by Dr. Burt D. Braunius
Caring for my son for almost twenty-three years changed me. While the grief has been deeper and more profound than anything I could have imagined, God's grace has been abundant. The experience of giving care and growing through grief has shaped my faith, leading to four professions. A story or reflection follows each profession, most of which are supported by The Westminster Catechism.
THE WORD OF GOD IS POWER
I profess the power of the Word of God to provide direction for our lives (The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q & A 2).
Scripture contains messages of relief for times of grief. One of our experiences with Peter concerned Psalm 23. During one of the quiet times in Peter's hospital room a few days before he died, he told Marlene and me in a soft voice, "I was hoping to make it to Psalm 23." Marlene came close to him, hugged him, and said, "What do you mean, 'hoping to make it to Psalm 23?'"
Our family tradition is to read the Psalm corresponding numerically with that person's birthday. Peter was feeling the sadness of knowing that he would not live that long, and we were experiencing it with him. Peter died on January 28, 1996; eight days before his birthday.
I have paraphrased Psalm 23 and written it as I think Peter would have if he could:
We, with Peter, wish he could have made it to Psalm 23. Instead, he made it to eternity. He is in the house of the Lord, and we are looking forward to celebrating Psalm 23 and eternity with him someday.
OUR PURPOSE IS TO GLORIFY GOD
I profess that our primary purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q & A 1 ).
The creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Presbyterian and Reformed community have given us a way of expressing our spiritual values. Peter memorized the Catechism for Young Children when he was three years old. I can still hear him answering questions one through three, "Who made you? God did. What else did God make? God made all things. Why did God make you and all things? For his own glory."
After Peter's death, I paraphrased the first question and answer from the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q.What is your source of comfort in dealing with
the life and death of your son Peter?
Jesus fully paid for Peter's sins with his own blood.
Jesus set Peter free from the manifestations of sin that were seen in suffering related to cystic fibrosis and organ rejection.
Jesus watched over Peter in such a way that nothing could happen
In fact, all these things worked together for his salvation.
Because Peter belongs to Him, Christ by His Holy Spirit assures me of his eternal life, and this assurance continues to make me wholeheartedly willing and ready to live and die for Him.
WE CAN RELY ON GOD
I profess that by faith I can boldly come to God in prayer, may plead about the burdens that I bear, and am able to quietly rely upon His sovereign care (The Westminster Larger Catechism, Q & A 196 ).
Prayer is necessary at all times, but the need for it is especially evident during times of loss. I have applied the pattern of the Lord's Prayer to an expression of our needs and those of other grieving parents.
LET US SING!
I profess the healing and hope-giving power of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
For months I was not able to sleep at night without Christian music playing in the background. While it is no longer necessary for me to have the radio on all night, music brings peace to my spirit. Now, I wake each morning with a song in my head and on my heart. It is almost as if a Divine Finger makes a daily juke box selection and I awake to a new song. I still remember the power of music during the night of Peter's passing.
The nurses changed shifts at 7:00 PM. That night a parade of them came through the room to say goodbye. We cried and talked about Peter and Peter's God and God's faithfulness. We were emotional; they were emotional --- wet eyes, tears, testimonies, Scripture, expressions of support. One of the nurses on this shift was Jan, who told Marlene about one of her favorite songs, "Life Without End - At Last!"
Around midnight she gave Marlene a photocopy of the words. As we looked at the song, Chaplain John Haspers walked into the room. Earlier in the night he had prayed and read Scripture with us. He became interested in Jan's song and asked her to try singing it with him. At Peter's bedside, within an hour and a half of his death, they began singing,
Can you see, with your mind's eye,
They sang all four verses and we all were strengthened by the song -- no professionalism, no accompaniment, no pretense. These two had never sung together before and probably never will again.
Scripture, catechism, prayer, and music: I profess these as basic to my faith and necessary for Christian living. While Marlene and I lament the loss of a son, we live in the presence of a loving God and profess a time of union with Him and of reunion with Peter.
I go to his room and sit
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