The house of mourning.


It’s difficult to know the best way to honor and remember a stillborn child. Funerals and memorial services allow people a dedicated time to grieve and mourn the loss of a loved one. Friends and family take time to hug and reminisce the memories shared with the deceased. No one ever knew Keller. Aside from our medical team, my parents, Wendy, Nathan, and myself – no one even saw Keller’s perfect tiny body. We knew we wanted to set aside time to honor our son, but initially, we weren’t sure of the best way. It seemed strange to hold a memorial service for a little boy that no one in the room had ever known.

A couple days after returning home, I was laying next to Mary while she took her nap. In those quiet moments, I decided, strange or not, we needed to have memorial service for Keller. I think this was the first time I used the phrase “my love song to Keller”. We needed to have a memorial service precisely because no one in the room had ever known him. His arrival had been eagerly anticipated by everyone in our community. We all needed to gather up and mourn the little boy we would never know. We all needed to gather up and recognize and praise the great Overcomer. Nathan and I needed hugs. We needed to be loved on by those we loved the most. We needed to show the world our son.

Over the next few days, Nathan and I retreated to our room and worked out the details of the service. It would be held at our church in Sunnyvale on Sunday September 21 at 5:45 p.m.. We chose our fathers and our preacher to say any words the Lord had placed on their hearts. We chose my brother and brother-in-law to read scriptures that had been providing us divine comfort. We chose two of our dearest brothers in Christ to open and close the service with prayers and petitions to our God. We chose another beloved brother in Him to lead hymns that had been providing us with solace and hope. We put together a slide show. We only had 9 months of pictures to share, but each picture captured the large and forever footprint Keller had placed on our hearts. Nathan ended the service with a message and leading the song “How Great Is Our God”. This is Keller’s song. 60 years from now, this will still be Keller’s song.

It was difficult trying to mentally and emotionally prepare for Keller’s service. Some moments are so heavy with importance and meaning that the idea of finally sitting and experiencing that moment is almost frightening. I feel a lot of these same emotions as Keller’s first birthday is approaching. It’s another momentous occasion intended to honor our son in the best possible way. Nothing will ever feel quite grand or large enough to capture the love song we have in our hearts for Keller. We have to be content with every feeble attempt we make and allow God and His love to work and shine through us.

Our church was at the ready to provide all they could to make his service everything we needed it to be. Several went up to the building the evening before to ensure the sound system worked properly and songs we wanted played worked with the current set up. The normal Sunday evening service was shortened in order to dedicate as much time to Keller’s service as possible.

The Saturday before the service, the best man at our wedding, Andrew, called Nathan to let us know he was at his layover in Dallas on his way to be at Keller’s service. Nathan and I were and are forever deeply moved by this lavish act of love and loyalty. Y’all should get an Andrew too. We really have some very amazing souls in our life.

Sunday afternoon, my mom and sister put Mary down for a nap so that Nathan and I could go up to the church building and make all the last minute arrangements. 

We placed the beautiful and abundant flowers we had received on the steps of the stage. We sat the toy Mary had chose for Keller at the welcome table, along with his baby brother onesie, and crocheted hat. I sat while Nathan and our loved ones did most of the manual labor. My body was still so fragile from giving birth. We tested our slide show. Everything was ready. My family dressed Mary in her big sister shirt and a silver tutu.


Mary and our families arrived. One by one, an incredible amount of people we love to eternity and back filled the auditorium. The only other similar moment I have experienced was at our wedding. My dad was at my side and the doors opened for me to walk down the aisle to Nathan. The doors opened and the chapel was filled with all the loved ones that had helped get me to this point in my life. It was one of the most moving and worship-filled experiences I had ever had. In that moment, I cried and praised the Lord for the community with which He had surrounded me. Keller’s service had that same worship-filled moment. Friends from the community. Co-workers. Friends from who had driven from across the entire state of California. Friends who had flown in just for this very day. Family. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Our entire community gathered up in order to sit for a time and weep with us. Moments like these bring you to your knees as you bow down before the Creator with a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

