by William L. Edwards, Ph.D.

Today we need to talk about our feelings. We need to give voice to the pain. And we need to remember the promises of God and our gratitude for the gift of Rett's life.

What do we feel? We may feel simply confused and overwhelmed. Questions swirl in our minds. Why? Why is there such a terrible disease as cancer? Why do children suffer the way Rett did in his eleven year battle, only to have that battle end in death? Why Rett? Why did Charlie, Dana and Anna have to walk such a gut-wrenching, heartrending road? Why? I do not have answers to these questions. Yet, like you, I ask them. There is so much here that is beyond our understanding.

What do we feel? We feel a deep, gnawing sadness at loosing Rett. We feel angry at the unfairness of it all. We feel so very helpless. We feel anxious living in an uncertain world where tragedy can take loved ones from us. We feel so inadequate in telling Charlie, Dana, and Anna how much we love them. There are so many feelings.

Yet amidst these troubling emotions there is so much more. There is love, gratitude, thankfulness and hope. For the real story today is not how Rett died. The real story today is that Rett lived and that, by the grace of God, he will live with Christ forever.

There are two profoundly different perspectives that we can take today. Indeed, we are faced with a choice. We can focus on our resentment asking, "Why did this have to happen?" Or we focus on our gratitude asking- "What is there here to be thankful for?"

Sometimes we ask- "Why did this have to happen?"- because we approach life with a sense that we are owed certain things. We feel that we should have a certain length of life, we expect life to go well, we should be spared life's hardships, and have only the best. If we live life with these expectations we may become angry or resentful in the face of life's misfortune. We may become fixed on the things of life that seem unfair. If we start with a sense of entitlement, we will end up in resentment.

The other approach sees all of life as a gift. The gratitude question asks simply, "What is there here to be thankful for?" This perspective is not concerned with whether the hand we have been dealt is as good as the next person's. We are just grateful to be in the game at all. Why, just being born is windfall. It's like winning the lottery. It more than one could ever hope for or dream of. To see the sunset. To feel the wind in your hair. To laugh iii it hurts. To be with loved ones. All of these are gifts we do not deserve. What incredible good fortune it is to have life at all! So our focus is on the wonderful gift of Rett's life.

My friends, God's love surrounds us. Rett's life was a gift from a loving God. In love, God has breathed the breath of life into our bodies of clay. Each day we live is a gift from God. And God raises those who believe in Christ to life eternal. All of this is far beyond our deserving. We do nothing to merit our birth. We do nothing to earn life eternal. We have these things simply because God makes it so. We live because of God's love.

I have a couple of images in my mind that capture for me a small slice of what I love about Rett.

The first image is from some years ago. 1 went by the house to find that Rett had just gotten a new desktop computer. It was what Rett had done with his computer that caught my attention. He had taken it completely apart. The hard drive was out. The fan was over here. The CPU was over there. Memory cards were off to the side. Now, I don't know about you, but I have a rule that I will not disassemble a new computer. The reason is obvious. If I took a computer apart, it would never work again. When Rett took a computer apart, he could put it back together. He had an inquisitive, keen mind. He was creative and artistic. He simply loved computers and was so competent in working his creative magic with them. Rett was so talented, so gifted. It was a true joy to see him engrossed in projects he loved. I thank God for Rett.

The second image is from last Friday night, not long before his death. Rett was in ICU at St. Paul's hospital. The pneumonia was literally taking his breath away. He could not get enough oxygen. Each breath was painful and labored. He had a mask over his mouth and nose that help him breathe, but it was excruciating to watch him struggle. Many of the family had already gathered when Anna arrived. Anna bent over and hugged Rett and he grabbed hold of her. It was as if Rett relaxed in her arms as brother and sister held onto each other. There was such love in that moment.

It points to the most important thing about Rett's life. Rett loved and was loved. The love Charlie, Dana, Anna and Rett have is so strong and so deep. It is a precious gift. It is a gift forged through hardship and difficulty, through times of laughter and enjoyment. There is no greater gift. When I think of Rett I will see that hug with Annie and remember that Rett loved and was loved. Praise be to God.

We read in John's gospel that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. In Paul's letter to the Romans we read that there is nothing, not even death itself that can separate us from God's love. In Revelation, we read of John's vision of what life will be like. "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away."

Today we acknowledge that death, pain, and tears do not have the last word. The last word belongs to God, who gave Rett the gift of life, who blessed him with talents and loving relationships, and who will raise him to new life through Christ. Today we celebrate the gift of Rett's life and we place our trust in a loving God who gave him the gift of life and now gives him the gift of life eternal.

I close with words from the Heidelberg Catechism. It asks, "What is your only comfort in life and in death?" And it answers, "That I belong- body and soul, in life and in death not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ."

Praise be to God! And all God's people said, Amen!