Death without a Funeral



This was going to be the blog post in which I announced that daughter Konnie and her husband are expecting wee ones.

I had it all written in my mind.

I was going to share with you how long a struggle this has been – five years. And I was going to talk about how many prayers have been poured out on behalf of this couple who have longed to be parents.

I’ve mentioned their infertility struggle in a couple of other posts. We’ve had those discussions about how our society has turned adoption and infertility into money-making ventures of the highest order. So please, understand, I’m not interested in continuing that discussion right now.

There are so many conflicting emotions that go along with the burden of infertility. We get a glimpse into that from several Biblical stories. But this post, it wasn’t going to be about the struggle. It was going to be about the rejoicing.

I was going to tell you how on Memorial Day, while at Arlington, three Vietnam veterans and I gathered around the grave of a beloved friend of ours – Gordon Wofford – and we held hands there and prayed both to God and that Tennessee storyteller whom we all love so much, and asked God and Gordon to intercede on Jon & Konnie’s behalf and to grant them the blessing of children.

“I’ll pray silently,” I said as those men in their yellow National Park Service shirts and hats grasped each other’s hands and mine.

“No! Don’t!” they said. “Pray out loud.”

So I did.

And then they did.

They prayed for my daughter to have a child. They love me and my children and I am so blessed by that love on a daily basis. They and their families are God’s gift to us.

It seemed magical, certainly mystical. As we were all there praying around Gordon’s grave, daughter Konnie was in the midst of a fertility procedure. This was supposed to be the post where I announced that God and Gordon heard our prayers!! Konnie was not only pregnant but pregnant with twins!!

I was going to tell you how I was in East Tennessee when I received the phone call from Jon and Konnie telling me that they saw two babies on the ultrasound! I had to pull off the road I was crying so hard. There was a lake and a field of yellow flowers there where I pulled off in the birthplace and burial grounds of my mother and my father.

Most people know what it is to cry out to the Lord in anguish for a specific prayer: For a healing. For a hope. For a restoration. For peace in a warring land. For forgiveness. Generations of people have prayed for these things, will continue to pray for these things.

Rejoicing seems too small of a word to describe how my body ached to give thanks in as equally an intense way as it had cried out.

How do I give thanks with my whole body, mind and soul? I asked a friend.

God understands, she said.

Even so, the grateful part seemed so pale in comparison to the pleaing part. I was going to talk to you about all that. I was going to get your ideas on how you express gratitude for those things that happen exceedingly abundantly above all that you ask for.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I have been so excited to share all of this with you because I know some of you have been praying right alongside us in this journey.

Instead I am sharing a different post. One in which I tell you about this wild and beautiful and so, so, hard journey that just got harder.

A routine ultrasound revealed that one of the twins has died.

The heart has stopped beating.

Konnie and Jon’s baby – our grandchild – lays lifeless in a womb alongside a sibling, who by all accounts appears to be fine. At least, that is our continued prayer and our hope. Feel free to join us in that, would you?

There is tremendous grief.

And not a small amount of anxiety.

Those of you who have walked this journey, you understand. You know how the sight of a stroller or an infant can invoke weeping. You know the conflict when kind people say, well, thank goodness there is the one, still.

Yes. There is gratefulness for that remaining life. And such hopes. And more than a few fears. But there is grief as well.

This was a fully-formed life. Lost. Our daughter and her husband will forever be the parents to twins, one of whom died.

It is, as a dear friend said to me, a death without a funeral.

Our hearts are hurting. I know many of you understand that hurt.

That first night after we learned of the death, I dreamed I was drowning. That I could not come up for air. I kept trying to follow the bubbles but I could not surface soon enough.

My daughter wants to know why. Why, why, why, she asks. It is so hard to understand.

It is the whys that drown us.

I told her that even if God himself curled up on the couch beside us and explained the whys of it all, His answer would never take away the hurt. Knowing why would not for one moment erase the longing for that child.

The promise of eternity does not diminish the devastation of death. 

A parent who is not devastated by the death of a child has something wrong with them.

When a couple who have longed to be parents lose a child, there is nothing to do but weep alongside them.

I planned that this post would be about our ridiculous gleefulness over the impending birth of the twin grandchildren to come. Instead, I sit here, so conflicted. Happy and sad. Grateful and grieving.  Hopeful and anxious. Broken wide-open yet again.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain.

Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.


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