Depression is always present, but not always dominant for me. It attacks me in waves, sometimes the waves are frequent, and sometimes I can go for weeks and forget they exist, that’s when they hit me the hardest. Sometimes, they’re small just a reminder that I’m not well, they hit me like a small love tap, keeping me alert and aware of their presence. Today these small waves hit me, just a love tap. Friday was a great day, I got so much done, I got to see my parents and we enjoyed each other’s company. Then I learned yesterday that my friends lost their baby. Not a miscarriage, this baby came home with them, he had a name, they got to know his personality, and then he unexpectedly died. The medical field calls it SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Splash. Can you feel the waves?
Today I went to church, and I got to see so many couples with their babies, smiling and giggling with their precious gifts from God. I got to see grandparents snatch up their grandbabies and rock them until they fell asleep in their laps. I got to hold my favorite baby the entire service, I got to feed her and burp her. We sang that old Mahalia Jackson standard Soon We’ll Be Done With the Troubles of the World. In the song she speaks of who she’ll see when she goes to live with God: her mother, her maker, our church adds brother, sister, and father – never children. It’s assumed that children outlive their parents and won’t meet them there for a longtime. Splash. The waves are just around the corner.
My friends were supposed to outlive their son. I offered them my prayers, told them if there is anything they need to tell me. But what can I give? I’m just a broke seminary student with a paper to write that’s three days late. My prayers feel worthless to a couple that lost their child. I spent much of the service this morning in tears, holding and rocking the first child of the deacon at my church. I cry a lot, so people around the church can’t tell if I’m crying tears of joy or sorrow, I cry silently, and I’ve perfected the art of wiping away tears before they hit my clothes. The baby I held didn’t mind my tears, she sat with me, rather silently.Though it was her nap time, she held vigil with me for a good while before getting fussy. For me holding babies is therapeutic, smelling that new baby smell, or Johnson & Johnson baby oil on their heads, feeling their small little hands grabbing my fingers, making them smile and laugh, holding them, comforting them; it all serves one very important purpose, it reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I protest, why I march, why I boycott, why I preach, to make the world better and safer for the people that will follow me. To baby-proof the world, if you will. But I don’t know what to do if or when the babies die first. I have no idea how to process the deaths of young people, of teens or adolescents and especially not babies. Each time I see that someone under the age of 40 has died another wave of depression hits me.
Call me a bad Christian, but I’ve never believed that God needs more angels, so “he” kills people’s babies to fill heaven with them. I don’t believe that young people die because it’s “their time” or that “God has a plan” in the death of babies and children. I have never been nor will I ever be a subscriber of the ideas of predestination as the new crop of neo-Calvinists along the strain of Driscoll and Piper, I give God far more credit than that. But I digress.
The sermon today was about learning to rely on our fellow Christians; how at our best we are the very hands of God for each other. It doesn’t feel like it at the moment, but maybe my offer to be there was an answered prayer for my friends. Maybe just offering a hand out in love was what they needed yesterday. I’m sure other people are showing up in ways that answer prayer and keep the waves of sorrow from drowning them. The promise of the Church isn’t that the waves will cease, but that we never have to face them alone, and that soon we’ll be done with the troubles of the world.