It is a cold and snowy December afternoon when the small plane pulls to a stop on the village runway. Many villagers have gathered to welcome home one of their own, but this is not a joyful reunion.
We stand at a distance and watch as the family disembarks and then turns to wait silently for their 2-year-old son to join them. Moments later a small wooden casket emerges from the belly of the plane. Their son is home.
As the local pastoral family our presence is expected in this sacred moment; as a Chaplain I long to comfort the family; as a mother the haunting scene brings me to my knees and a tidal wave of deep grief floods my being.
A short while later we join the silent procession of villagers as they walk the little boy to his final resting place on a hill overlooking the bay. It is as if a vacuum has sucked all the oxygen out of the air as the men lower the flower-laden casket into the ground and begin to cover it. If only the hole in our hearts could be filled so easily!
As I look around at the tear-stained faces I am reminded that death is the Great Equalizer. It cares nothing for age, wealth, fame, position, health or happiness. It shows no favoritism. It takes everything and owes nothing.
The family’s pain will lessen over time but it will never disappear completely, and the question of why will not be answered on this side of heaven. Don’t wait another minute to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them. You might not get another chance.