The Lord consoles his people and takes pity on those who are afflicted. For Zion was saying "The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me". But does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the child of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. See I have carved you on the palms of my hands. Once more they will speak in your hearing; those children you thought were lost. You shall know that I am the Lord and that those who hope in me will not be put to shame. (Isaiah 49)
In the chapel of rest where Sophie is laid out there’s a picture of Jesus bent over in agony and standing over him is the angel of consolation but Jesus doesn’t see the angel, doesn’t feel any consolation or comfort.
In front of me her parents are bent over the coffin of their beautiful four-year-old daughter, bent over in the agony of grief. The sound of their sorrow, the sight of their tears! There is no sorrow greater than this, a sorrow that cannot be consoled. They are like Rachael in the Bible mourning and inconsolable because their children are no more.
It doesn’t help to say that Sophie is gone to a better place, or that she’s not far away, or that they can always talk to her, even pray to her.
Her parents don’t want her to be anywhere else except with them. They want to see her, touch her, hear the sound of her voice. It’s almost impossible to think of living without her. That’s the awful reality, the separation that comes with death. They would rather be dead themselves. But because they are loving parents they live for their two other children.
Now it is Jesus who holds Sophie in His arms for a reason that we cannot understand; that He has done this a second time to these parents is impossible to understand. There may be some consolation in the fact that Sophie and CJ are together. And it’s was lovely to hear how, even though Sophie never met her elder brother, still she knew him in the way that a child can know. She had a connection with CJ and with heaven and she talked about him as a living person. CJ died aged three months 11 years ago.
What the mother and father are feeling now - the hurt, the anger, the desperation, the emptiness. There aren’t enough words! But what they are feeling is the most honest prayer in the church on the day of the funeral. A cry that has no pretence in it.
And part of our job as community and sympathisers who love them is to support them in this honest expression of grief. Not with words but just by being with them and letting them grieve as they need to. Not to stop them crying nor be in a hurry with them to get over this because there is no getting over it. They may learn to live with it but it will never leave them.
In His agony on the cross Jesus too felt abandoned and cried out “my God, my God why have you abandoned me”. And His cry is met with the astonishing silence of God the Father. There is an answer but it’s given later.
And it’s not for us to give answers or reasons that God has not yet given. It’s not for us to invent answers or solutions, however well meant. These will come in time and by grace.
In the meantime we honour this beautiful girl who showed us the face of God, who received her beauty from her mother and father and God - there is so much of all three in her. She is a once off creation! There never has been and never will be another girl quite like Sophie.
It’s important to remember her singing - maybe the song from Frozen. “Let it go”. Think of the princess that she is and admire how intelligent and smart she is, how she loved reading and loved play school. See her dancing. Think of all the loveliness she brought into life.
Every time we look at a child, think of a child like Sophie we are reminded that within all of us there is a child. And on a day like this all of us are innocent and pure. The best that is in us comes out. There is something very precious and special about every single one of us.
At the end of Mass we listen to ‘A Song For Sophie’ by Aura Dione and some of the words are appropriate for our Sophie,
This is a song for a girl called Sophie
used to write her name on my arm.
I really hope she's made it
that someone took her home.
She was always like a feather, in the air
she was always like a feather, in my life.
I hope she flies ..I hope she flies.
At the cemetery the rain pours down upon us without much mercy. Everyone is bunched, huddled around the grave where CJ is already buried. Little children are curious, wondering where Sophie will be put. They expect she will lie down beside her brother. I tell them she will go on top of him.
I pray the prayers to the sound of communal sobbing. The awful, awful moment when the coffin is lowered into the ground and they don't want to let it go. Father, mother stretching out their hands touching it with a kiss as it moves away from them.
The maternal grandmother stands dignified, almost perfectly still, holding her daughter. Her tears flow quietly and she seems to be holding everything and everyone together.
Lord, you created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother's womb. For so many marvels I thank you; a wonder am I and all your works are wonderful. You knew me through and through, my being held no secrets from you, when I was being formed in secret, textured in the depths of the womb. Your eyes could see my embryo, in your book all my days were inscribed, every one that is fixed is there. How hard for me to grasp your thoughts, how many, God there are. If I could count them, they are more than the grains of sand; if I come to an end, I am still with you. (Psalm 139)
When the prayers are finished they all throw in a rose, seems like hundreds of roses and then the cd player is turned on in the car. I can't remember the songs.
The grandmother tells them to play the song from 'Frozen'. They don't have it on cd. Several phones and bluetooth speakers are produced; several vain attempts are made to get sound. This occupies the attention of everyone, so much so that there's no one crying anymore.
Finally it works and the little ones - boys and girls alike - sing along shyly. Let It Go! And this is the song of a generation, the song that relieves the relentless sorrow of the past week. Relieved for now.
Sophie's mother with newfound strength announces that it's time to leave. They will be back tomorrow for CJ's anniversary.
I hug mother, father, grandmother and uncle. And walk away to my car, rain dripping down my face from my uncovered head. I feel saturated in every way. Inside the car a great gulp of tears rushes up from inside me and I press my fingers to my eyes to stop myself crying for fear of losing it altogether, for fear of wailing.
People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, `’Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing. (Mark 10:13-16)