Look Away

I was watching television tonight, and the ad for the chimps, the one about the Jane Goodall(?) rescue organization came on, and I made Mr. Spit turn the channel. It breaks my heart to see them. To see starving children, to see broken and abused people. I cannot watch the television news about Haiti, and yet I cannot do anything but watch.

I sent my money to the Red Cross, adding it on top of the contributions we make to other organizations. I can do that, and I can force myself to watch. To keep my eyes open and stare straight ahead, when I would rather keep my eyes closed, avert my gaze.

I ordered a book from Amazon and it arrived on Tuesday. It sits on my coffee table, open to about page 46. The book is about the death of a child, and it promises to offer certain theological proof that dead babies go to heaven. I find myself, even as I am reading the book, a bit perplexed. Where on earth would dead babies go, if not to heaven? I never gave it any thought with Gabriel, it simply does not occur to me that he would be anywhere else than heaven. His baptism was a ritual that was precious to me, the thing and the whole of the thing, but not at all essential to heaven. It was a panacea, this holding up of ritual against the tide of sorrow, but it was in no way essential, it was as meaningless in the cause of salvation as it was at holding off sorrow.

But, theological promises are not the reason I have stopped reading the book. It is the premise that parents ought not to grieve their dead children, because those children are in heaven. Why worry the book seems to say. Why be concerned? Your child is in a better place, bypassing the peril of this mortal coil.

Can I say that it is a relief at least, to hear a Christian say what I so often feel they are thinking? I imagine that Christians look at Mr. Spit and I, who still so desperately miss our son, and want to pry him away from the everlasting arms of Jesus, and hold him in our own; I would imagine that they look at us and call our faith weak, call us unable to trust, suggest that our faith, our priorities are out of order. It is at least a relief to see these words in black and white, where I can weigh and measure them.

I have been watching Glo and a few others struggle, and it breaks my heart. It seems no different than watching news of devastation, watching chimpanzee’s in steel traps, women on freezing cold street corners. I can’t do anything. I can’t make our churches places for the broken, I can’t change attitudes, I can’t do much of anything.

But look. But watch. But stare evenly ahead, not turning my head away.

For something so simple, so small, so pathetically useless, would someone please tell me why in the hell it is so hard?

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21 Responses to Look Away

  1. anonymous says:

    True, church seems more for the Pharisee than it does for the Publican. I prefer going to a church where no one knows me.

  2. HereWeGoAJen says:

    Watching is not simple or small for someone who cares. If you could just watch, yes, it would be simple. But you (and I) must watch and FEEL.

  3. Two Hands says:

    It’s hard because you have empathy, my dear friend. You can vividly imagine the pain, the despair and it hurts, as it should when another human being, or even animal is in pain.
    Gabriel should have been given the chance to do God’s work here on earth, to love and be loved and find his niche in the world and feel the joy of living. Your faith isn’t weak to want to hold him, raise him, watch him grow and want him here with you. I don’t know how to put it into words. My heart aches for you, as glorious as heaven must be, I wish he’d been given the time to experience the next best thing first – a lifetime of his parent’s love.

  4. a says:

    Ya know, my husband uses that same philosophy on me frequently, and it makes me want to smack him (not in the same way, but it’s still annoying). It’s the “If X is true, then you should feel Y.” It is a logical fallacy/error – just because X might be good, that doesn’t mean it has to make you happy. Recognizing the relative worth of your faith that Gabriel is happy in God’s arms does not make you want him in your arms less. It’s incredibly frustrating too, because the people who espouse that philosophy cannot see that things do not equate. You may feel comforted that Gabriel is in God’s arms, because considering other alternatives is unpleasant. But that has nothing to do with wanting him with you – it’s just that people try to make themselves feel better by the “they’re better off” tactic.


  5. Jamie says:

    It’s not simple or plain at all. It’s empathy and this world is too full of people who can watch those same commercials and not care. You and I just aren’t those people.

