Death without a Funeral

Twins

 

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.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Gold Star Daughter. Trump will never be my president.

35 Comments

Cela Wood

about 3 years ago

Karen, I am so heartbroken for you and your family. There are no words that offer comfort -- only the warmth of compassion for your hurt. I will pray for peace in your hearts. Just a few weeks ago our former neighbors, a young couple by the name of Lindsey and Thomas lost their first child, a son, at 21 weeks gestation. They were devastated and yet they found a way to bring glory to our Creator. It was an amazing thing to witness. They were able to hold Christian after he was delivered and the hospital staff cast his tiny footprints for them. They were able to have a funeral that I know gave them some way of sharing their loss more fully with those who cherish them and anticipated the arrival of their son with so much hope. I can't fathom what it must be like to carry a child you've longed for and yet know he or she is not going to share life's journey with you. Yet, I rejoice that there is promise still. I'll pray for good health for Konnie and the baby. Keeping you all close in my heart. - Cela

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Cela: Thank you for these words, and this tender story in the midst of brokenness. Prayers for Lindsey & Thomas in the loss of their precious son, Christian. Thank you, too, for the prayers for Konnie and the baby. We all appreciate those. You were a gift to me during a difficult week. So glad God (and the library) introduced us. Hope you are surviving all those wildfires. Seems loss has surrounded all of us across the world this week.

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Donna Joldersma

about 3 years ago

There are no words that will ease the pain for y'all. Know that you're in my prayers and sending you all the strength I can with love.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Donna. Prayers & friendships are the greatest of gifts during this anxious time.

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Trina Merriman

about 3 years ago

My heart goes out to sweet Konnie and the whole family. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Trina. Always good to hear from you.

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Pat Sabiston

about 3 years ago

Karen -- there is really nothing that can be said or done to take away your pain. The best we can do, especially those of us from afar, is to listen and hold you in our hearts. We have walked a similar road in our family and don't understand either, but I have learned that God holds His arms out ready to offer comfort and solace.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Pat. No matter what, we trust in God's goodness, and lean into those prayers.

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Lisa Godsey

about 3 years ago

I am so very sorry for your and your families loss. I will be praying for you all.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Lisa. Prayers are a gift right now, especially for the baby growing.

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Marilyn Weisenburg

about 3 years ago

From the depths of my heart, I weep with you, Karen. I am so sorry for you, for Konnie, for your family. I will pray that this little one growing in her womb will thrive by God's grace.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Marilyn. Those prayers are a gift. And the mean a lot, coming from someone who has been on a wild, hard, hard journey of an entirely different sort. So prayers for you as well as you grieve the loss of your son.

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Diane Olson

about 3 years ago

As an infertile woman ( two miscarriages) I can barely imagine the pain and loss you all are feeling. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. I am so sorry for your loss.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Diane: With two miscarriages, you completely understand and know the loss. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for the prayers.

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Jennie Helderman

about 3 years ago

Prayers for you, Konnie and John and for the baby growing in Konnie's womb that you all are blessed with healing, health and love.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you Jennie. Knowing that so many are praying helps so much.

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April Terry

about 3 years ago

Today, I gave a message about how my own broken heart was the catalyst to my being able to recognize a broken heart in others. I thought about that as I read this article with tears in my eyes, and I know that nothing I could say could make it better. None of those silly sound bites that people offer will soothe the open wound. I'm sure you feel the dissonance of your own inability to make it better as you go through this with your loved ones, but know that the silent, unknown prayers of the saints who read this message will indeed be with you.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Good words, April. Our brokenness can be a catalyst as you say. I was speaking at a conference earlier this year when another speaker on the agenda shared with me her struggles of infertility. She has several children now. As she shared her own story I felt encouraged. When she offered to pray for my daughter I was even more encouraged. Our struggles can provide a great cloud of witness for others, if we draw near to God in such times, rather than push Him away. Silly sound bites only go toward soothing the nerves of the one repeating them. What helps is when people come alongside and sit in the darkness with us, the way you are doing now, and the way so many others are doing across the lands. That helps. And the prayers. They are a gift. Thank you.

