Parents Aren’t Supposed to Bury Their Children

We buried our daughter on this day 15 years ago, the day after she had breathed her last in my mother’s arms. The funeral home hosted a visitation for family and friends, and then we all drove to the cemetery to hear words from her father, sing Amazing Grace, and then lower her little body into the ground. When I entered the room where her coffin was at the funeral home, I first saw my mother and father. I hugged my 88 year old dad as we cried together, and I said, “I know, Dad, parents aren’t supposed to bury their children.” My dad had suffered his own loss and buried his youngest child 8 years before. Our daughter is buried next to her Uncle James. Dad passed in 2015 and is resting beside his son and granddaughter.

On a visit with my Tennessee family in 2019 I took my usual tour of Leonard Cemetery, where many members of my Dad’s family are buried. On that visit I especially noted how many in my family have had to bury their children. I have not suffered alone. There in front of my paternal grandparents are the markers for their two infants that they lost at birth and their daughter who died at age 14. Next to my dad’s older sister Irene and her husband Will is their 4 year old daughter Linda. Dad’s younger sister Annise and her husband Vandal have their one-day old son Stephen next to them. Annise’s grandson, the son of her daughter Martha and husband Dwight, killed in a car accident just before his 21st birthday, is also there.

Is seems so wrong, doesn’t it? We feel that this is not the way it is supposed to be. Parents ought not have to bury their children. My dad had expressed this idea in his struggle with his youngest child’s cancer and eventual death. I knew he was reliving those feelings as we buried Grace, and it’s why I said what I did to him that day. Many things in this life don’t make sense to us, and so it is with our babies who are born unable to live long, like our Grace, my cousin Stephen Crawford, and uncles Hillman and Carl Davis, or children who die in tragic accidents, as my cousins Linda Bean and Joseph Smith did, or from sickness, such as the cancer that took my brother James at 31, and the virus that took my Aunt Olene at 14. But we survive and go on loving and caring for those still here. Perhaps we’ll understand it by and by.

The death of one that belongs to him is precious to the Lord.
~Psalm 116:15 ICB

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
~King David, at the death of his infant son, 2 Samuel 12:22,23

By and by, when the morning comes,
All the saints of God are gathering home.
We will tell the story of how we’ve overcome.
We will understand it better by and by.
~Charles Albert Tindley

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