November 30, 2012

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Looking back and looking forward in gratitude for the gift of life

Sean GallagherThere can be an interesting transition in our hearts as we move from last week’s secular holiday of Thanksgiving to the First Sunday of Advent in a couple of days.

With Thanksgiving, we often look back with gratitude at the blessings that God has showered upon us in the past.

With Advent, we look forward in anticipation, not just to the celebration of Christ’s birth at Christmas, but also to his Second Coming at the end of time.

My family is dealing with this transition in a new way this year. It would have been about right now that we would have told our friends and relatives that we were expecting the birth of a baby early next summer.

But last month, my wife, Cindy, experienced a miscarriage. For about five weeks, a tiny baby was growing in her womb. At some point, however, God, for reasons that he alone knows, allowed that child of ours to die.

We waited for several days to have our fearful suspicions confirmed. And once they were confirmed and Cindy and I told our four sons about what had happened, each of us mourned this loss in our own particular way. As you might expect, the burden of this grieving has fallen most heavily upon Cindy, who carried this little baby within her body.

Each of us was looking forward in anticipation to his or her birth. Now we are looking back in gratitude to the gift of life that was given to us, even if, on this side of heaven at least, we held that precious gift for a short time.

Of course, our thankfulness is tinged with a good bit of sadness and pondering of our loss.

There are times when, in his unsearchable wisdom, God chooses something better for a person and allows that person to die. At times when that happens, we can be so perplexed and troubled as to have our faith in him shaken to its core.

That has not happened in the case of my family. We even acknowledge that this sad event has the potential to stretch and deepen our faith, although it’s all still too soon for that to have taken hold thus far.

Miscarriages and infant loss in general are not spoken of widely in society. Whatever the reasons, I think the percentage of families that experience this sad event in their lives is fairly high.

Maybe if we were to talk about our experience of miscarriage or infant loss with compassion, but also with more openness, then perhaps we could all discover together, if still in our own particular way, how God is blessing us in the midst of our tragedies.

Certainly, a great blessing that can come out of them is that our conscious gratitude for the gift of life itself might grow in our hearts. But there are many other blessings that God can draw out of the sad shadows of our lives even if—when we’re in the middle of them—there seems to be nothing but darkness.

We’re living now in a time of year when our days are growing markedly shorter. Sunrise comes much later, and sunset much earlier.

But for those of us who have experienced the loss of an infant or a child in the womb, God’s consoling grace flows to us through the support we give one another in these trying times.

Then, perhaps, even when it’s hard, our faith can be strengthened, and we can see a bright future at Christ’s glorious second advent when we will be reunited with the children whom God allowed to come back to himself so soon after they were given to us. †

Local site Links: