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      Lori Casey BSN MDiv., BCC-PCHAC

      “Personal Reflection on a Child’s Death” by Rev. Dr. Amy Schacht.

      Amy’s reflection on the death of her son’s best friend, Dominic, was excellent. This article is one of the most honest and heartfelt I have read and I found myself tearing up over and over again. I love it that in her ministry to the family personally and to ten year olds and adults attending the funeral, she quoted from “the last book the child was reading.” She utilized a Beatle song that spoke to kids, and adults about regardless of their faith tradition. Her depth of true ministry in this moment on both a personal and corporate level was so beautiful, ecumenical, and focused on assuring each one present that love never dies surely was from the heart of God. I love her use of ritual in the releasing of balloons and in her family’s use of Lekach Tov. As human beings we sometimes struggle with “what to do.” Rituals give actions to our feelings, and facilitate or become a passage towards greater healing whenever enacted.
      Using The Beatles song in place of Amazing Grace was inclusive and spoke to the hearts of the people. I will share a quick story about a time when I used a definitely nontraditional song to convey a message. In caring for a dying patient in his 50’s, his wife said he left the corporate world to become a farmer. Tearful and distraught, she told me multiple stories about her husband and how he struggled especially with feeling he had not provided well financially for them. Despite her repeated assurances that he was a wonderful husband, father and provider, she said (as he was semi-conscious in his dying process) that he continued to feel like a failure. She asked for a prayer for his comfort and assurance. Because she told me he loved Jimmy Buffet I decided to use a line from a Buffet song in my conversational prayer I said for him at the bedside: “I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast. Never meant to last, never meant to last.” I then said to him that money is just that, we make it and we spend it- but what he provided his wife and his family was indestructible – great love and faith.
      His wife cried and said that was just what he needed to hear- in Jimmy Buffets words that would carry clout. If you are not a parrothead, don’t read the song- the words might offend. I would never play this in the church either, but it was perfect for this man in this situation and I believe God conveyed several truths in that moment.
      While I have baptized dying babies and did a graveside service for a full term baby born dead, I have never had to do a child’s funeral. I so appreciated Amy’s honesty in theological struggle to make sense of that which makes no sense, her feelings of her own grief and wanting to be faithful to her Call to ministry to help people in the midst of their grief, loss and bereavement. Amy notes that in the act of standing together- in the midst of deep pain and loss, in the fullness of mystery-when no answers are given or provided, our prayers are that we may know the Divine. I resonate with this as there are times when we do stand in the face of Mystery, aware that there are no words to convey the grief of loss and unknowing, and our offering becomes our presence leaning into what we know about the love of God.
      I facilitate a grief support group and within the group I have shared two books with participants who have children. The first is “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” and the second is really more for adults and is entitled, “Tear Soup. We have talked about age appropriateness in our reflections, and I learned from lending out “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” to a woman with several younger children was that her kids who were 8 and older loved the book, and her 4y/o did not understand the changing of seasons and so it was not as helpful.

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