelia Taylor had joined her son as he traveled to the great seaport of Liverpool. Hudson was about to make the long journey to a far-off mission field and she wanted to be with him to the final moment, to pray for him one last time, to see him depart for the great work God had called him to. He never forgot that day. His mother came aboard the ship with him, entered his cabin, and smoothed the little bunk. …

How Long Is the Dash?

Nick’s gravestone has finally been installed, and I have come to see it for the very first time. I have been looking forward to this day and dreading this day in equal measure. For months I have had to visit an unmarked grave, a patch of bare earth with no way to identify the name of the precious person who lies beneath it. Surely my son deserves so much better. Yet now that it comes to it, I also hate …

Threescore and Ten

As time passes, I find myself increasingly drawn to old authors and old books. I scour the used bookshops to look for lost treasures. At the back of one such nineteenth-century work I found this old poem by Edward Morris. I don’t know who Edward Morris was or when he lived, but I’m grateful for the sweet poem he left us, a poem which celebrates the days so many lament—the days when life has grown long and death draws near. …