Sunday, July 17, 2005

Funeral for a Child

Babies shouldn't be buried. We dress it up with suits and flowers and sanitize the proceedings physically and emotionally. I've smelled death, but never at a funeral. The father, on his knees, lowers the tiny white coffin into the hole. A little truck with a bed full of dirt backs up to the grave and they have to pull back a fake grass carpet from under the feet of the father and the chair of the mother to get close enough. The father lays one shovel full of dirt, symbolically, over the tiny coffin and turns away.

It is a children's cemetary and all around are flat (easy to mow) plaques with names and dates that are far too close together. It is a field of dead babies.

The family takes great strength in a faith that I find repellant. They speak, with absolute certainty of "God's sovereignity" that each of us belongs to this god and it is his right to take any person at any time for any reason. Their god is far beyond human hang-ups like honor and fairness and decency.

It repels me more today because last week as part of an investigation I had to read a journal written by a child molester in custody. He too felt that he had a right to do what he wanted with his children. Everything hinged on the word 'his' and he saw no difference between his daughter, his shoes or any other object he 'owned'. They were his, and that meant he could do with them as he willed.

Their faith helps them where my cynicism might crush me in the same situation, so I can't begrudge them... but I find it very hard when pious people justify the acts of an all-powerful god with the same words that criminals use to justify immense cruelty and depravity.

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