My heart is heavy this weekend as I learned of two tragedies hitting home and heart. The first was the death of Christian songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s youngest child, Maria Sue. Certain areas of the country have given this more media attention than others. Our paper included only a small paragraph hidden in a national news blot. So for those who are not aware of this story yet, here is an excerpt from a well-written article summarizing the events:
Hearts ache for beloved family as they deal with the death of their young daughter
FOREST HOME COMMUNITY — It was quiet on Thursday outside the Chapman home, after the confusion and pain of the night before.
The family of 5-year-old Maria Sue Chapman was inside preparing for her funeral. Maria, the adopted daughter of Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman, was killed Wednesday evening in what officials have deemed a “terrible accident.”
The evening was supposed to have been festive. Chapman’s eldest daughter, Emily, had just become engaged, and the family was celebrating. A high-school graduation party for one of their sons was planned for later that evening.
One of Chapman’s two teenage sons was backing down the family’s driveway in a Toyota Land Cruiser. He didn’t see Maria in the driveway and struck the child, according to the official accident report. Maria was rushed to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville by LifeFlight, but she died of her injuries there.
Chapman, who recently was inducted into the Music City Walk of Fame, is one of contemporary Christian music’s most recognized names.
He and his wife, Mary Beth, have long been supporters of international adoption, having brought three girls from China into their family: Shaohannah in 2000, Stevey Joy in 2003, and Maria, the youngest, in 2004.
I cannot even comprehend the depth of pain this family is suffering right now as they try to process each layer of anguish involved.
The second tragedy, equally as devestating but not publicized was the death of our former neighbor and friend, Brother Ray. He was such a humble and soft-spoken man. Not only a good husband and father, he also gave faithful service to church and community. A sudden random accident took Brother Ray’s life early one morning last week. Imagine the additional agony the remaining family members endured as they drove to the airport later that very same day to pick up their son returning from his two year foreign mission. Tears must have flowed as they wrapped their arms tightly around each other in a bitter-sweet embrace. Their anticipated joyous family reunion denied forever in this life.
I have been pondering these events. Here are two exemplary families. People who have lived good and righteous lives full of love and service. And yet, the Lord cannot prevent tragedies from happening to even His most faithful. As unfair as it seems, really Bad things can and must happen to really Good people. Indeed, when the scriptures declare that God is no respecter of persons, that not only means He loves us all equally, but He is also required to “sendeth His rain upon the just and the unjust”. Message to all future mortals: Be sure to bring a big umbrella! The reality of mortality is that as we travel along we face unexpected storms, unplanned delays, unimagined dangers, and unwanted potholes awaiting just around the bend! It can get frightening. Yet, we know it’s not healthy or practical to live in fear all the time. Can we be prepared? Will we survive, and then be able to move forward? Where is our peace and solace when the storms rage? I submit that if we cannot always choose our sorrows, trials and “detours” on the road of life, then perhaps we can choose to hold on tight, and let the Master take control of the wheel.
In the long-term perspective of a grieving process, there is usually tremendous growth and renewal of spirit. However, I do not mean to trivialize the pain or difficulty of these experiences. None of us can fathom the ‘death of child’ journey, or ‘loss of spouse’ detour if we have not actually traversed those unwanted roads. I am sure that each of you, like myself have dear friends and family who have or are currently struggling with these trials, and our hearts reach out to help in every way that we can, but there is still hidden pain we do not feel. Even once someone has traveled that road, there may be many similarities, yet each road is individualized. Thus, as we are “in the trenches” of our day-to-day existence, dealing with all our unique difficulites, there are going to be many dark days, weeks, months or even years ahead when our road seems too long, steep or lonely to endure. These are the times when our use of faith is “tested”. First, we must use faith to cry out for help. And then, we must use the faith to not be so surprized when He arrives!
While serving as Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Merrill J. Bateman taught some profound and comforting truths:
“Just as the lame man at the pool of Bethesda needed someone stronger than himself to be healed (John 5:1–9), so we are dependent on the miracles of Christ’s atonement if our souls are to be made whole from grief, sorrow, and sin. If grieving parents and loved ones have faith in the Savior and his plan, death’s sting is softened as Jesus bears the believers’ grief and comforts them through the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, broken hearts are mended and peace replaces anxiety and sorrow. . . . As Isaiah stated concerning the Savior, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: . . . And with his stripes we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:4–5). The Savior’s atonement in the garden and on the cross is intimate as well as infinite. Infinite in that it spans the eternities. Intimate in that the Savior felt each person’s pains, sufferings, and sicknesses. Consequently, he knows how to carry our sorrows and relieve our burdens that we might be healed from within, made whole persons, and receive everlasting joy in his kingdom. May our faith in the Father and the Son help each of us to become whole.”
To the Chapmans, the Rays, and all who must walk with weary hands, broken hearts and aching souls – hold on tight! There is always One who will never let go. He knows exactly how to carry you through this. And we raise our heartfelt prayers to Him on your behalf.
“Be Still, And Know”…
sung by Steven Curtis Chapman