A year ago, we gathered in a cemetery chapel next to a coffin that seemed too small to be real. That beast Cancer had taken another. This time, little Finn.
Through tears and a shaky voice, I offered the words God gave me as best I could. Moments later, I watched parents bury their earthly dreams for their boy. The dirt piled on. They said their goodbyes. But how does a parent bid goodbye to their three-year-old son? How do they go on, parenting their other two boys when the one missing pulls their heart underground with them?
I don’t know. But God knows. And in moments like that, that’s the greatest hope we have.
Last week, on the anniversary of Finn’s death, we gathered to remember. We grieved together as those in Christ grieve—truly but with all the hope Jesus gives. There is a day coming when death shall be no more. We believe that. We look forward to it. Today, though, isn’t that day. So we cry with aching hearts. But we won’t bury our hope. How could we? Our hope rose from the grave.
For two and a half years, the fight for a cure was in full force. Then, suddenly, one day it was over. For a year and a half, all Finn’s parents had each night as they tucked their boy into bed was that morning would come bearing new mercies. Perhaps one day, they hoped, the mercy of a cure would come knocking on their door.
But that cure never came. Instead, the tumors grew larger and faster, making their home in a place they didn’t belong. The medical landscape dried up. Time ran out. One final morning, it was all over.
I remember the moment I saw the text message come in. As I looked at the words there in black and white, I grieved. I knew this was coming. We all did. But it hurt. It felt surprising. Death always leaves you longing for just one more something—one more visit, one more hello, one more goodbye, one more hug, one more look, one more smile, one more anything. Among the many things death steals is the normal things of life that you don’t even notice until you can’t have it again. Those are the things that really hurt. The toys sitting on the living room couch. The label that prints his name for Sunday School at church. The things of life that just happen until they suddenly don’t. Those are the things that hurt so much more than we expect.
Days after his death, we showed up to a church in town to mourn together and to celebrate a life too short but oh so meaningful. We wore our avocado pins because they were Finn’s favorite food. We told stories and gave hugs and we worshiped God because that’s what you do when you have no other answers. You lift your praise to the one who knows what it’s like to lose a son. And you put your hope in that Son’s resurrection.
During the service, there was a slide show of Finn’s life. Ellie Holcomb’s Red Sea Road served as the soundtrack for the first part.
We’ve buried dreams,
Laid them deep into the earth behind us
Said our goodbyes
At the grave but everything reminds us
God knows we ache,
When He asks us to go on
How do we go on?
How does a family go on? I didn’t know. So I looked to the one who was trying to—to Finn’s dad. And he gave me hope. On this anniversary of Finn’s burial, I know no better words than Dan’s, which I have included below.
Every night before bed, we had the same routine. We’d get a glass of water, and say our prayers. Sometimes we would pray but there were times when he would pop up and say, “I want to pray.” So he would pray. He’d say the usual prayers and when he was done praying, he’d look at us, and hold his arms out and say, “Hug and kiss.”
So we’d tuck him in, snuggling with his lion blanket. We’d pull his blanket over him, and he would give us just the sweetest and gentlest hug and kiss you can imagine. And every night without fail, he would finish by saying in the cutest little voice, “See you in the morning.”
Finn is profoundly missed. Where once there was a loving and joyful presence in our lives, there is now a gaping, jagged raw hole. The loss of Finn is so real, so physical, so emotional, and it is so life-dominating that it is hard to think of anything beyond our present moment of sorrow. And as we cry out to God in our sorrow and our anger, it’s hard to see any hope in any of this. And yet in the midst of this bitter grief, the Bible does still give us hope. Psalm 30 says that weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. It teaches us that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the things that are will not always be. There is a hope for those in Christ Jesus, and a glorious future to look forward to. The apostle Paul spoke of this and he said it makes our current suffering seem light and momentary in comparison.
What is will not always be. We may be deep in the night now, but there will most assuredly come a morning. And with that morning will come great joy.
For now we mourn. But we cling to the hope that we will see Finn again. We will see him without tubes, without bags, and without the ravages of cancer. We will laugh and we will run. And we will probably eat avocados.
Finn, we will see you in the morning.
This is the hope of Advent lived in between the death we experience and the life promised. As Fleming Rutledge says, “The disappointment, brokenness, suffering, and pain that characterize life in this present world is held in dynamic tension with the promise of future glory that is yet to come. In that Advent tension, the church lives its life.”
Only the church has this hope. The promise of future glory is yet to come. A light will shine in the darkness. So we go on, as Ellie Holcomb sings, because in Christ, by the power of his gospel, we can sing this good song of gospel hope to our souls.
Where He leads us to go, there’s a red sea road
When we can’t see the way, He will part he waves
And we’ll never walk alone down a red sea road
Why? Because God is always there. Even in the midst of the deepest sorrow. He was there when Finn took his final breath. He was there a year ago when we laid him in the ground. He was there last week when we gathered to remember. And he will be there every moment of every hour of every day because he is a faithful God.
On a day like today, as I remember the pain of last year, and as Finn’s parents weep and remember, there is a God above who is faithful, who is bringing a morning so bright that all this pain will certainly be in comparison light and momentary. And all those little things we miss today he will restore. In our mourning, in Christ, we can know that there will most assuredly come a morning. The years that the locusts have taken will be ours again, and no one will snatch them from our resurrected hands.
Editor’s Note: This originally published at Things of the Sort.