Funeral Sermon for a Sudden Infant Death
Written by: Fairchild, Rev. Richard Posted on: 07/12/2004
The following service was a baby girl who died suddenly at 42 days of age. The service was held, as is normal in these circumstances, well before the final autopsy results were available. SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is a diagnosis of last resort - and of course a difficult one to make and/or to accept. The following reflects on the kinds of issues that thus arise - issues that can be generalized to any death among the very young. The names have been changed in what follows. The fact that the very young parents were not church going folk has little impact on the following - nor would I suggest should it.
The funeral director, not much given to praise, commented afterwards that this was one of the best services he has attended for a young child. I, and the family, and indeed our larger community, are deeply indebted to the Internet community and especially to two persons who shared their funeral sermon for an infant with me when I asked for help here on-line. They are Paul Larsen firstname.lastname@example.org) who reminded me in his sermon for a young boy of the inappropriate things people say, and Marjory MacMartin (email@example.com) who provided the rose image and other helpful ideas.
Note that the child was cremated and the ashes, along with photographs and so forth were present in the church. Also note that the music choice was given over to the young parents - who are not church going folk. The selections of contemporary rock music worked very well - but can obviously be replaced by other pieces.
FUNERAL OR MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR XXXX XXXXXXX
Born 2001 - Age 42 days - Died 2001
ENTRANCE OF FAMILY
Friends and Family - members of the community, within the healing embrace of God's love we have gathered here to remember of life of Marie Anne Johnson and to entrust her into God's eternal care, knowing that God's good purpose for his people cannot be defeated by sin and death. We are all children of God, and in the faith that God has given to us, we turn to God now asking for his comfort and his grace to be upon us - and to dwell in a special way upon Shawna and upon those who were privileged to love Marie during her brief stay with us upon this earth..
LET US BOW OUR HEADS IN PRAYER:
Compassionate and loving God, yours is the beauty of childhood and yours is the fullness of years. Comfort us in our sorrow, strengthen us with hope, and breathe peace into our troubled hearts. Assure us that the love we had for Marie was not in vain - indeed make it a part of the store of goodness you are even now pouring out upon her in your eternal kingdom. Indeed help us to bless you for the gift you gave us in her, for the joy she gave all who knew her, for the memories that will abide with us, and for the assurance that she lives forever in the joy and peace of your presence. Guide us through this time of sadness with the light of your love and the strength of your compassion - we ask it in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.
CD - SONG
Joan and Doug have picked three songs that have meaning for them during this time of sorrow. We will now hear the first of these - a song entitled "Mirror, Mirror".
SCRIPTURE AND WORDS OF CONSOLATION/EULOGIES
Listen to these words from the Holy Bible, words written by the Apostle Paul as he considered the perils of human life and the sorrows that overcome it - and within these - the love of God as revealed through Christ Jesus - who died on the cross that we might live - and rose from the dead that we might never die.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. We know that in everything that God works for the good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword? No - in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Knowing this - in our sorrow today - we give thanks to God for the inheritance that Marie, though but a tender infant, has received from God's hands. We thank God, not for taking her from us - for it is not God's will that anyone should perish - but rather for granting her a place with all the saints - a place where, when our time is over - we may join her and know the fullness of that which, in our life here, we had just begun to know.
As we continue this service of remembering and of calling upon God to comfort us in our sorrow, I invite any of you who are present now to share any thoughts and feelings you have regarding Marie that may help us to remember and encourage us - and especially Joan and Doug and their families - in the coming days.
(two were given by a two teams of two teenaged or close to teenaged men and women)
CD - SONG
Let us now hear the second of the songs chosen for today - the song "Arms Wide Open"
I would like now to share with you two brief scripture readings and then say a few words about them and about what we do this day.
The first reading is taken from the Gospel According To Matthew - in the 18th Chapter. It goes likes this:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
"Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.
The second reading is taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah and speaks of the time when the Kingdom of God is fully established upon the earth. In it we hear the voice of God speaking of that time which is yet to come:
"Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth" (says the Lord) "The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed. They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
This is the word of God, Thanks be to his name. Amen.
During the last week as each of us considered the untimely death of baby Marie our hearts have been full of questions - chief amongst them being "how did this happen?" and "why did this happen?" These questions have not only been in the hearts and minds of Joan and Doug and their families, but upon the lips of many of you who are here today - and indeed they have been heard throughout our community.
We are not here today to answer these questions - even if we could. Rather we are here to mourn - to mourn and to commend Marie into God's care, and to ask God to help us - and to most especially help Joan and Doug through this tragedy.
In the most beautiful of gardens, even those tended by the most skillful of botanists, there is an occasional rose that buds, but never opens. In all respects the rose is like all the others, but something keeps it from blooming. It fades away - or disappears - without having reached maturity.