  6. Jess says:

    Yeah, sometimes I wish I could care less.

  7. tash says:

    I’m probably not an opinion that matters much in this regard, but I have to look at your position and say “Well of COURSE people! Are you INSANE?” I always thought heaven promised a future meeting (well, for some) but I guess in my head that doesn’t really negate the current missing in the meantime.

    My mother once went to a mormon funeral of the daughter of one of my dad’s colleagues who was killed by drunk driver. She said it was like this book, but in a very in-your-face, trite, and rather alarming way (think very bad poetry, etc.) and not so much a rejoicing of her life but a sick rejoicing that she died a painful and horrible death. She said she barely made it through without screaming.

  8. debby says:

    Oh my God. I would hope, by all that is holy, that no Christian in this world would ever even think that we should rejoice because our child has gone on to heaven before us, let alone say those awful words out loud. I have felt relief at the passing of a person who was suffering terribly, but that is markedly, markedly different. I know people who have endured the loss of a child, but I think only a zealot could rejoice at the funeral of a child.

  9. wanda says:

    I have never lost a child,I can only imagine the pain and suffering that you must endure. Just the mere thought of losing one of mine brings me to tears,and turns my heart inside out.
    I am “Mormon” actually I am a Latter Day Saint, and I have NEVER rejoiced at any funeral.I cry my heart out, and I miss those I have lost in death every day of my life. It is hard for those of us that are left behind, in fact often it is unbearable…….

  10. wanda says:

    I have to say more, you have a beautiful Spirit, not everyone can feel another’s pain, grief, suffering, you can.I am sure that you also can share another person’s happiness, and not be jealous. Life is harder for people that have empathy.
    You are one of the people that keep our world from becoming a dead end street.
    I know there’s no comfort for you in my words… I am sorry for all that you are going through…..

  11. Trish says:

    Oh darling..
    It has bothered me so much to hear “don’t fret, he’s in a better place” said to people I love who lost people they love. How could we not miss them? Be sad that they are gone from our life? Is there some peace in knowing they are in a better place and that we will see them again? Sure, of course.. but that doesn’t mean that TODAY it isn’t sad and lonely without them.

    As for you empathy.. I suffer the same affliction… Feeling things too deeply. Sometimes I worry that if I turn my head from something awful that I will find something else in front of me that is even worse. I know that when I’ve had hard times, when I had miscarriages and when Robbie was so small, that sometimes people confessed to me that they couldn’t handle talking to me because everything was so awful and they didn’t know what to say to me. And those were the most hurtful words I’ve heard. So now I am determined never to say them to anyone else, either in actual voice or in deeds.
    But then, sometimes I have to know my limit before I go crazy with sadness, too.

    That being said, if you do want to read some amazingly powerful, inspirational, but also incredibly sad stories, you might check here. A message board friend works with these doctors.. She was sharing some of their messages home for a bit, when they decided to start a blog to keep them. I hope they keep them up as different doctors filter through..



  12. Barb says:

    I’m glad you put that book down.

    Sorrow is the other side of love, and great sorrow is a testament to great love. Not a testament to lack of faith.

    And I don’t have any answers to the other stuff because sometimes I can’t even watch any more. the world makes less and less sense. but it’s still beautiful.

  13. It’s hard because you have a heart and a soul. It’s hard because when you have experienced pain, you tend to be more receptive to it’s presence in other people.
    To hold a newborn child that has either just passed, or is in the midst of passing, is an experience that I would wish upon no one. To look at 10 fingers, 10 toes, the odd shaped nostril, the longer second toe. To comprehend the potential, and the ultimate loss.
    It’s not fair. Not at all. I also don’t think it is a lack of faith that makes a person question why such awful things happen.
    All babies go to heaven, but that doesn’t change the fact that you wanted your baby in your arms, in your life. Heaven should come after you’ve had a life with them.

