In Loving Memory of Lost Children
“Where is Théodred? Where is my son?”
If you are not familiar with this sad quote, it comes from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. In it, a king named Théoden awakens from a cursed stupor to find that his beloved son Théodred is dead. During an exchange with Gandalf, following Théodred’s funeral, Théoden utters what everyone is thinking.
“No parent should have to bury their child.”
There is a unique kind of heartache reserved for statements like that. Having lost his son to death’s cold embrace, all Théoden can offer is a steady outpouring of fiery tears to a thirsty earth. Set against the sinking sun, his royal garb seems like no more than a burden beyond that which he already cannot bear. I feel sorry for Théoden as I watch him slowly sink to the ground, kingly strength broken by an inexplicable grief. At the same time, I stand with Gandalf, a friend unable to say or do anything of consequence to heal this kind of hurt. Truly, no parents should have to come to terms with the death of their children. Yet they do.
I would like to share some thoughts about this kind of loss over the next several weeks, but first let me clarify a few things. I am not pretending to know how it feels to lose a child. I can sympathize, but it would be foolish and ignorant for me to assume I can really understand that kind of pain. Moreover, I am not trying to offer some sliver of truth that has somehow escaped the attention of my suffering brothers and sisters, nor do I expect observations, however true, to heal the hurt. That said, I hope these words will warrant a moment of worthwhile meditation.
Nothing about death is good.
Death is directly related to sin. Most simply defined as a separation from God, bodily death represents the worst fate any being could face. Man, who was created to enjoy fellowship with his God, was never meant for such a fate. Man’s decision to reject God is what first welcomed this mortal corruption into God’s creation, and all men die because all men choose to sin and reject God (Romans 5:12). Yes, it is depressing. No one ever said that the truth always was a happy thought.
Knowing death’s source and nature does not make it any easier to watch an innocent child suffer or to mourn a little one’s passing. It does, however, attach a poignant weight to our sin as more than just a conceptual transgression of God’s law. When we think of death, we should be reminded of the ugliness of sin. We should detest the shameful unholiness and stubborn rebellion that helps deceitful lust grow like an indomitable cancer. We should, ultimately, hate sin even more. It is pointless to pretend like there is a silver lining when it comes to death. Nothing about death of itself is good. If we ever are to comfort those grieving the loss of a child, we must begin by acknowledging this reality.
B.J. Young (6-23-19)