Thursday, September 3, 2009

Samuel's Funeral

Today was our sweet Samuel's funeral. I have now buried a child of mine. Almost 9 years ago when Bryan and I got married and we would picture the future, I never foresaw today. I think somewhere inside I assumed how God worked -- since Bryan had lost his mom to cancer when he was 14 and his dad when he was 21, I figured Bryan wouldn't possibly have to face the death of his son. But God is unpredictable, and He doesn't follow the patterns I set out for Him. He has ways that are (thankfully) higher than my ways. And sorrow and hardships don't get evenly spread among people. And that's ok. I don't want to walk someone else's path; I want to faithfully journey down the road the Lord has laid before me. I don't want a life different from the one He has for me. I trust that His ways are best even though I don't understand them. And I have to remember that losing Samuel does not make us immune to future heartbreak; it doesn't buy us a pass. We have to seek God's face and grace in each new day and trust Him with what that day holds. As Bryan often starts his days saying, "God, we don't know what today holds, but we know You hold today."

Today, though heartbreaking and painful, was a beautiful day in many regards. We did get to celebrate our precious boy, and we had many friends join us in that celebration. I didn't know many of the people who attended the funeral, and I felt so supported and cared for by the presence of those who came. And this morning I saw a glimpse of God's power and life-giving grace. My parents divorced very painfully over 7 years ago, and they haven't seen each other since the day my dad walked out. Though I knew it would be very difficult for everyone, I really wanted both my mom and dad to be here for Samuel's funeral, and all parties braved an uncomfortable experience to stand with us at Samuel's grave. To my shock and utter amazement, not only did my parents stand in the same room together, they embraced and shared tears. I never, ever thought I would see such a moment of grace. I was deeply touched by their courage and their selfless love for me that they would willingly enter into something so uncomfortable for my sake. Thank you, Mom, and thank you, Dad, for giving me a moment of true joy on one of the most heartbreaking and dark days of my life.

North Point put together excerpts from our email updates and blog, and they were hard to read -- to see our joy and hope back in April when we found out Samuel was a boy and that he had a heart defect, to read the difficult journey we've been on ever since, and to know how the story ends. It hurts to relive the excitement of anticipating his arrival when we know we will never be bringing that precious baby home. But, again, I would never undo this experience. I wouldn't trade my 30 days with Samuel for the world. I think Bryan and I will always look back on August 2009 as a holy time.

Bill Willitts and John Woodall both spoke at the service, and Todd Fields sang "Grace Upon Grace," Sandra McCracken's song that we sang to Samuel everyday. We all sang two of the other songs we'd daily sing to our little boy -- "Blessed Be Your Name" and "It Is Well." We watched Matthew's DVD of Samuel's life (which I am trying to upload to the blog), and Bryan spoke. He talked about hope and how our hope is in Christ -- the only sure thing. Permit me to sing my husband's praise: he did a great job. Some day I will just write a post about how remarkable Bryan is. This last month has proven to me yet again that I married the most amazing man. Blessed am I.

I think the hardest part of the day for me was walking up to the gravesite and seeing this tiny box waiting to be buried. Thinking of my baby inside there....well, there aren't words. My solace was in knowing that the real Samuel is alive and well in Heaven, and what's in that casket is nothing more than the imperfect body that couldn't hold his precious life. Last night when I was praying, I told God, "I don't know if I'm even allowed to ask this because I don't know how it works, but could you please give my Samuel extra cuddles from me and tell him how much I love him?" I like to think of God as filling in all the gaps we couldn't while Samuel was here -- of holding, kissing, and rocking my baby. It was hard to walk away from the casket today. To turn my back and leave. But again, I know Samuel is not really there. Last night when I was talking to Caleb about Samuel being in Heaven, Caleb said, "Samuel will grow up in Heaven!" That made me smile. I don't know how Heaven works, but it's a lovely thought, and it reminded me of one of the verses on Samuel's prayer blanket, "...the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord" (I Samuel 2:21b).

Anyway, that's enough rambling for the night. It's late, and I am exhausted from this day. It is good for me to record this journey. Thank you for journeying with us. You bless us more than you know.


