I've buried 27 parishioners since I got to Epiphany. Most were elderly and had lived full lives. Even those who died too young had been on this earth for 4 or 5 decades. In each case, there was sadness, but also a life to be celebrated.
Today I went to the bedside of a family whose child was diagnosed in utero with a difficult genetic disorder and whose heart had stopped beating at 29weeks. He was delivered today, and I went to comfort the family and do a liturgy of blessing, naming and commendation. In our tradition, we do not baptize babies who are stillborn.
I was prepared for the fact that the baby would look different. What I wasn't so prepared for was the depth of sadness for a life that never even had a chance.
I got through the visit and the liturgy and the conversation about interment and such. There have been so many of these conversations in this ministry. But I am left with the weight of the tragedy for this family, and that precious little face - so tiny! a baby only 1 pound! - never to smile, never to talk, never to give back his mother's kiss.
This work is always holy ground, but sometimes it is very, very hard work.