It is such a tiny word.
Five little letters.
But such an enormous impact. Do you have faith? Do you struggle with faith?
I keep asking myself these questions. Where does faith fit into my life? I have been surrounded by religion since birth. I’ve always believed in God.
But, while it is next to impossible to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, I’m fairly certain Jenn and Chris Hawn could run faith rings around me.
They buried their six-month-old son on July 31st. They stood at his tiny casket and greeted friends and family one by one. They cried together, they hugged, they accepted condolences. As I touched them, I found myself tilting my head, looking for the faith dust that must surely be sprinkled on their shoulders. They were smiling slightly through suffering. They were talking about the moment Ryan passed late Monday night—in their arms, in their bed. They are sure Ryan smoothly took Jesus’ hand, and with the most amazing vision, left one life for another.
I am in awe. Strong faith appears to bring clarity and personal healing in a way I can hardly fathom. I am envious of a trait I am certain I do not possess.
Again, I believe in God. I pray daily. We talk about religion. My kids sing songs about Jesus and God with the most pure voices. It often moves me to tears. I see God in them.
But somehow I don’t think you truly know where you stand on faith—on true, honest, I-feel-God-in-my-soul faith until you experience something that makes you question. It is at that moment that you decide: Can my faith carry me through this? Do I believe enough?
I imagine Jenn and Chris “questioned” when they found out Ryan had Spinal Muscular Atrophy. I imagine they “questioned” when they understood they would have less than a year to absorb his existence. But I believe they got the answer they needed when he passed.
And that answer, that faith, is what gave them the iron clad strength to wrap a blanket around Ryan today, looking for all the world like he had just gone to sleep, to say goodbye, and to believe in their hearts he is in a better place and they will see him again.
(If these had not been sentiments they actually expressed to me, I would never presume to say them. I think I am too selfish to be capable of wrapping my brain and heart around this level of faith—hence I am amazed by them.)
As they both leaned in and kissed Ryan goodbye, a silent roar filled my ears. As they closed the casket, a two-ton elephant took up residence on my chest, pressing all the air from my lungs. As Jenn lay for a moment across the casket, I closed my eyes and silently willed her the faith she needed to stand up again. And she did it.
Tucked neatly beside their little boy, a small piece of their souls will keep him warm and loved until they can see him again.
I most certainly have faith in that.