What happens in nature's garden happens once in a while also in the garden of God's human family. A baby is born, beautiful, precious, but fails to come to its rightful unfolding. This child, like the bud that never fully opens, is gathered back into God's heavenly garden of souls - where all imperfections are made perfect; all injustices made right; all mysteries are explained; and all sorrows turned to happiness.
Today we mourn our loss of such a child. We weep, just as Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. Even if we knew the answers to the questions that rise so naturally to our hearts and minds at times like this, there still would be no adequate explanation for this loss. It is painful.
And I believe it is also painful to God, who created the world intending for it to be perfect. As Jesus himself said in the reading that I shared earlier: "It is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish."
And, as promised to us by God through the prophet Isaiah, there will come a time when there is a new heaven and a new earth - a time when never againwill there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years - a time so glorious in its presence that a person who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; and they who fail to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.
But this is not yet that time.
Rather this is the time when heaven yet remains above - and the earth below; the time when the joy of eternal life is only experienced in its fullness once our mortal bodies perish, much as a flower can come forth only after a seed or bulb is planted in the earth and loses its form.
There are angels above. Angels who watch over the little ones of this earth. Jesus speaks of them when he tells his disciples to be careful not to think less of little children simply because they are little children, for in heaven, he says, their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.
There is a special place in the heart of God and amongst the angels for the little ones of this world just as there is a special place in our hearts today for Marie.
And so we weep at what has happened. And so too - God weeps with us.
What can be said that might ease the pain or assuage the grief that you - and all of us feel today?
There isn't much we can say that will help. We can express our sympathy and sorrow. We can offer words of love, care and concern. We can say we will pray for you. But other than that we don't know what to say about these things.
Maybe it is because people don't know what to say that they sometimes say the wrong things.
Some people may say that Marie's death at this time was God's will. Don't believe them. The God we worship, the God who watches over us, doesn't will the death of babies or the pain of their parents. Many, many things that happen in this world are not the will of God. That is part of the price of the freedom we have been given by God.
Some people may say to you that God wanted Marie in heaven with him. While I am confident God has welcomed Marie into his kingdom, I am sure God did not want her to die right now so that He could have her there.
Some people may seek to comfort you by saying to you that you are young and that you can have other children. That may be true, but other children will not replace Marie. She was her own person. The empty place her death has left in your heart will not be filled simply because you have another child. Nor should it be. Every child is unique and precious.
I am sure the people who say things like this say them with a desire to comfort. They want to say something that will help. Bless them for it - but know that we are faced with a mystery - the mystery of life - and of death - in which there are no easy answers.
"What" then, "are we to say to these things?"
What St. Paul answers is, "If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?"
It is important to know that God is for you. God did not do this to you. God did not will Marie's death or your pain. But God is with you in the midst of it all and will help you through it. God is for you. What is more, God gave up his own son for us all.
Joan and Doug, God understands your pain. God had a son who died also. Jesus died on the cross for us.
Now, you may think, "Sure, but Jesus rose from the dead." Well, because Jesus rose to new life you can be confident that Marie has new life also, one that can never be snatched away from her - or from you.
Today - in our grief - know - as your father said some days ago now - there is another angel in heaven. Cling to that hope - that promise of our God - and allow your tears to wash away the pain in the days and months to come.
Heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ did take little children into his arms and bless them; we thank you that you gave Marie to us, even for a brief time; and we thank you that you caused our hearts to love her. We praise and bless you for the assurance that you have received her to yourself, and that you will keep her now and always. O God, whose compassion never fails; we commend to you those who mourn, especially Joan and Doug. We remember too ... family member names.... and all the family members who have been denied the joy of seeing Marie blossom and grow in our midst. Grant unto them, and all of us who weep today, your strength - and uphold them with a living hope. May the words of Jesus, which reveal his love for little children, speak peace to their troubled hearts. Make them know that the child who has been taken out of their sight is with you, safe in your eternal care, with all suffering passed. May they also have assurance in their hearts that in your own good time they will see him again. This we ask in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying,
OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN, HALLOWED BE THY NAME; THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE, ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD; AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US; AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL. FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM, THE POWER AND THE GLORY, FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN
Before our departing prayer and words of committal, let us hear the third song picked for today, the song "Follow Me".
WORDS OF COMMITTAL
As Christians, it is our conviction that our loved ones move on into the nearer presence of God, where they shall hunger no more, either thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Having this faith, we now commend into God's keeping our sister, Marie Johnson, here departed. We commit her mortal remains to the elements from which they first arose: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, trusting in Gods great mercy by which we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
God's peace is hers. God's peace will be ours.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Go now in peace, and may the blessings of God Almighty, the Father, The Son, and Thy Holy Spirit, rest upon you and remain with you all, both now and forevermore - Amen
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