  14. Heather says:

    I wrote about something similar last week. My mother actually said to me not long ago that her and my brother were “worried for my soul” because I was angry with God. Growing up Christian I was taught that God made all things…including grief and anger. I think he can handle my grief and anger. I think he can handle anything I hurl at him. I believe in the age of accountability, and that no baby is held accountable for their own soul. So, all babies go to Heaven. BUT, it certainly doesn’t make me feel better. As a human I am selfish by nature. I want him here with me. God can have him later. Nothing any one says, including “the words of Jesus”, makes me feel otherwise, makes it hurt less or makes it easier to accept. Infant death is traumatic and not a hurt that I think heels easily or quickly. For anyone to suggest otherwise is to voice their ignorance on the subject and to perhaps soothe the horror they feel in their own hearts.

  15. Stacey says:

    From my experience, I’ve found that those who don’t understand aren’t simply “Christians” (I too am a Christian), but they are people in general who can’t understand because they haven’t been where you’ve been. It’s easy for others to try to make you feel better by saying you shouldn’t grieve that your baby is in heaven (although I can’t imagine why they would think those words appropriate; I think it’s more about making themselves feel better). But I believe that everyone who has a heart and has lost someone they dearly love surely must know the pain of missing them and wishing with your whole being that they were here with you! Of course it is good to know that they are in heaven, but that doesn’t mean you magically won’t miss them and won’t feel their absence from your life every single day. I wish more people could show love and compassion to those who grieve, rather than trying to think of a quick fix to make them all better.

    Thank you for your comments on my blog. I am so, so sorry for the loss of your Gabriel.

  16. Brown Owl says:

    “Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest..” Matthew 11:28

    We are not promised an end to our sorrow, grief, or rage, but a shoulder to lean upon, a place of peace, of comfort, a source of strength.

    We cannot look away from suffering. As a caring people, we are driven to action. We want to fix things. Make it better. Make it right. We shout and rage to the Heavens. We wish to raise God’s righteous wrath, that those who cause such atrocities of pain and anguish and torment, be called to account – if not in this world, then the next!
    Whether we feed/comfort the starving waif, chimp, pup, or helpless creature of any nation; whether we strive to remove the steel jaws of poachers, pimps, or poverty; we do it because it is the only right or reasonable action. Indeed, if we do not aid those in need, who would ever help us in our time of need?

    …God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son…. Oh yes, truly, it is a comfort, but the only comfort that will ease the grief of losing our babies, is that which comes with holding them safe and warm in our arms again.

    Yes. I am confident that our babies – all of them – are safe and loved in the arms of the angels. I am confident we will be reunited in God’s embrace in heaven. But even trusting that to be true and inviolate, yet there is pain in my heart even trusting and looking to the morning.

    Maybe just take that book and dispose of it in the shredding bin. It has brought you no comfort and would doubtless provide no consolation to another.

  17. To give witness, to abide, to just “be” is hard. It’s giving yourself over to the hardest of human tasks, denying denial.
    Sorry, CW. I know your faith is not weak and I question those who question you and O.
    I am weary of those who judge and profess to know so much, but are just downright cruel and clueless about dead babies and loss, love, and struggle.

  18. Sue says:

    I’m not someone who can really address this, but I am here with you, and wishing you peace.

  19. the Mom says:

    A sweet nun once told me, after the loss of our Bernadette. that it is the job of every parent to get their babies to Heaven. She then hugged me and said “Good job, Mom.” It is a hard thing for Dead Baby Moms to remember that we loved our children, and did the best we knew how, and our job is done, and done well.

    She also told me that it is the job of each of us to learn all we can about love before we die. “How powerful must your love have been that she could have learned everything she needed in so short a time.” I take comfort in the thought that I taught her everything I knew of love, and it was a mighty and a powerful thing.

    I loved Sr. Philomena, she was wise and wonderful.

  20. kate says:

    It’s not that MacArthur book, is it? I hated that book. In fact i wrote a rather scathing review of it on my blog, a while ago.

    Many commenters above have said what i would say, only better..so i will just send you some ((((hugs))))

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