  1. Thanks for sharing! The service was absolutely wonderful in remembering your precious Samuel and it was nice to finally put my arms around both of your necks! I do agree with you, Kathryn, that you are married to an amazing Godly man who was able to speak of his hope in Christ at his own son's funeral. Truly amazing! Your journey has inspired me as of today to work harder to find the closeness and faith that you guys have in our Heavenly Father and I thank you for that! We will continue to pray for you guys as always. I am so grateful to God that we are in your small group and that He has allowed us to go along this journey with you! We love you!
    Beth and David Tate

  2. Kathryn, I love everything you have to say, and I really can't add more to that, obviously, and I feet the same way Beth does above...a more beautiful and a more painful experience than yesterday I can't imagine. And when Bryan started walking to the stage, I thought, there is NO WAY this guy is going to speak, no way, but he did, and what he had to say was amazing, and the fact that he could say ANYTHING was amazing. I know Bryan would say he was able to speak not because of his strength but because of the strength of Christ that he leans on, and I agree, but Brother Bryan, it takes courage to follow Christ the way you and Kathryn do, to lean on Him the way you and Kathryn do. We love you guys.

  3. Kathryn, thanks for sharing this. Tears just stream down my face when you describe Samuel's service and funeral. I suppose I can't know for certain, but I can't possibly imagine anything more difficult than what you had to do yesterday. I am so thankful we have Christ to walk with us during these times. Bryan and you both have taught me so much during this past month and your words have challenged me and spurred me on. You are both pretty remarkable.

    Caleb's words warm my heart...what a sweet boy. I have had similar questions about heaven and request often for God to hug my grandfather and tell him I love him. My love, thoughts, and prayers go out to you.

  4. Dear Bryan and Kathryn,
    I can't even begin to tell you how much Samuel's service impacted Seth and I yesterday. The music, the pictures, the words, Bryan's message. My heart was broken but at the same time lifted by you both. The words to the songs were amazing, but when I caught a glimpse of you singing and the way you were praising God in one of the most difficult times I could even imagine, I was once again amazed by your faith and courage. And Bryan, well, as Seth shared with our small group last night, there are no words for such an amazing man, husband, and father. Thank you for being such an incredible example of Christ and delivering his promise of hope in the midst of your pain and grief. Our thoughts and prayers are with you today and for days to come.

    Seth and Gena

  5. We will be continuing to pray for you all as you keep going on this journey. My thoughts continue to come back to you all as I go through the day- and perhaps some day, Lord willing, I can give you and Bryan hugs in person. Till then, please know that Tommy and I are holding you up in our hearts and though you will never have all the answers, some day, there will be healing- even for this.


  6. I continue to think and ponder all the Lord did through the services yesterday. I too was amazed to see your Mom and Dad hug after so many years. Only God! Thinking of you today as you continue to mourn and heal through these times. We love you so much. John and Debbie.

  7. Kathryn,
    I found your blog through facebook, and just wanted to let you know that I have been praying for you, Bryan, and your boys and will continue to do so. You posts bring tears to my eyes as I anticipate meeting the baby that is inside me right now. We had a brief scare when our son, Micah, was one week old that involved him stopping breathing, a call to 911, and a night in the PICU. It doesn't even come close to what you have experienced, but it has given me a taste of the fear and sadness when your child is not well. I will continue to pray for God's palpable presense as you walk this road.

    Erica (Kargl) Gores

  8. Hey Bryan and Kathryn,
    As I woke up this morning the lyrics to an Aaron Shust song came to my mind and made me think of you. They reflect the mysteries of God and yet remind us that He is our God...and that is unchanging. Here are the lyrics:

    My Savior, My God

    I am not skilled to understand
    What God has willed, what God has planned
    I only know at His right hand
    Stands One who is my Savior

    I take Him at his word and deed
    Christ died to save me this I read
    And in my heart I find a need
    For Him to be my Savior

    That He would leave His place on high
    And come for sinful man to die
    You count it strange, but once did I
    Before I knew my Savior

    My Savior loves, my Savior lives
    My Savior's always there for me
    My God He was, my God He is
    My God He's always gonna be

    Yes, living, dying; let me bring
    My strength, my solace from this spring
    That He who lives to be my King
    Once died to be my Savior

    My Savior's always there for me
    My God He was, my God He is
    My God He's always gonna be

    You can listen to it here on youtube if you'd like:

    love you guys,
    Jason and Jennifer