Thursday, July 7, 2011


"Fear not," says Jesus, "I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore...and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1.17-18).

The last four weeks have given me little time to sleep, let alone to write. A wedding and two funerals … a lifetime’s worth of heartache with a little joy thrown in. On the afternoon of June 12th we received the news that our precious god-daughter Olivia "Lulu" Kopas had been in a drowning accident - and at 2:51 am, after many hours of tearful petitions, God answered our prayers, though not in the way that we had hoped: He graciously chose to heal and restore Olivia by taking her to Himself, into the joy of His Presence, and out of the brokenness of this world.

Those of us who knew and loved her best... well, for us there are no words to adequately describe our grief.

It feels a little like dropping a flashlight into a deep, deep well. One sees the fading light flicker as it falls; and hears the reverberating echo as the beam descends and disappears. But one can do nothing to recover it. This is work only Christ can do; and He has done it!

Yet I have never had a more distressing experience – standing by her bedside, holding her little heel in the palm of my hand – such a fine, smooth heel! – and surveying all the delicate features which had become as familiar to me as those of my own daughters’: there were the little bow legs, the stout tummy, the long smooth arms, the rosebud lips and flaxen hair – her mother and I even took a moment to marvel at the little flap of skin on her pinkie finger which she had shut in the door the week before, and lament the fact that we would never enjoy the privilege of seeing it grow back.

I looked into her face and smiled: her mouth was turned down into that infamous little pout – the one that used to make us laugh and call her “Grandpa Kopas” because her expression in those moment’s so recalled her grandfather’s.

But for the profound stillness of her body, the ashen skin and – dear Livvy, you looked as though you were only sleeping! Here she is, a part of me insisted, she’s right here! How can she be gone? And if gone, then where?

A wild feeling of panic swept over me like a wave. Then a kind of blind rage, and an overpowering feeling of indignation: for here before me wasn’t Livvy – it was death, which had come into the world because of sin.

I never knew my heart could hurt so much. Never knew, as CS Lewis says, that grief felt so much like fear. Nor had I experienced the kind of snorting anger I imagine Jesus felt when facing Lazarus’s tomb.

I understood in that moment as I had never understood before why Christ came to earth, and what His coming really accomplished. His death and resurrection meant that this was not the end, but only an intermission – a break in the story, but only on our end: for Olivia, the story goes on; and I imagine her movement from this life to the next was as seamless and simple as it is for me to turn the page in my book, flipping from the end of one chapter to the opening of another.

As I stood at her bedside, in those blackest hours before sunrise, I saw myself standing in the shadow of the Resurrection. The light emanating from Christ’s Risen Form was blinding and yet still there was a shadow – the Valley of the shadow of death, which all must pass through - though because of Christ we can walk through it without fear of evil or loneliness: for He is with us, every step, helping us to leave the old man behind in order to put on the new one.

There is one more thing - I can almost say it boldly now: Olivia’s death has given us a very great and precious gift: by transferring the object of our affections to eternity, God has made the way forward easier; we cannot help but “set our affections on things above.” For she is there. She and He together.

“Behold, I have set before thee an open door,” Jesus says to John in Revelation, “and no man can shut it” (Revelation 3). This door, the door to eternal life, opened for Olivia on June 13th; and no matter how we tried, none of us could shut it. Now, instead of waiting for her to return to us, we must go to her: entering through that great and narrow Door which only a few find, the door that is Christ. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10.9).


our family said...

I have no words...only tears.... Thank you for sharing.

lindsaybrooke said...

when I visited with Marta recently, she shared with us to join in prayer with you. Drew and I prayed that night for all of you through tears.

The older I get, and the more in love with my children I become, the harder it is to face the effect sin causes in the world. Thank you for reminding me of the redeeming light that is Christ.

Love to you, Heather, and the rest of your family... and especially as you try to explain and walk through such loss to your girls.

deonna said...

My heart breaks and burns

Joseph Anfuso said...

Well said, Heather, At once heartbreaking and hopeful.