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Debbie Derrick

about 3 years ago

Karen, my heart aches for all of you. I have no words to say and sometimes no words are the best thing for you all... Please know I continue to pray for all of you and this baby. We will never understand God's way but we have to trust as hard as that is that there is a reason for this loss and heartache. Hugs my friend! Many prayers...

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Carlene Moorefield

about 3 years ago

O my dear Karen. I am so sad for your loss. We want only happiness, good health, God's love and healthy babies for our daughters. O, yes, I am so sad for your loss. Faith. Hope. Love. ♡♡♡

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Carlene: You know. You know how it breaks our hearts to see our daughters (or our sons) suffer so. We want to wave that magic momma wand and take it all away. There was a brief time in life when we felt we could do that. No longer. No longer. Hugs to you, sweet friend.

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Marian Carcache

about 3 years ago

Holding you and your sweet family in my heart.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Marian. My devoted Alabama friend.

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Adrianne

about 3 years ago

I can empathize with all that you and your daughter and husband are going through. I had a child when I was 17 and careless. I had to give him up for adoption. My dad sat on my hospital bed and asked me what I would do now and I said I would have kids in marriage. But I went my merry way being careless (this was during the 60s). When I did get married I had found my way in Jesus and looked forward to children but that was not to happen. A miscarriage in the first year of marriage then nothing for 16 years. In those 16 years I had met my son that I had given up for adoption and rejoiced in getting to know him. My time with him lasted a brief 4 years then I got the call that he had been killed in a car accident. I went to the funeral. Right before that time I found out I was pregnant and was over the moon only to find out it was a tubal pregnancy. I am way past the time to have children now; my heart has healed enough where I can talk about it all without crying altho sometimes I do get a lump in my throat and the tears are right there but not to the point of flowing. I did ask that question, "Why, why, why, why O Lord!!!!!!??????!!!!!!" The Lord knows best is what I have learned and am still learning. There will be pain in this life, this walk through a brief moment before all eternity, but I do know that these hard times, trials and pain draw one closer, O so much closer to the God of our Salvation. I ask for joy from Him because we are charged to rejoice in the Lord always. These days I am working with kids after many years of working in a cubicle with computers all around me. Even tho it is not as fulfilling as having my own kids, it is my calling and it is good. :-)

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Oh, Adrianne, what a tender and troubling story. I am saddened by all that you have lost, but most especially so the death of your son. Grateful and grieving indeed. How you must have rejoiced to have reunited with him, only to lose him so suddenly. Yes, there is that need to cry out: Why? Why? Why? Time, or perhaps age, maybe wisdom, teaches us that such a question while perfectly understandable and natural, has no answer that will suffice. We have to trust that none of this changes the nature of God or his heart toward us: He is still good and he still loves us. The bad that comes our way in life does not make him a bad God. Any more than the good that comes our way in life makes him a better God. Our life's circumstances do not change or define the nature of God. Although, they can change and define our nature. I am thankful you are working with kids again after so many years absent. Children help us see the wonder in the world. We need that wonder. Thank you for sharing your story, heartbreaking as it is, and thank you for these gracious words of hope.

