Loss and suffering is hard at any time and it is human nature to struggle with it. As a parent, hearing of someone losing a young child is heartbreaking. In the case of Emma-Jane McNicol, she faced the death of two of her children, in different circumstances, within two years.
Emma-Jane, a New Zealander and Roddy, her Scottish husband, were left picking up the pieces after their two precious boys died. Emma-Jane was left with big questions regarding her faith and how to hold on to it.
In her compelling new book, Will I Have to Brush My Teeth in Heaven?, she reveals the true story of her family, beautifully blessed, also being tested almost to breaking point. When faced with the illness of their baby son Samuel, they had to quickly adapt to hospital life with a sick child, and then to life without that child after he passed away.
Only eighteen months later, tragedy struck the family again. This time it was their second son, Ben, who at six years old, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Devastatingly, he also passed away five months later.
This incredible book was written to not only tell the McNicols’ story, but to encourage readers who are grieving, or who are trying to support others who are facing their own grief with the hope of Jesus. It is not a glib offer of hope. It is an honest account of the searching questions that this raises.
While her book’s subtitle states ‘holding on to hope in the death of a child,’ Emma-Jane says that she has often been known to say that, at times, her experience was not a hold, but more a clinging or a grasping onto hope in the face of loss.
“Experience of loss can be incredibly lonely,” Emma-Jane says. “In sharing my story, my aim is to help others who walk a path of loss to not feel so isolated, but to feel heard and to feel their pain acknowledged. This is particularly important for Christians because when faith is present, we may believe in a God of miracles, that he can move mountains, he can change the situation, He is all-powerful.
Yet when our mountains of pain are not moved and we do not get the miracle we are so desperate for, how do we hold on and how do we know that we are heard and still loved?”
In this powerful book Emma-Jane says: “I have experienced the spirit of despair and felt the pit of grief deep within my being. But when I am there, whilst it feels as if I cannot breathe, I have a sense that I am not alone, despite my physical aloneness. I think that there is a God standing beside me collecting all my tears.”
She also gives her insight into Heaven; not looked at from a theological background, but from a grieving parent trying to work out where her child is and what that child’s existence in Heaven may now be. At the end of dealing with the big question, Is Heaven Real? Emma Jane concludes: “We have been shown a glimpse of Heaven in the Bible so that we may spark a desire and want to go there, but he has not taken off the whole wrapper.
“We can still be filled with anticipation – like a child in the sweet shop longingly looking at the wrapped lolly, knowing that the best is yet to come when the wrapper is removed.”
As you journey through their story, you will be challenged to consider some big questions. How do you:
respond to suffering?
forgive others that hurt you?
help others in their loss?
hold on to hope when it feels like you have lost, or are losing, everything?
The McNicols’ story, and their ability with God’s grace to overcome, will encourage you to go deeper as you ponder God’s love for you and others – even when the longed-for healing, or answer to your prayers, does not come. There is a hope that is greater than what we see in this world come and be enthralled by it.