The service began and we all joined together and sat in the house of mourning. Mary sat next to us and played with Fisher Price Little People and the Scottie Dog she had bought for Keller. We sang “Blessed Be Your Name”, “Glorious Day”, “Just As I am (I Come Broken)”, “Mighty to Save”, “Greater”, and “How Great is Our God”. Each song offered a unique comfort and shared a unique message we needed to be shared. We read II Corinthians 1: 3-7, excerpts from Exodus 14 and John 16, and Phillipians 4:10-13. Words of love for our boy and praise to our God were shared. “Where Joy and Sorrow Meet” was the song that accompanied our slide show.

“Where Joy and Sorrow Meet”

There’s a place of quiet stillness ‘tween the light and shadows reach
Where the hurting and the hopeless seek everlasting peace
Words of men and songs of angels whisper comfort bittersweet
Mending grief and life eternal where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place the lost surrender and the weary will retreat
Full of grace and mercy tender in times of unbelief
For the wounded there is healing, strength is given to the weak
Broken hearts find love redeeming where joy and sorrow meet

There’s a place of thirst and hunger where the roots of faith grow deep
And there is rain and rolling thunder when the road is rough and steep
There is hope in desperation there is victory in defeat
At the cross of restoration where joy and sorrow meet

There is a place where hope remains
In crowns of thorns and crimson stains
And tears that fall on Jesus’ feet
Where joy and sorrow meet

We all sat in that place – the place where joy and sorrow meet. I think that this is same place the writer of Ecclesiastes was talking about when he said, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” We all sat in the house of mourning, where joy and sorrow meet, and worshipped. I cannot articulate all the blessings that come with accepting and embracing seasons of grief and pain. It’s truly difficult to allow yourself the time and energy to sit with sadness and loss and accept they have entered your life and forever changed the way you do and perceive everything. It will take more time and wisdom for me to be able to list the reasons and benefits of time spent in the house of mourning. For now, I simply know beyond doubt that the time spent face to face with death and agony in the shadow of the cross has profoundly changed me for the better. Allow yourself the grace and gift of pulling up a chair and spending all the time you need in the house of mourning.

We stayed at the church building until close to 10. We laughed, cried, and embraced each person who had come to be with us. Mary had the time of her life. She and her best friends ran around the building and played as hard as they could. Nathan and I both vividly recall thinking, “Man. Mary is having a blast!” – which is really awesome. It’s SO good to see sparks of innocent joy in the shadows of darkness.

Nathan and I have made “Crack Pies” for both Mary and Keller’s “Coming-home-from-the-hospital-hooray-you-are-born” celebration. We made each of them a couple weeks before our babies were born. The pies stayed in the freezer at the ready for the birth of our children. We decided that we would have the pies after Keller’s memorial service. Our family and several of our friends crammed into our tiny living room and celebrated Keller with pie. Pie is a good way to celebrate most things. (Especially this pie – it is really, REALLY, good.) We hadn’t really told Mary why we were having the pies, but as soon as we got to our front door she said, “It’s Keller’s birthday party.” Precious child – we will forever treasure the tender moments you provided us in those days of darkness.

We have an audio copy of the Keller’s memorial service. We have yet to listen to it. No time has felt still or worthy enough of taking time to once again sit in the house of mourning and worship. We will take time and listen to it this week. We will sit and weep with our loved ones all over again and praise the great Overcomer of death.

Here are the final words we shared at Keller’s service. This is the best way we know how to honor Keller. Let them see Jesus.
“Treat all you see & interact with as if they just lost their child – we don’t know the long, dusty, tiresome road that may have brought someone to where they are – and I know for certain that they all need the gentle, never stopping, over flowing, never giving up love of Jesus in their lives – at the very moment you encounter them. 
YOU are the hands of Jesus. 
YOU are the voice of Jesus. 
YOU are the feet of Jesus. 
You are JESUS in this world.
Be Jesus. 
He is risen. He is real. He has overcome. 
Be Jesus. 
Let them see Jesus today.”
Keller’s slide show

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s