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Family

All the Days Ordained

July 30, 2015 by

The young, first-time parents had been told the baby they were expecting had heart problems that would require immediate surgery after birth. When their son was born, it became clear that no medical intervention would help, so after two weeks in a hospital far from home, the parents decided to bring him home. A crib was ready; all the accoutrements that accompany the normally-happy arrival of new life had been prepared. Against all odds, they used the crib longer than they thought; little Dwayne even gained weight for some days, until he began to slip away. The last two days of his life were a slow letting go of this earth.

As my wife and I journeyed through four Northeastern states over seven weeks, among people who freely offered us food, transport, hospitality, and spiritual enrichment, there was one encounter that was especially meaningful: the funeral of this twenty-nine-day-old baby boy.

After the funeral we went with Dwayne’s parents to their now too-quiet house. We tried to encourage them with the same thoughts that had given us peace when we lost our first child Marcy many years ago. We reminded them that in spite of what had happened, they were still parents of a child - not an earthly child, but one in another world.

Dawn over a grassy meadow

Our daughter Marcy came to us a year and a half after we were married and we had much anticipation for her birth. Looking back, the details are still a numbing blur: finding out that she would not be born alive, then her birth, and the time we could spend with her before her burial. But our mourning, although rooted in grievous loss, is tinged with a sense of joy; the date (August 8) of her coming to, and going from, this world, is always celebrated in our house, for we know we have a daughter in the heavenly realms, an angel watching us every day. Marcy would have graduated from high school this past May and it was touching that several of her classmates, this year’s graduates, told us that they carried her remembrance with them, without ever having known her.

Marcy is truly a part of our family; in a sense, she accompanied us and helped us on our trip when we met families who had been through similar experiences. When asked how many children we have, we would answer “seven” and then produce a family picture of our six children. The discrepancy was always noticed, and this would lead to a sharing of deeply personal stories. To all of us who have suffered such a loss, we can only pray that God will provide a meaning, a purpose, although perhaps only later, in his time. In that regard, Psalm 139 has always been of great comfort to us:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

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.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.


Alan and Paula Maendel live at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof in New York with their six children. Alan works in the IT department and Paula is a seamstress and cook. In May and June they spent seven weeks travelling through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, before returning home.

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  • Maendel Family, Thank you for sharing that with the world! Sorry for your loss.....

    Michael Gibbs