The parents stood to the side, watching their baby girl being buried in a box and my scarf was soaked with tears. I kept stealing glances at my friend, wondering how she was still standing. Wondering how to comfort her, because there is no comfort any human can offer for the loss of a child.
I still have their daughter's picture on my fridge and I tear up when I look at her delicate face, this baby born with a rare genetic disease to a couple that tried eight years for a child.
"If it has to be something, give me cancer or let me lose my house but please don't take my kids," I pray at night. "Please God, don't make me go through that--"
Getting pregnant was hard for us too. We were told we would probably never have children because of my anorexia, and then a pastor prayed over us on national television for a son within the year--and we conceived a son within the year. And now we have two boys.
But I've also lost two babies, while they were in the womb, and it's near-wrecked me. Those miscarriages bore stillborn faith and for awhile it was all I could do to just keep going.
I didn't know, before having kids, the agony of giving birth to your heart and not being able to protect it.
The excruciating pain of sending your vulnerable little heart--with his puppy-dog backpack--into a world full of sin.
And the truth is? I don't know if I love Jesus more than I love my children.
I don't know if I love Jesus enough to say, "Anything Lord--whatever your plan is, whatever it is you want to use my children for, whatever your will is for this family--please do it."
I've heard of parents giving God the glory when their children die and I want to be that person and yet--I also believe in grief, because what is the resurrection without death? And what is praise without sorrow? Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
Some things in life are just really, really hard. And we're not supposed to be able to comprehend the pain of losing our children--it's supposed to be heart-wrenching, because otherwise God sacrificing his own son wouldn't mean much.
I recently returned from Uganda and Rwanda, where I met women who'd lost multiple children, and I met children who'd lost their mothers and fathers, and death was a reality for everyone there.
But God was a greater reality.
He rose off the face of every person I met, he rose triumphant and joyful, he rose with the promise of an eternity filled with life.
Jesus says to love him more than we love our sons and daughters.
Jesus says a lot of hard things and I'm a sinner saved by grace and it's all I can do some days to repent. But I want to want to love him more than anything in this world. I want God to be a greater reality for me than death.
And I know that I don't serve a heartless savior. When I commit my children to him in prayer while seated at the scratched wooden kitchen table, my sons watching Thomas the Train in the background, I don't commit them to just anyone. I commit them to their Maker.
And when I pray that Jesus would be glorified both in my family's living and dying, I know God weeps--not only out of joy for the surrender of our hearts, but out of pain--knowing how hard it is to give up a child.
"I just wish I could be there to show her around heaven," my friend said to me following the funeral of her baby girl, her eyes blurry with tears. "It's such a big place--I just worry she'll get lost."
Oh friends, these mother hearts--they're meant to ache with the thought of loss.
But this earth, is but a glance, and then, we have forever to spend with Christ and our children. Hallelujah.