Yesterday, I buried my son Obadiah Malachi. He was stillborn on May 21. It has been the most heart-wrenching experience of my life. I feel very much like writing and writing and just getting it all out, yet at the same time feel like doing nothing. But I have to write and here seems as appropriate as anywhere else. I really never handwrite anything anyway, so a journal wouldn’t work for me. My thoughts always come faster than I can write, but I type pretty fast so it is easier to keep up with myself.

Obadiah was my seventh child and my fifth son. I never got to see him even move a muscle or open his eyes. It wasn’t until later that I began to wonder what color eyes he had. Of course, like all my children, I imagine they would have changed color eventually, but with everything that happened I didn’t think about it until later.

My wife and I were happy to find an old church cemetery that was willing to have Obadiah be buried there. We just didn’t care for the more modern memorial garden type of places - at least not for our child. They just seemed so barren and void of character - very corporate. The cemetery is a bit of a drive from here, but we reasoned that maybe it would be good not to have the grave be right in our normal stomping grounds. It is close enough to get to without making a big trip, but not in a place where we might stumble upon it. Not that we want to forget, but I guess we just wanted him in a place where we could prepare ourself before going to visit. Plus, at least right now, I can’t imagine even forgetting for an hour. My mind is constantly filled with thoughts about Obadiah or related to him.

I feel very fortunate that I had a very good funeral home, Beckman-Williamson, handle the funeral. They have handled a few funerals for my extended family and my dad was quick to highly recommend them. Charles Sikes and Jack Bliffen handled everything for me and never once did I feel pressured or obligated. They went above and beyond I think. The funeral business is kind of a strange business. Maybe I’ll write about my thoughts on that part of my experience some other time. But, Beckman-Williamson is an independent place that hasn’t been bought up by the big chains, so there is a sense of community there that I think might be missing elsewhere.

Obadiah’s name was chosen by our oldest son, Elijah, and found unanimous support within the family about one week before he was born. I didn’t really realize it until later, but there is sort of a strange connection in the Bible between Elijah, Obadiah, and Malachi - all prophets. I’ll maybe write more about that later.

This is the verse we chose for his life verse. It is of the prophet Malachi speaking of Levi.

The law of truth was in his mouth,
And injustice was not found on his lips.
He walked with Me in peace and equity,
And turned many away from iniquity.
(Malachi 2:6)

I’m hoping we can somehow fit the whole verse onto his gravestone. I guess they call them “markers” these days, but that seems kind of impersonal and weird to me. Like it is a highway mileage marker. Anyway, I doubt we can, especially since I don’t want to get a really big stone, but we’ll be having to go through that process soon enough.

My wife felt Obadiah moving as recently as two hours before he was born. So sometime between then and his birth, Obadiah went to heaven. It has been agonizing and exhausting for my wife. Her mom flew down from Colorado, and has been a great help to all of us. Of course, the children like seeing “Grandma”, but my wife and I have hardly been able to function in any sort of normal capacity as parents, so it has been helpful there too. I know it was hard for her to come to the funeral in one sense. Her first child, Jason, was stillborn some years before she gave birth to my wife. He was buried at Fort Knox were she and her husband were stationed at the time. It was always interesting to me that my wife (who, like me, is the oldest of five) always felt this draw or connection to Jason, even though she didn’t even exist when he died. We once went about 800 miles out of our way on a trip to try and find his grave at Fort Knox because she really wanted to see it. I really didn’t understand it at the time - but I think I do now.

With Obadiah gone there is just this gaping hole - in my heart, in our lives, everywhere. He was the most active baby we have ever had. I seriously thought we were going to have twins or even triplets. He was kicking and moving all the time. One time, he moved for almost 14 hours straight. I don’t even know how that is possible. I told my wife that there had to be multiple little people in there because babies have to sleep.

Some of the other baby graves we’ve seen have little angels or lambs on them. For us, I just didn’t care for that - although I fully understand most parents wanting to put those there. But, we believe that all children are born into sin, as the Bible talks about, so even though we all think of them as “angelic”, they are certainly no angels. Anyway, just read about angels in the Bible and you’ll see that they are terrifying large creatures, more like warriors than some cute little Cupid type of guy. My wife told me yesterday that she thought that a picture of a boy running on his gravestone would be what she would pick if we decide to put a picture on there. I thought that was great since we all know he would have been highly athletic and quite a two-year old.

About a week before he was born, I asked all the children what sex they were hoping for. We never know the sex before birth (our choice), so I was just curious. This time, the tally fell right down party lines - the girls wanted a girl, the boys wanted a boy. But when Elijah said “a boy!”, his eyes were all lit and his voice full of command. I told him that he just wanted another clan member for his posse. He loves being the hero to the other boys. They all play sports together and he knew that another boy would add to his little gang.

We feel so knocked out, but feel guilty for even feeling that way. I try to be happy knowing that Obadiah is in heaven - that he’ll never suffer anymore pain, that he is more cared for and loved up in heaven than he could ever be on earth, that he’ll never have to make painful choices in life, or wrestle with sin and its consequences. But, that thought only stays with me a minute before I start just wanting him back.

Some of the books we have been given say that we’ll experience anger too. At least for me, that has only happened very briefly. I read all of the book of Job the other night trying to find some solace or direction there. That book has always confused me. I was commenting to a Catholic friend the other night that if I didn’t know any better, that Job should be part of the apocrypha - it just seems so out of place and different from the rest of the Bible. I got confused again, but I also was just amazed at Job’s inner peace not to curse God or get angry. He complained and wanted to die - and I guess I can understand that. But, I just don’t feel that raising my fist toward God is a very wise thing to do. He has His reasons for what happened - I’m just a stupid, fallen man that probably couldn’t comprehend those reasons even if God came and told me them.

I will say that there is only one reason that I’ve come to so far and it isn’t really a reason for Obadiah’s death, but maybe just an outcome from it that might be for good. When I was sitting in the hospital waiting for them to tell me that there was nothing more they could do - a moment I knew would happen as I never once had hope after the first few minutes that anyone could save him - all I could think about was my other children and every minute I had wasted doing anything but being with them. Life is so short. I’ve always said that and known that - but it suddenly felt very real. I felt all of time slipping away - not just my time with Obadiah - but my time on earth with my wife, my children, my true friends, etc. This culture makes it so easy to slip into “mere existence” and putting off things until tomorrow. I don’t think I can ever be that way again now.

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