Friday, February 15, 2013

When Children Die

Some of you who follow me on twitter and also read my blog have been asking where I have been all day. Well on top of my daily schedule of studies, work/ministry etc; I learned that my baby cousin returned to God. 

The news was devastating. Whether the child is my own blood or not, the news of the death of any child bothers me. Children are our most valuable asset as a species. Without children, the human species will die with the death of the last human being. 

The loss of a child 
Nothing can be more painful for a family than to lose a child. Sometimes the pain just does not go away. To go from the joy of conception and birth, to death and burial is hard to fathom. No sane person would want the death of any child to become a reality. Yes, sometimes children can be annoying, impossible to deal with, or just drive us to drink; however, they are our children and we would die for them.  We would move heaven and hell for them.  I can't imagine the pain parents feel when they return home after the death of a child and see their child's things in his/her bedroom. The feeling of loss must be incalculable. 

Why does God allow this? 
This is the biggest question of all: Why does God allow this to happen in the first place? Children die every hour across the globe either from starvation, disease, accidents, abuse, illness or just due to SIDS or some other random consequence. How can an benevolent God allow this? There are no simple answers to this. No one knows the mind of God.  We may have ideas on what might be going on based on what we know from Scripture, Tradition, spiritual essays, the lives of the saints, and even our own spiritual lives.  Nevertheless, the question remains: why?   This question remains because we are finite creatures.  The limitations of understanding why things really happen and what happens after frustrates us.  

Children do not belong to us.  
We do not belong to ourselves.  Children and our very lives are gifts from God.  Yes, parents conceive children and give birth, but the existence of those children are a gift from God.  God as creator can do as He pleases with us.  Naturally, we will perceive death as something bad and negative.  This is because of our human experience and conditioning regarding death.  We are terrified of it.  No one wants to die.  Therefore, death is something we want to escape.  With today's scientific and technological innovations, we attempt to prolong life the best we can.  However, death is part of life.  It is a reality we all must face.  The death of children comes more of a shock because of the fact that they are innocent.  What has a child done to starve to death or die of disease?  What has a baby done to be killed in the womb or outside of it?  What has a child done to be killed by a predator, animal, or gunmen in a school?  These innocent creatures are just starting life and are learning from the guidance of parents, other adults and experience.  Unfortunately, these bad consequences are the result of Original Sin which has distorted nature.  

God is obviously fond of children.  Heaven belongs to them, according to Jesus.  Some atheists might cite Old Testament passages regarding the "bashing of babies' heads on rocks" as evidence that God is evil; however, this is bad cherry picking that does not take into account the semantics of what the author is conveying regarding the period he lived in.  It is not an instruction to kill babies on rocks. 

When a child dies, this does not mean God is evil and wanted the child dead.  It just means that the brief existence of that child has a deeper meaning that only God can explain to us.  The idea bothers us because we are so familiar with the apparent appearance of permanency in regards to death.  We feel that death is the end - literally.  We believe that we are never going to see that child again.  This is not true.  Life continues after death.  

Knowing that children are a gift from God, we must not become selfish and hate God whenever a child is called back home.  They belong to God!  We ALL belong to God!   If we owned our lives, then we could decide when we're born and when we will die or IF we want to die.  However, this is not how it works.  God breathes life into us at the moment He wishes and calls that breath back home when He wants to and for reasons that only He in His wisdom can truly understand while we just grasp some of it.  God cannot be evil for taking back what is His anymore than you can be evil for taking something of yours that a friend borrowed.  Our lives are on "loan," so to speak.   

So if you're reading this now and lost a child, don't despair.  It's okay to be sad and mad.  These are normal emotions that show that you actually do care.  However, it is not healthy to keep them in.  Pray to God, thank God for the gift He briefly gave your deceased child.  Don't try to blame yourself, nor think God punished you; He did not.  God knows what He is doing.  Death is not the end.  Think beyond the limitations of space and time.  There is a reason why our minds can do this despite the fact that we exist in space and time.  We are meant to contemplate eternity and the afterlife.  You will be reunited with your deceased child.  He/she is praying for you.     

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