One of our bloggers, and one of the world’s foremost New Testament scholars, Ben Witherington, lost his daughter a year ago. It’s hard to read this as a father to a daughter, or as a father at all. But it’s good to remember how we should treasure the fleeting years we have with our children:
Emily Dickinson put it well…
My life closed twice before its close—
It yet remains to see If Immortality unveil A third event to me.
For me that first huge closing that I was helpless to prevent was the death of our Christy girl a year ago today. But closings are not all bad things. Don’t we often speak of the need for closure? It was a small mercy for me when I got to the funeral home and went and looked in the casket my first and instinctive reaction was—– that’s not my Christy. That doesn’t even look like my untamed spirit. That is just a corpse masquerading as my daughter. To me it was a shock of unreality. If that’s not Christy, where is she? Then a quiet voice said “she’s with me, you have to let her go.”
You know people go to cemeteries and talk to the dead, but they are not there. They’ve vacated the premises. Elvis has left the building. To be absent from the body means to be present with the Lord if anyone is any Christ. I remember thinking how incredibly heavy that mahogany box was that Christy’s remains were in as I slid it into her resting place. Weighty ashes, but still, just ashes. Not Christy.
So one last time, before they closed the box and we went home that night, I sang the song I regularly sung to Christy as a child at bedtime before we tucked her in— ‘you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray, you’ll never know dear how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.’ Yet when I was singing, it felt like the sunshine in my life had been taken away. It was hard.