This has been a tough week. There's no way to sugar-coat it for you. A dear friend, who was 38 weeks pregnant with a healthy, lively baby boy, learned that her son had passed away just days before he was to be born. Gabriel Eric was born still on Tuesday, October 26 at 2:14 p.m. He weighed 7 lbs, 9 oz and was between 22-24 inches long. I had the awesome privilege of being able to see him in the hours following his birth, and had the enormous honor of kissing his angelic face to say "see you soon".
As much as I could say about how life-changing this whole experience has been (and will continue to be), and as much as I could say about Mike and Kristen, Gabriel's parents, and the incredible glory of God they have shown through their mourning, I could never sum it up better than the eulogy written by my friend Kat, who put pen to paper following his death and allowed God to whisper to her the words He wanted to say.
Please share this story. It is truly one of inspiration in the face of unspeakable tragedy and sorrow.
My name is Kat, and I'm one of Gabriel's “aunties.” There is so much that I could say, but I really felt led to talk about one thing, and that is to tell you about Gabriel's life.
Gabriel Eric Wirth was a real person who lived for 38 weeks on this Earth and was called home by Jesus on October 26. I was privileged to get a chance to see Gabriel and hold him after he was born. Let me tell you, he is a beautiful child. We're not talking about the kind of fake “aww, he's cute!” that you say but on the inside you are thinking otherwise. Gabriel is the real deal, an absolutely darling little boy. The spitting image of his mother (sorry Mike!) Kristen told me he was so pink when he was born, and his beautiful blue eyes were even open for a while. He looked so sweet wrapped up in beautiful blue blankets, with a tiny blue cap on his head and little blue booties on his feet. Kristen and Mike are so proud of him, and they should be for good reason.
As any mother who has carried a child can tell you, that child's personality is apparent long before the child is born. God knew Gabriel intimately, too, of course. Psalm 139: 13-15:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
Gabriel made his mother, Kristen, so happy during her pregnancy. She was just glowing, even towards the end. Gabriel was a good, strong, active baby. A typical rambuncious little boy. Mike had not been able to hear Gabriel's strong heartbeat at any of Kristen's appointments, because of his work schedule. A few weeks before his birth, one of Kristen's tests came back abnormal and the hospital called in the middle of the night and insisted that they rush in to be checked out. Mike told me he grumbled about it at the time, but he now realizes that God certainly arranged this so he could hear the beautiful, strong sound of his son's heartbeat one time.
Gabriel especially loved it when Kristen would eat spicy ethnic food, like Indian, Japanese and Mexican! That would really get him kicking! Even in the womb he had a bent for all things multi-cultural and international. Perhaps this means he would have been either an overseas missionary (or a multinational mogul!).
But even without ever taking a breath, Gabriel is a missionary. Every single person who has heard Gabriel's story and Kristen and Mike's testimony has had two reactions. First, they say “my life will never be the same.” Then they are drawn before God. Some have come before God for healing from this intense grief. Some come before God just to intercede for this family and pray for God's spirit to be upon them. Some (like myself, I will not lie), have come before God really, really angry. Some of us have been in God's face about this, pounding on His chest and screaming “How can you let this happen?” Begging to know why, why, WHY? Using words we are not supposed to say in church. That's ok, He can handle it. Some, even Gabriel's amazing parents, have come before God singing his praise in spite of the pain. And some, perhaps some who don't know Jesus as Lord, are wondering, “what will happen to me when I die?”
Gabriel is a missionary already, for sure. Without ever even seeing the light of one sunrise, Gabriel has made more of an impact in his short life than most of us will in 100 years.
We shouldn't be surprised by this. Gabriel is of course named for one of God's most trusted messengers. Gabriel's middle name, Eric, is after his uncle. Mike's brother Eric died at age 3, before Mike was born. We have no doubt that those two precious boys are already well acquainted.
Gabriel Eric is such a beautiful, meaningful name. Please don't be afraid to say it and to share his story. The world needs to hear about him.
I'd like to close by reading a letter that I wrote to Gabriel.
Dear sweet, sweet baby boy,
We have no doubt at all where you are right now, but I just wanted to tell you how much we miss you and ache for you. Your big sister Hannah will struggle to understand why she can't hold her much-anticipated baby brother. Your grandparents long to hold you and rock you and sing to you, and spoil you rotten. Your aunties at church were so looking forward to oohing and aahing over you, buying you cute little outfits and watching you smile and grow.
And your parents, Gabriel. You have some amazing parents. I have never known the true meaning of “the joy of the Lord” until I met your mother, Gabriel. She is just sunshine. Even through the crushing physical and emotional pain and the tears, she is still pure sunshine. And so incredibly brave and strong. She gave you a beautiful birth, Gabriel, fitting of the angel that you are. I am so sad that you won't get to grow up with that kind of a mother here on this earth. If only all mothers were like yours, Gabriel, the world wouldn't have any problems.
And your dad, Gabriel. He is the rock of your family. What an amazing father. He told me two things the day you were born. First of all, he said that he wanted a viewing at your service because this is his SON, not some abstract concept. He wants people to see you because you are beautiful, and he's proud of you. He also said that in every picture taken that day, he is smiling because he's proud of his boy and he wants everyone to see that and remember that he was so happy to be his dad. Wow. That is a father.
I was talking to your grandma Denise about the way time is in heaven. Of course we don't know exactly what it's like, but I'm taking my cues from Psalm 90 verse 4:
For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Time seems to be going so slowly here, and we feel like we will be trapped in grief and sorrow forever. But for you, sweet Gabriel, maybe it will feel like only a split second. You'll turn around and...”Grandma!” For you it will seem as though she's been there right behind you all along.
We can't wait to see you again, Gabriel. Until then our hearts are heavy, but we know right where you are. We love you, precious boy. See you soon.