There must have been nearly a thousand at her funeral. Hundreds of people in the huge room, waiting to say their goodbyes, yet only the occasional hushed whisper could be heard. It was more than a somber silence. It was a reverent silence, as if everyone knew that the awful realization of her youthful death brought with it something awe-inspiring–that at the tender age of 11, Haven had most likely accomplished something the rest of us can only hope to after many more years of trying.
Haven had finally succumbed to a long battle with a childhood illness. But her stories of inspiration were endless. The little girl with the big heart and bigger smile. The little girl who shone so brightly, she could make her entourage of medical equipment disappear for anyone who laid eyes on her. The little girl who refused to sit down for her flute lessons, even though the simple act of breathing must have been agonizing at times.
I didn’t know Haven personally, but her pictures and stories have inspired me–and reminded me that this great network of parents in which we find ourselves has placed us in the midst of the wisest and most intuitive teachers. As parents, we are called to raise our children in the faith, to educate them, and ultimately lead them to heaven. But this formation goes both ways.
At times I think our children know much more than we do about the important things in life.
As the fresh excitement of summer dissolves into the inevitable chore battles, personality clashes, and heat induced cabin fever, are we still open and receptive to the lessons from our children?
When Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” (Mt. 19:14) it wan’t only because He loved them–it was because He knew they had so much to show the world on His behalf. They satiated His thirst with their enthusiastic and unconditional love. They showed us that the pains and trials of this life are fleeting–that a scraped knee, runny nose, or even serious disease should not get in the way of loving others with a smile, making jokes with your friends, or creating something of beauty like music on the flute.
I think that’s why the church was so quiet just before Haven’s funeral. Because we all knew that underneath the sadness and tears there were great lessons to be learned. We all caught a glimpse of the purpose of Haven’s suffering; and we all understood, in one way or another, why “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
For more explanation of the purpose of suffering and other inspiring stories of children who suffered, see Austin Ruse’s book Littlest Suffering Souls: Children Whose Short Lives Point Us To Christ.
Copyright 2017 Charisse Tierney