Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Death and Life

So as I mentioned in the previous post, Zach and I were in Alabama last weekend for a memorial service. Little Noah Crowe, age 4, passed away on May 18th after a courageous battle with brain cancer. (Is it just me, or does brain cancer seem to be surrounding our life right now?) If you'd like to know more about Noah's story, you can read about it at prayfornoah.com.

Anyways, Noah's family is actually quite special to ours. Many years back, when Zach's dad could no longer lead worship at Friendship UMC due to ALS, John David (Noah's dad) was hired to take his place. John David and Zach have kept in touch throughout the years and he's always been someone Zach respected and admired.

When John David called with the news of Noah's passing and to ask Zach to lead worship at his memorial, our hearts broke. This child was only 4 and he had been battling cancer for most his life. It seemed unfair and just... heart-breaking.

On Saturday when we arrived at the church and met JD and his wife Jessica, I honestly didn't know what to say. What do you say to a mom and dad who just lost their baby, their baby who has gone through unthinkable things in the last 2 1/2 years? Just saying "I'm sorry" seemed almost... insulting. "Sorry" doesn't even come close to describing how I felt about the situation or would be a word that would bring them any amount of peace or comfort. What I wish I could have said in those moments was what my heart was yelling.

"This royally sucks! I cannot imagine the pain your hearts must feel and the intensity of the grief that must wash over you every time you walk past his bedroom, see one of his toys lying on the floor, or even see snacks in the refrigerator he never got a chance to eat. I have no idea how you are standing here right now instead of lying in a heap in your bed, but I have the utmost respect for you and admire your strength. It is truly a testimony to your faith and reliance on God. I don't know why God let this happen the way it did, but I do know that he is somehow working for your good- and Noah's, through it all."

I had never been to a funeral or memorial service for a child before.

It was odd, yet incredibly beautiful and such a thorough testimony of Noah's life and impact on so many. Since Noah's favorite color was red and his favorite movie was Star Wars, the family asked everyone to wear red or something Star Wars themed. It was such a beautiful celebration of Noah's life to look at the sea of red (and Darth Vader!) covering the room. Here's our family of 3 rockin' the red for Noah.
One person came to the service in a full-blown Darth Vader costume complete with working lightsaber. It was totally awesome and I know Noah would have been really pleased.
Zach with Darth Vader.
The service began with about 30 minutes of home videos of Noah. Gosh was he a special kid! So brave and seemingly unhindered by all the operations and treatments he endured. He definitely lived life 100%. When the family came in to be seated, my eyes began to fill with tears as they carried in all Noah's favorite things - his favorite stuffed animals, books, lightsaber, 4-wheeler, etc and laid them gently on the edge of the stage. I couldn't help but weep at the sight of small, brown leather cowboy boots, sitting in the center of the stage, waiting to be worn again by their favorite little cowboy.

Oh Jesus, why?!

Noah's mom Jessica began the service and I must say... she's the (excuse me) ballsiest mom EVER. Wow. Words cannot express my deepest respect and admiration for this mother and her courage to speak about the unspeakable while giving God all the praise.

Zach and the band opened with 'Fix You' by Coldplay and a number of worship songs that Noah loved. After the Chaplain for Children's Hospital in Birmingham and the youth pastor from Friendship spoke, Noah's dad JD finished the service. His words were raw and heart-breaking as he recounted Noah's last, painful moments on earth and how he encouraged his tiny son to stop fighting and go be with Jesus. JD's description of Noah's suffering and his final conversation with his treasured son sort of haunt my mind. On one hand, it's overwhelmingly sad, but on the other, it's incredibly poetic and touching. I cannot imagine what it must be like to usher your child into the arms of Jesus, to be the one to encourage them to go where we cannot follow, to a place that is unknown by us, but filled with hope, peace, wholeness, and oneness with God.

JD, broken by grief and loss, was also so filled with hope and passion, a passion to encourage parents to love the their children HARD- every second of everyday and treasure every moment you have. He also challenged everyone to live like Noah, at 100%. Life might have been cut short for Noah, but none of us are promised tomorrow. We all need to live at 100%, making our life count and a true reflection of why we are here until we get to the ultimate place we are going.

Zach ended the service with "Oh Happy Day", Noah's favorite song. As the band played, bubbles (another thing Noah loved) poured down from the ceiling.
Thank you John David and Jessica, for inviting us into this terrible, yet tender moment in your life. Thank you, for letting us celebrate your son and honor our savior through it all. Thank you for reminding us to treasure our Allie and to make every moment count. I don't know if you two want more children, but I hope God gives you some. None will ever replace Noah or diminish his memory, but you were amazing parents. It is so overwhelmingly obvious how desperately you cared for him and how intensely you loved your little boy. I know you feel honored to have been his mom and dad, but I am sure he felt honored to be your child. God has used all three of you in a tremendous way in the lives of so many. Your faith in Jesus and dependency on him has been one of the greatest influences in my life and encouraged my personal faith journey so much.

Please continue to pray for JD and Jessica as they are now in a new place full of fresh challenges and new obstacles. We love you guys and are humbled to call you friends.

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