This morning I received an email from a friend who will be conducting a graveside service for premature twins who died hours after their delivery. They were only 24 weeks into their term. He asked my advice.
I struggled with what to say. What would I say at such a graveside service? I have spoken on several occasions in similar circumstances. But deciding what to say when I would rather just be silent is very difficult. But the family has asked that something be said. So, as a gift to the family, I speak.
I thought I might just lament. That is what I feel like doing. There are times when we are “too troubled to speak” and we “refuse to be comforted,” when we question where the love God is and wonder why he has forgotten us (Psalm 77). I could have advised words to that effect and I almost did.
But at the graveside we also need hope. Lament and hope are not mutually exclusive. I feel both often, sometimes one more than the other. Burying infant twins is a time for lament, a time to mourn. I want to protest the grave with lament; I want to rail against God’s seeming failure to deliver.
But at the graveside I also want to triumph over the grave with hope. The grave evokes tears as we remember our loss, and it should. The grave also looks so permanent. It is a dreary place with permanent headstones. Consequently, at the grave I want to declare the hope, to rebel against death. This is not the end of the story! I want to scream, “This is not over!” Our hope–our expection, the promise of God–is that God will create a new earth where there are no more graves or gravestones. The whole creation will be at peace (the lion and the lamb) and creation will no longer hurt itself or others.
This is the hope that Isaiah 65:17-25 proclaims. After the devastation of the exile, the loss of life, the loss of everything, the prophet promises that God will create a new heavens and new earth. It will be a place where “never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days” or women “bear children doomed to misfortune.” “Never again” is a refrain that I relish in that text. It fills my heart with such resolve, a hatred for death and a longing–a groaning–for the new creation where God will wipe away all tears and death will be no more (Rev 21:1-4).
God will not let this stand! So, God, bring it on!