One of the most formative life experiences happened four years ago. It was a tough (second) pregnancy for my wife. It was also a "planned" pregnancy. We were both pumped. All of her pregnancy's have been high risk. It's amazing that the effects of the Fall and beauty of creation collide in this 9 month journey for women.
At about 8 weeks, it was discovered that Rachel had a tumor in her abdominal area that could potentially compromise the life of our second child. At the 13 week mark, she went in for major surgery that successfully removed a tumor the size of a grapefruit off of (and including) her tube w/out threatening the life of our child. The OB doc described a moment during the surgery in which he waved "hi" to the expected second-born. Stunning. Rachel is on bed rest for 6 weeks; baby is growing and kicking like crazy!
On Friday night, February 3 (30 weeks), Rachel was feeling unusually uncomfortable b/c she had been second-guessing herself if she had felt the baby move in recent days and hours. I remember sleeping on the couch that night-- concerned and praying but not being prepared for what was coming. Saturday, Feb 4th, I had to work until about 2pm. However, the concern was mounting. I worked begrudingly (we ran a storage facility where we lived on-site; very advantageous on many fronts), and then I just had to leave. We drove to the hospital w/ Haddon (2 at the time). We were ushered in right away for an ultrasound. I had to hang w/ the little dude while Rachel had to endure the next moments of the ultrasound. The sonographer tried and tried to find a hearbeat-- nothing. It was confirmed by the attending Ob/Gyn that Nicolas had met his end, and then I was ushered in to the presence of my shattered Rachel. I fell apart, and the next hours were spent in shock and numbness; waves of sobbing and silence. Our good friends, Phil & Julianna came and got Haddon. The next persons on the scene was my very busy pastor and his wife, Dave & Claudia, who comforted us tenderly.
The irony of grief is that there is always a celebration going on somewhere nearby. The blighted city of Detroit was on the cusp of hosting the Super Bowl. On "Super" Bowl Sunday, February 5, 2006, Rachel was induced for a delivery scheduled at 8am. As God's people rose for worship that day, we had entered a different kind of worship "experience." Instead of hearing the typical cries and struggle for breathing on earth for the first time, we heard nothing. It was like we were shot through, and knew for a fact that our Nicolas indeed perished. The cries that filled the room at this birth were only ours. We got to hold our son who we named after my father's great names (he's Augusto Nicolas Pareja). Thankfully, my dad was able to come later on and hold our dear Nicolas.
I could go on and on about grief, family, the body of Jesus, faith, etc. Maybe another time. In preparation for the burial of NAP, I penned the following dirge:
Dirge for Nicolas
Ps 127:4-5; Prov 13:12; Lam 3:13; Job 1:20; 6:4; Ps 119:68
Two warriors envisioned a quiver of children,
Of pointed arrows shot in obscure night.
Poised for alarm and prepared to fight,
They longed for the time when bows bent.
Overjoyed were they by the Maker’s first arrow
Given to them across the
Desire blazed to again fill the quiver,
But not with grief that would bring them so low.
Marked was the quiver for the second of shots,
To fill the desired place.
Yet outside of time and space,
The Great Giver set in motion his eternal tho’ts.
To their racking woe, the Maker snuffed out
The life of their second born son.
“A dream?,” they tho’t—no, they were undone
Holding the broken arrow they would no longer tout.
The wounds of divine severity— though rarely pleasant—
Are lathered in the balm of God’s mercy.
Good Giver of life, we bow the knee
In adoration of your wisdom and right to reclaim our infant.
Notes on the Dirge
The Scriptures above have been formative in our “coping” w/ our trial. They also contain images or themes upon which the poem is written. Figure the meter out for yourself. It is simple.
Stanza 1- Ps 127:4-5 is key to understanding these initial metaphors. “Time when bows bent” can be interpreted elastically. I would understand this to be the process of raising children and preparing them for the break from dependence upon Christian parents to the event(s) that would extend the parents’ influence in this world, e.g., leaving home for college, work, marriage, etc.
Stanza 2- “first arrow” refers to W. Haddon Pareja; The “Big River” is simply a translation of the Rio Grande, the river separating the US and Mexican border. We lived in
Stanza 3- Stylistically and rhythmically, this is the weakest verse. However, it is a hinge upon which the whole poem turns; this is obvious.
Stanza 4- “the broken arrow” now represents the arrow that God had originally given us. This motif should not be taken as overtures of American Indian themes.
Stanza 5- This last verse is really meant to bring together the moral or lesson, and as it is obvious, the conclusion is the defining surrender.