Hope Even In Grief
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning together as it suffers together the pains of labor, and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what one already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:22-25)
“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name for ever. For great is your steadfast love towards me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” (Psalm 86:12-13)
I do not believe that there is anything more difficult than losing a child. Parents are supposed to leave this world before their children and when this does not happen the grief is I am certain profound.
President George and First lady Barbara Bush readily acknowledge they never stopped agonizing over the death of their 3-year-old little girl Robin. She passed away from leukemia in the early summer of 1953.
In his biography of the late president, Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush, Jon Meacham tells how the Bushes took their beloved little girl to Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York, even though there was little hope of finding an effective treatment.
Meacham writes: "Barbara had only one rule for visitors: No tears in front of Robin. She didn't want the little girl scared by seeing grown-ups crying. 'Poor George had the most dreadful time,' recalled Barbara. 'He would say he had to go to the bathroom and step outside. We used to laugh and wonder if Robin thought he had the weakest bladder in the world,' recalled Barbara. 'Not true. He just had the most tender heart.'" After several months of treatments "Robin went into a coma while her father was returning to the hospital from Texas. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bush, the little one’s mom and dad, were at her bedside when the end came.
'One minute she was there, and the next she was gone,' recalled Barbara. 'I truly felt her soul go out of that beautiful little body.'" The biographer added, "Barbara combed Robin's hair, and both parents held her one last time."
Years later in a USA Today article, writer Susan Page wrote that "Barbara collapsed into sorrow when Robin breathed her last and that it was her husband who helped her regain her composure. Later, Barbara would marvel that a tragedy that splits many couples had brought them closer. 'Time after time during the next six months,' she said, 'George would put me together again.'"
In the biography and in other articles about their loss, the faith of George and Barbara Bush was also held up as an important part of their healing. Like all Christians they held on to that promised day of God when all will be made right again. Additionally, even in their sorrow, they rejoiced that for Robin all pain was gone, and she was free of that dreaded disease. They deeply held on to the words of scripture that “in life and in death we belong to God.”
Friends sometimes in this world we struggle – Paul calls them labor pains – but he reminds us that we are also a people of hope for we know the good news that awaits us all in the Kingdom of God.
Thanks be to God for such a promise in which we hold our hope in both days of grief and joy.