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AFRoger

about 3 years ago

Blessings and peace be upon you! The ancient Jewish shiva practice of visiting the home of the grieving offers us some wisdom. When sitting shiva, the visitor remains silent until the grieving family members wish to speak. But in this period of silence, there is a vital presence that is not only a stand-in for God. It IS the presence of God. The visitor, the comforter, the presence of God, is there for the tears, the sorrow, the wailing and the silence. And they are there for the beginnings of the therapeutic process of verbalization and processing. All happens unhurriedly, at a pace called for only by the moments of grief themselves. One day, I look forward to meeting a grandchild I could never know in this life. This child, too, was a perfectly formed life. Tragically, he/she was planted not by an act of eagerness and love but by an act of violence against my own flesh and blood. I did not get to be there in the decision making process. I did not get to be there in my own child's time of deepest need and grief and loss. The shaming of the act took all that away from us. I did not get to sit shiva. But I do get to be there, thankfully, in each day of life now that builds anew on the rubble of loss. Even in the times of silence, I do get to pray. And I find that praying knowingly involves far fewer words than praying unknowingly. It is not that God is silent. Rather, God is sitting shiva with me. With you. With young parents in deepest pain. God knows. I know. Again, peace be upon you. Amen.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Roger. I am grateful I get to sit alongside my daughter and her husband through this time of sadness. We can learn a lot from our Jewish Brothers and Sisters about mourning and healing. I hope your daughter is continuing to heal from the unimaginable trauma. Hugs and prayers.

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Lorrraine

about 3 years ago

Oh Karen. My heart is sad for all of you. I just prayed for a safe, healthy delivery of the other twin. Someone sent an e-mail to me with this verse in it today, and I hope it brings some comfort to your heart knowing that God is "the author and finisher" of our faith... of our own life's story. Hugs. Love. "I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse! Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded; train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle-wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your Word. Barricade the road that goes Nowhere; grace me with your clear revelation. I choose the true road to Somewhere, I post your road signs at every curve and corner. I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me; God, don’t let me down! I’ll run the course you lay out for me if you’ll just show me how." Psalm 119:30 MSG

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, sweet friend. Beautiful verse.

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Geri Taran

about 3 years ago

Dear Karen, I came upon this accidentally and I want to tell you that I'm so sorry to learn of your loss. I wish you and your family peace over pain. Many years ago I was pregnant with twins and lost one. My surviving child is now a beautiful and remarkable grandmother. Michelle is now 62, her only child is 34 and my only great grandchild is a joyful 8 year old. There is much love and joy ahead for you, I feel certain. Loving thoughts, Geri

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Geri: Words of grace from someone who had been there, done that. Thank you for sharing your own tender story of loss and joy. We are certain of this - there is joy ahead. Thank you for reminding us of that. Konnie is reading all the remarks left here. I am sure yours will encourage her.

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Steven Friedman

about 3 years ago

I, too, am so sorry. Death sucks though it is part of life. I hope the light and love your family constantly shares provides the comfort you need at this grateful and grieving time.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 3 years ago

Thank you, Steven. I know you understand loss. These are kind words.

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Lorrie Perencevic

about 1 month ago

All I can say is how sorry I am that your family experienced this terrible loss. I am the mother of two grown daughters, a grandmother of three (soon to be four) grandchildren. In my younger years I experienced several miscarriages and eventually also lost my only son to SIDS. The pain of losing a child is not like losing any other family member...it is a loss out of time, not at all in the natural order, and thus it feels at times utterly without solace. My son would have turned eleven years old this coming April, and I am aware every day of his absence though the cutting edge of pain has dulled...it is never gone. I know eternity lies ahead and that he is already there, that kissing his little earthly shell goodbye was not the end of him and there is some comfort in that. I pray today that as time continues to pass, your family continues to heal and find solace, even joy, in that eternal promise. Some days are still so painful but we are never alone. I so truly wish you peace and my prayers follow you.

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Karen Spears Zacharias

about 1 month ago

Lorrie: Thanks for reading and for reaching out. Sawyer, our grandson, turns two next week. He has been a joy and delight in every way. He loves to read and will bring his mother his bible book and tell her to read it to him. He loves books and balls of any sort. I am so saddened to learn of the death of your own son to SIDS. An unimaginable grief. I have a dear friend who lost her firstborn to SIDS and I know how the loss of her son has been her deepest wound for decades now. Prayers for you as you walk this grief daily. As one father who lost his daughter put it to me - I lost my past, my present and my future. The loss isn't a one time thing. And there is never any getting over it. Each passing year is just a reminder of all the life your son missed out on and all that living you missed out on with him. Hugs. Prayers.

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