Sunday, October 12, 2008

Something my husband wrote for Christina

Derek wrote this and read it at her memorial. I think it's beautiful.

Thank you all for being here in such a difficult and trying time. I would like to spend a moment speaking with you all about the early hours of August 14, 2003. The moment I want to talk about wasn't really a quiet moment. The lights in Labor and Delivery Room 12 were low, and the peacefulness was only interrupted by the rhythmic humming of an IV machine and the occasional buzzing of an automatic blood pressure check. The nurse and our families had left to give us some time with our daughter, Christina. My wife Pam was sleeping gently, with her hands cradling Christina's tiny body. I knew that time with Christina would be short, and did not have the desire to interrupt that moment.

But that moment was a time for me to reflect deeply about what had now happened to us twice. This led my mind down a path of many difficult subjects; all rocks that had been turned over many times in my formal and informal studies of philosophy and religion: Why bad things happen to good people, and how unfair some things in our world are.
But as I watched Christina's body rising and falling with each of Pam's slow, deep breaths, a part of First Corinthians filled my thoughts. “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” It occurred to me just at that moment, that those same sentiments--so often used in marriages, somewhat interpretively and not without a certain amount of irony, since it is the thirteenth verse of the thirteenth chapter--captured my thoughts as succinctly as anything could.

During college, I braved the slippery rocks of philosophy, often flailing in my struggle of understanding, and sometimes finding myself with a rather sore bottom from some particularly treacherous falls. One of those painful falls was a study of faith during a course called “The Philosophy of Religion.” After struggling with the existence of God, and the difficulty of proving His existence from an a priori perspective, a combination of Aquinas's Origins, Pascal's Wager and the Leap of Faith attributed to Kierkegaard came together to form the foundations of my beliefs. My beliefs have grown considerably since those days, but I still bear the scars of questions like “Why do bad things happen to good people?.” I acknowledge the existence of both good and evil in the world, and attribute it to a need for balance in order to allow free will. That same reasoning helps me understand the plight of Job. And it can also explain why bad things like the Holocaust happened. Evil people have free will to do evil things whether it be the Devil or a devilish man. But what about hurricanes, tornadoes and the death of two of my children? Things that are not the result of free will or actions with bad consequences. How can an all-powerful and all-knowing God allow those things to happen? Where is the fairness? The questions are hard, and the answers are even harder. In Luke 18:7-8 it is said “Won’t God give to his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he delay long to help them? I tell you, he will give them justice speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”” As I consider those words, I wonder whether it is indeed hubris to think that we can ever understand God and all the things of our world. It is human to ask the question. The answer is divine. And it is Faith that will let us endure.

In my great lack of sleep on that early morning, just two days ago, I also considered Hope. I thought of our first daughter, Hadleigh, and I considered how truly powerful a father's hope is. In fact, I even came to the conclusion that all parents shoulder both hope and disappointment, but it is traditionally the realm of the father to shoulder the greatest part of that burden. You might remember a movie from the early eighties called “My Life” starring Michael Keaton. In that movie, Michael Keaton's character is a father-to-be who has been diagnosed with cancer that will kill him before the birth of his son. The character decides to do a video tape to his son, containing his hopes and his advice, and his beliefs. It is a sad story, and at the same time uplifting. While the comparison is not exact, the hopes of a father are clear in that story. In Romans chapter 8 verses 22 and 23, it is written “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with endurance.” There is a profound hope that has traditionally been associated with fathers that I had and will always have for Christina. And while she didn't have so many of the obvious things I would have hoped for, she also was never late for a curfew, never once had to go to time-out, and never dated that boy that I know would break her heart. In her own way, Christina lived a perfect life, even if it wasn't the life I had originally hoped for.

Love. In the same way that I think hope is associated with fathers, I feel love is associated in mothers. Neither is unique or monopolized by either, but as I have been witness to Pam's love for Hadleigh and Noah before, I know that a mother's love is truly a thing of its own. And just as we see in good and evil, faith and doubt, and hope and disappointment, love is paired with sin. Adam's original sin brought death into the world, whether interpreted literally or figuratively. But I don't fear sin with Christina. She was a true innocent. A child conceived in love. In John Chapter 4 verses 18 and 19 we read “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first.” God gave us His only child, Jesus Christ, to die for us. It is not for us to judge why Christina has died. But we do have the chance to know love. And that in that love, know peace. And in that peace release our fears. It is right to grieve. I am convinced that no one will grieve more than Pam has. And will. And we can all take comfort that Christina will go on to a better place. And she will be loved. Because as I sat there in a shadowed room looking at my sleeping wife and the body of my second daughter, I knew that of hope, faith and love, the greatest of these is love.

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