Along with many others, I recieved this email last night
Sam and I have been overwhelmed by all the letters, cards, emails and flowers we have received about Ivan. Sending an e-mail this week just gives us both a chance to say a big “thank you”. It means a lot to know that others are thinking of us and him.
We always knew Ivan wouldn’t live forever, but we didn’t expect to lose him so young and so suddenly. He leaves a hole in our life so big that words can’t describe it. Bed time, bath time, meal time – nothing will feel the same again.
We console ourselves knowing that he won’t suffer anymore, that his end was quick, and that he is in a better place. But we all just miss him so desperately.
When we were first told the extent of Ivan’s disability I thought that we would suffer having to care for him but at least he would benefit from our care. Now as I look back I see that it was all the other way round. It was only him that ever really suffered and it was us – Sam, me, Nancy and Elwen – who gained more than I ever believed possible from having and loving such a wonderfully special and beautiful boy.
I’ve done the funerals of three children in the past three years, including the first funeral I took after Reuben was born. I’ve also had two very good friends who have each lost children, either in utero or shortly after birth. While we can in some sense celebrate that child mortality rates here in the UK are much lower than elsewhere in the world, they are still too high when you are one who loses your loved one.
Nothing can really match the pain of a parent saying farewell to their child. Gayle and I have been reflecting how the news of Ivan’s death touched us in a way that was simply not possible before our own son’s birth. I’ve worried whether sharing such a thought might seem patronising to those of you who don’t have children, but I think this is one of those cases where sympathy is much more powerful than empathy. There is a striking to the core of one’s being, a shared experience of bringing someone into the world and loving them so, so much. Even just imagining the pain of losing Reuben is too much and brings tears to my eyes. How much more then must it hurt to actually lose your first-born?
Lent is often a time to prepare for considering Christ’s passion, but this year I seem to be spurred to consider how the Father was (is? will?) responding to Jesus’ imminent crucifixion and separation from him. What was going on in the life of the Trinity as that awful moment approached? Our hymnody says, “How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away as wounds which mar the chosen One, Bring many sons to glory,” but is that really what He experienced? What is the Biblical theology of the Father’s response to the Son’s death?
I will be dragging my Thomas Weinandy out again for a good read, but in the meantime, I leave you with this prayer that I hope you will join with me in praying this Sunday.
your servant Mary,
the mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ,
stood by the cross while her Son was dying.
May that same Jesus, victorious over death,
risen and ascended,
give comfort to the Camerons,
and strengthen their faith in you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I don’t think what you said comes across as patronising, Peter.
As for your Lenten meditations, whatever we say about the Father’s role in the Passion, don’t we have to square it with the traditional theological maxim that God cannot suffer (being without body, parts, or passions, and so on) – one of the great difficulties that beset anyone trying to talk about this in the context of the Son, but it is perhaps even more relevant when talking of the Father, since in that case we cannot refer any suffering to a united human nature.
Another thing that occurs to me when reading what you wrote is to wonder whether, and if so in what sense, we can talk of the Father and the Son ‘losing’ or ‘being separated from’ one another: they are after all one single God, and not separable in the way human persons are. The whole thing is a mega-minefield.
But don’t ask me for answers, all I can do is remind you that so many theologians have come to grief over this!