I attended a funeral for someone I never met and my life changed forever

There is a family in my neighborhood that is kind to everyone. This couple has been particularly kind to my family over the years. They are the type of people that welcome you to a neighborhood, compliment you frequently and make you feel good about yourself. They are people that help others and willingly serve. They have an innate ability to strengthen those around them and smile in times of adversity.

Well… Now that you know what type of couple they are (the kind you want to be associated with), I’ll briefly mention a snippet of their story.

The husband and wife struggled to have kids on their own after several years of marriage and finally had the privilege of adopting two beautiful girls (twins) about five years ago.

They are remarkable parents and love their little girls with a love only parents understand. Less than a year ago they found out they were pregnant with a little girl (miracle). Imagine the emotion and excitement of conceiving a child after you’ve been told for years and years that it wasn’t likely or impossible.

Somewhere after the first trimester they lost their precious little girl due to complications with the mother’s cervix. They were devastated, yet showed only faith and hope and looked forward to brighter days. Their sweet twins were broken as well, having hoped for a little sister. This took place in the fall of 2014.

Today Heidi and I attended a funeral for their fourth child, the second born to them (miracle again) and the second they’ve had to say goodbye to (for now). This precious little boy was born at 23 weeks due to more complications from mom’s cervix. Faith and prayers kept him alive for 15 days in the NICU and this week he finally decided to return to his Maker.

Here’s a list of a few things that stood out to me from this little boy’s funeral service.

Note: My sister and her husband experienced the loss their little boy, Ethan, a few years ago and the entire time I thought of this family I had the Hearty family on my mind. Perhaps what I was able to see from this family and their example stemmed in part from watching my sister and her husband act in a similar way when they lost their little one.

Gratitude

The mother of this sweet little boy stood at the pulpit and with tears in her eyes said, “My heart is broken and my arms are empty but I’m grateful to my Heavenly Father.”

She then proceeded to identify the different blessings, tender mercies and ways she’d seen God’s hand in her life over those two weeks. With emotion made manifest through constant tears and a sweet tremble in her voice she mentioned how wonderful it was to change one of his diapers and have him pee on her (that was the only diaper of his she got to change). She also mentioned how sweet it was when he unexpectedly opened his eyes and looked right at them.

The key takeaway for me is that instead of focusing on the moments they won’t have or the didn’t get while he was here, both parents expressed immense gratitude for what they did get.

Isn’t that such a great reminder for us in life? Let’s not focus on the negative, but rather on the positive. Let’s be grateful for the moments we DO have and let’s live life to the fullest in those moments.

Instead of complaining that they couldn’t take their baby home and hold him they referred to the nurses at the NICU as “angels who helped keep their boy on this earth for two weeks.”

Instead of expressing anger toward God they shared their favorite passages (one of which is Proverbs 3:5-6) from scripture. They shared other scriptural passages that give them hope that they’ll see their boy again along with his older sister. They quoted passages from the Bible and Book of Mormon and candidly expressed their trust in Jesus Christ and His ability to heal all, no matter the trial.

With tears in their eyes they expressed beyond comprehension. They truly see the glass as half full.

Prayer and communication

During the two weeks that their baby boy was alive they asked for many prayers from family and friends. It’s one thing to ask for prayers and thoughts, but it’s another to let people know what they can pray for specifically.

I’ve come to learn that Heavenly Father likes it when we pray, first and foremost. But I’ve also learned that He delights in specifics. He wants to know our specific feelings and the intimate details of our lives. Yes, He’s omniscient, but that doesn’t take away from the need to be specific in our prayers to him.

This family kept a blog to keep people informed of their son’s progress. In one specific blog post I remember them asking people to pray for a list of different things. They pleaded that we pray for his brain to stop bleeding, for his blood to get proper oxygen, etc.

They asked for specifics because they needed miracle after miracle. At one point in the service the mother said, “Some might say our prayers weren’t answered because he [their son] didn’t live. I beg to differ, the prayers gave us just the time we needed with him on earth to strengthen our faith and love him more.”

The more specific our prayers become the more intimate our relationship with God will become. 

Pay it forward

As the father concluded his remarks he said something I’ll never forget. With unmasked emotion he challenged the congregation to give a hug to someone who needs it — to buoy people up. He acknowledged how his own family had benefitted from the kindness of others and how this experience is “great motivation,” in his words, to pay it forward.

Once again, a remarkable lesson we can learn from this. Imagine the good it would do if you reached out to someone everyday and told them at least one good thing about themselves or why you appreciate them. Whether it’s in your professional life or with personal friends and family, or if it’s through a text message, Facebook, phone call or email, you can make a difference.

People benefit from knowing they are loved. Today I received a little extra motivation to show others how appreciative I am for what they, as unique individuals and children of God, bring to this world.

 

 

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