ST MICHAEL & All ANGELS CHURCH
(Church of England)
St Michael's Green,
On The Death of a Child
We hope that these readings may be of some comfort to anyone who reads them and pray that they may help support you at this time. If we can be of any help at all please do not hesitate to contact us. With our love and our prayers.
All at St Michael and All Angels church.
There are few sorrows in this world greater than grief for a child. Many parents have suffered this deep distress at the sudden ending of a new life that seemed full of promise. In the Bible there are several stories of such losses, and death in childhood continued to be sadly frequent for many centuries that followed. Today, when infant mortality is lower, the pain is perhaps even harder to bear than in the past. It may be some comfort to know that the very young, like the very old, seem to slip away from life easily and are usually spared a slow decline. But at such a time, there is little that can mitigate grief. Christians can only cling to the cross which is the emblem of pain borne by divine manhood, and try to believe in the loving purpose of God which seems hidden. If all things, even the deepest sorrow, can be offered to God, the lives that must go on will be richer in faith. It is a hard saying, but many have proved its truth.
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Revelation 7:16 - 17
David said, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept for I said, “Who knows? The Lord may he gracious to me, and the child may live.” But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.’
2 Samuel 12:22—3
Jesus said, ‘In heaven their angels do always
behold the face of my Father, who is in heaven’.
We give him/her back to thee, 0 God, who gave him/her to us.
Yet as thou didst not lose him/her in the giving,
so we do not lose him/her by his/ her return.
Not as the world gives, givest thou, 0 lover of souls.
What thou givest, thou takest not away,
for what is thine is ours also if we are thine.
(We give him back to you O God, who gave him to us.
And as you did not lose him in the giving,
So we do not lose him by his return.
Not as the world gives do you give, O lover of souls.
What you give you do not take away,
For what is yours is ours also, since we are yours.)
And life is eternal and love is eternal, and death is a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the line of our sight. Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further; cleanse our eyes that we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with thee. And while thou dost prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that where thou art we may be also for evermore.
Life is eternal and love is eternal, and death is a horizon,
and a horizon is nothing save the line of our sight.
Lift us up, strong Son of God, so we may see further;
cleanse our eyes so we may know ourselves
to be nearer to our loved ones who are with you.
And while you prepare a place for us,
prepare us also to know that we are with you forever.
Farewell dear babe, my heart’s too much content,
Farewell sweet babe, the pleasure of mine eye,
Farewell fair flower, that for a space was lent,
Then ta’en away unto Eternity.
Blest babe, why should I once bewail thy fate,
Or sigh thy days so soon were terminate,
Since thou art settled in an everlasting state?
By nature trees do rot when they are grown,
And plums and apples thorough ripe do fall,
And corn and grass are in their season mown,
And time brings down what is both strong and tall.
But plants now set to be eradicate,
And buds new blown to have so short a date,
Is by His hand alone that guides nature and fate.
Death came unheralded: but it was well;
For so thy Saviour bore
Kind witness, thou wast meet at once to dwell
On His eternal shore;
All warning spared
For none He gives where hearts are for prompt
Joy of sad hearts, and light of downcast eyes!
Dearest, thou art enshrined
In all thy fragrance in our memories;
For we must ever find
Bare thought, of thee
Freshen this weary life, while weary life shall be.
John Henry Newman
I cry to you, 0 Lord, give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low.
As a father has compassion for his children,
So the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
He knows how we are made,
He remembers we are dust.
The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away
He gives sleep to his beloved.
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in the world of the dead,
you are there.
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night’,
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Psalm 139:8, 11—12
We stand in a dark place
for the light of a little life has gone out
and there seems no way to turn in confidence.
Dreams of what might have been torment us
but we do not know if the years would have brought great trouble,
what pain to come is cancelled in the pain of this time:
one day perhaps all will be made clear.
Now there is nothing but to pour our sorrow
into the well of sorrow that God watches in love
and turns into living water.
Surely he knows a father’s pain,
and Mary watched her child, grown tomanhood, dying in agony:
she stood by the Cross,
and after the Cross there is Resurrection.
May this cross we bear be the way to new life,
strength to go on believing and serving,
strength to go on living while life is granted,
to value each day of life, because now we know
that life is very precious, very fragile,
that life and death are in the hands of God.
Loving God, we commit into your hands the soul of this little one
who has been called away from this world.
We know that nothing is made in vain:
grant that what there was of life shall find its meaning in your loving purpose.
Draw us closer together in remembering him/her
and unite us in the power of the Resurrection, in which we are for ever one.
O Lord, you have made us very small,
and we bring our years to an end like a tale that is told;
help us to remember that beyond our brief day is the eternity of your love.