Summary: The death of a child is not a waste for he is a blessing from the Lord, a reward from him (This is the message I preached in a funeral service for a young boy who died of a lingering sickness).
Honestly, I find it hard to speak in a funeral service. I am aware that words are not enough to fully comfort the family. I’m at a loss for words because I have kids also. I find the task harder because tonight we are holding a funeral service for an 8-year-old boy, Justyn [Name changed to protect the privacy of the family]. We have a saying, “Anak ang naglilibing sa magulang. Hindi ang magulang ang naglilibing sa anak.” But tomorrow his parents Jerry and Dada will bring their son to his final rest. It is painful to lose your parent. It is very painful to lose your child. We find it harder to accept because we assume it is normal for older people to go first. It’s just the usual course of life. But, for a child to go first, the death always appears premature. He seems to have so much in store for the future. That’s why it is very difficult.
I remember there was a time a teenager drowned in a youth camp. The family was about to migrate to Canada. We found it hard to tell the family about the death especially the father who at that time was about to undergo heart surgery. One thing I distinctly remember is that, when he learned about the death of his son, he immediately prayed. “Panginoon, salamat po sa labingtatlong taon na ipinagkatiwala ninyo sa amin ang aking anak.” He still found something to thank God for!
Tonight, I will not try to explain why all these has happened. I cannot explain why an energetic young boy would suffer because of a lingering sickness. I don’t know what to say if you would ask me why he died suddenly due to a heart attack last Tuesday. All I know is that, as the song goes, “God is too wise to be mistaken. He is too good to be unkind.” All I know is that, short as it is, God blessed you with the life of Justyn. The Bible tells us, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Justyn was such a blessing. We can still thank God for his life!
When the pediatrician diagnosed that my youngest son, Derek, has autism, there was so much pain. There was so much confusion. Someone wrote that it was as if I lost my child. For my son will never have a normal life. He will always require therapy. I lost a normal child. It was as if he had died. But one time I was reading the Purpose Driven Life. There I read that we are not an accident. I felt so comforted. In fact, I looked at Derek and told him, “You are not an accident! You are a blessing, a gift from God!”
Tonight we can say Justyn was not an accident. He was a blessing from God, a gift from heaven. I believe that, when the doctor finally diagnosed that he had that lingering illness in 2003, when he was only 3 years old, there was also that confusing pain in your hearts. “Why him?” you may have asked time and again. Since then, he was in and out the hospital. It was painful for you to see him go through that ordeal.
But… you saw his endurance. You saw his patience. He almost did not complain. You saw his tolerance for pain. He faced all the challenges that his sickness threw at him. You saw it all. By his enduring example, he taught you how to deal with trials with courage and dignity. I believe you became a stronger person because of him. His father told me the other day “na mababaw lang kung matulog silang mag-asawa.” So that they could watch over Justyn. So that they could always attend to his needs. I believe both of you became a more caring person because of him.
But, the blessing does not have to end with the death of Justyn. Your family can be a channel of blessing, too. For example, there are people whose children died of an incurable sickness. They channeled their pain by starting a foundation to help fund research for a cure. Now, that may be too grand for you. I am not suggesting that you start a foundation, though if you really think so, if you are capable of doing so, why not? What I am pointing out is that you channel your love for Justyn. As a family, you went through the experience of taking care of a member of the family with a lingering illness. You became better, stronger, more caring persons because of Justine. There are hurting people out there who need a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear. You have that! You don’t have to be trained for counseling. You don’t have to know a lot. You just empathize with people who are facing a lot of problems. You just feel their hurts. You just share the love you learned from Justine. God blessed you with Justine. Now, share that blessing with others who are in need of that love. The Bible says, “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” Sharing the blessing of Justine is your way of thanking God for giving him to you as His gift and reward.