December 20, 2011

On Infant Death

As we await the imminent arrival of the tiny Infant Savior on Christmas Day, please allow me to share with you a devastating and inspiring tragedy that continues to unfold.

What an immeasurable grace and blessing it has been to talk with Miki Hill today.  If you are in the greater Baltimore Catholic homeschool community, you might know Miki and Tim Hill.  Their two year old grandson, Charles Daniel Hudson Hill (“Charlie”), passed away in his sleep unexpectedly Sunday night, after going to bed with a slight fever.  Miki and her children were driving back this evening from the funeral services in Chicago when we spoke.

Miki noted that the human sorrow of this tragedy is severe nearly to the point of being unbearable.  While any other death seems to pale in comparison to the loss of a child, I shared with Miki my recollection of when I first experienced someone close to me dying.  For days thereafter, I looked around at normal life and gaped in stupefied horror.  Why were people still driving?  Why were they still shopping?  Still eating?  Still talking?  Still……living!?  Didn’t they know that someone magnificent and vital to my existence had just shuffled off this mortal coil?  Didn’t they know that it really was the end of the world as we know it?  Why didn’t the Earth stop spinning on its axis in acknowledgement of the enormity of this tragic loss?

“Yes, that’s it!” she said.  “It.  Is.  Staggering.”

And yet, Miki observed that God definitely is in control.  From such far-flung places as seven continents and the Vatican, God has provided their family with enormous and frequent consolation.  “See?” she asked in wonder.  “The more we let go of the arrow, the further it will fly.”  Little Charlie has, indeed, flown far.  Straight to heaven.  And apparently he’s going to drag a lot of other people there with him eventually, as there were at least six priests hearing confessions at his viewing, “because Charlie wanted everyone to get to heaven.”

Miki and I agreed that, particularly in times of trial such as this, we are enormously grateful to have been born “cradle Catholics,” because I for one never would have been smart enough to choose Catholicism myself (as my brilliant husband The Convert did).  Whatever would we do without the transformative grace of the sacraments!?

Miki is firm in her conviction that her amazing little grandson, while being a beam of light in their lives, truly was not made for this world, which his mother must intuitively sensed, for she always called him her “cherub.”  In the face of such simultaneous vulnerability and strength, I can only submit the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln:

“….I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.  But, I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found….I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost.” (Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, November 1864)

Thus, with Miki’s permission, I will share with you in the next post Francis Cardinal Stafford’s consoling meditation to Miki on the tragedy of infant death.  May his words bring us God’s peace.

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (II Corinthians 4:16-18)

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