It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was finally shining after days of rain and the blue of the sky was clear and cloudless.
The five of them gathered around the smaller than usual grave . . . smaller because it was meant to receive the body of a child, just a few months old, but old enough. Old enough to have brought smiles and laughter, old enough to have been a part of someone’s life, old enough to have touched the hearts of people who never knew him.
The funeral director opened the door of the hearse and removed the casket that looked so lost in its cavernous interior. Gently he placed it beside the grave and stepped back. The minister opened his Bible and began, speaking of Christ who chastised his disciples for keeping the little ones from him, of Christ who loved the children for their innocence and the beauty of their hearts. “Let them come to me,” He had said. “If you wish to be with me, learn to be like them.” Closing with a prayer, the minister moved aside and the gravedigger lowered himself into the grave he had prepared, carefully taking the casket from the funeral director, and placing it into the cradle of the earth. The grave was closed and those in attendance left.
It was a difficult service to attend, a difficult service to arrange, for this child, so innocent and pure and perfect, had been abandoned in death. Those who came that day—and those who would have come had there not been other families to serve—had never known him in life, never seen him smile, never held him as he slept. But they cared enough to assure that he was not forgotten. In that moment they chose to remember his brief life rather than the circumstances of his death. In that moment they all became his family. And he became theirs.