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 Vol. 9, No. 4 

April 2007

~ Page 9 ~

The Death of a Child

By Raymond Elliott

First of all there was the news of the deaths of eight students in Enterprise, Alabama when a tornado destroyed their high school building. Then there was the bus accident in Atlanta, Georgia that took the lives of four college students as well as the bus drivers. Later, it was learned that the fifth student died due to the injuries suffered in the terrible accident.

One of the greatest fears that parents have is the possibility that a child might be killed in some accident or that some disease might take the life of a beloved son or daughter. I remember well when the telephone rang late one night and a close Christian friend informed me that his fifteen year old daughter had been killed in an automobile wreck. It was not an easy task to face the parents who were dear friends of mine and members of the local church where I was serving as a preacher. I went with the father so he could identify his precious child. It was a heart-rendering experience. It was thirty four years ago that I had to go alone to identify my baby brother, age 35, who had been killed by a car so I would be able to tell my mother that it was indeed her precious son. My mother had already lost her oldest son in World War II at the tender age of 19. Most parents would be willing to precede their children in death. It seems so unnatural that the younger generation should die before the older one.

One of the students killed by the tornado was a member of the church and active in the youth group in the local congregation. She was only sixteen years old. Her picture in the newspaper showed her to be a very attractive young lady and her smile depicted her as being one with an outstanding personality. Her friends in school had many nice things to say about her. A Gospel preacher and Chaplin for the Enterprise Police Department identified her when she was pulled from the rubbish of the building. He and the youth minister had many good things to say about her at the funeral service.

I know personally that speaking at the funeral service of a young person is very difficult because of the emotions involved, not only as a friend and preacher but as a parent. It is easy to "weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15) because you know that but by the grace of God that could be you looking at the lifeless body of your child in the casket. Young people do not fully comprehend the concern that parents have with their safety and welfare, and cannot until they themselves become parents.

A friend of the teenager who was killed spoke highly of her and the one thing that stood out in my mind was this: "She had a smile that could brighten anyone's day," and "How she loved God and how she wanted everyone to know him, too." Now that last statement means all the world to Christian parents. How wonderful that in her youth this teenager had remembered her Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2). In their great loss, her parents know that they cannot recall their daughter back from the grave but they have the blessed assurance that they can go where she now resides and that is with the Lord (2 Samuel 12:23).

I do not know how Christian parents deal with the loss of a child, regardless of his/her age, who dies unprepared to meet the Lord in eternity. I remember hearing of a well known Gospel preacher in my home state of Georgia whose son was burned to death in a hotel fire in the city of Atlanta. His son was not a Christian. It was said that the father's hair turned gray in a short period of time. And there was the story of faithful Gospel preacher in another state whose unbelieving son was killed while engaged in an unlawful activity. It was reported that the preacher said mournfully and in deep sorrow that "while I was busy conducting Bible studies in various homes I neglected my own son."

Please forgive the personal experiences, but when my three siblings died, the main concern I had was whether or not they were children of God. I visited my last brother one week but before he suffered a hard death. I knew, because of the circumstances, this would most likely be the last time I would see him in this life. As I embraced him and as we both wept, I said to him that I could accept his death but only if he was right with the Lord. I spoke at the funeral of my brother and I was able to do so because he had fallen asleep in Jesus.

I would encourage all parents to give their lives to Jesus and serve him faithfully, and bring your children up "in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Children should come to realize that Christian parents never grow too old but they continue to pray for their physical and spiritual welfare. The old familiar song, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" has a real meaning to it when family members enter eternity. All Christian parents desire to go heaven and take their children with them. It is by experience and factual knowledge that we understand that life is so fragile and death is a certainty (Hebrews 9:27). The Grim Reaper is no respecter of person or age. There is no assurance of tomorrow (Proverbs 27:1). It is only in the Son of God that we have eternal life (1 John 5:11-12). Jesus Christ died on Calvary that we could "have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). He gave his life for us and the least we can do is to give our lives to him.

The following is a poem that I want to share with you, and one that my wife and I have sent to parents who have lost a child. I do not know the author's name.

God's Lent Child

"I'll lend you for a little while
A child of mine," God said,
"For you to love the while he lives,
And mourn for when he's dead.

It may be six or seven years
Or twenty-two or three;
But will you 'til I call him back,
Take care of him for me?

He'll bring his charms to gladden you
And, should his stay be brief,
You'll have his lovely memories
As a solace for your grief.

I cannot promise he will stay,
Since all from earth return;
But there are lessons taught below
I want this child to learn.

I've looked the whole world over
In search for teachers true;
And from the things that crowd life's land
I have chosen you.

Now, will you give him all your love
Nor think the labor vain?
Nor hate me when I come to take
This lent child back again?

I fancied that I heard them say:
Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For all the joys Thy child will bring
The risk of grief we'll run.

We'll shelter him with tenderness,
We'll love him while we may-
And for the happiness we've known
Forever grateful stay.

But should Thy Angel call for him
Much sooner than we've planned,
We'll brave the bitter grief that comes
And try to understand."Image

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