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You are the Peace in my Troubled Sea

Coming home without Leah was one of the saddest, loneliest experiences of my entire life. I had spent the previous two and a half weeks by Leah’s side at the Belfast City Hospital. I had spent the previous nine months immersed in caring for Leah. Now I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had no idea what I was supposed to do next, or how everything was going to happen.

In Ireland people are traditionally buried on the third day after they die. Leah had died on a Thursday so our minister suggested having the funeral on the Saturday. However, because of the need for a mini post mortem, Leah’s body wasn’t coming home until Friday so a Saturday funeral would only allow one night for the wake and I knew that would never be long enough. He agreed to our request for a Sunday funeral.

My husband and I were agreed on having a traditional wake at home, as is the custom where we live. Due to the constraints imposed by Leah’s illness and reduced immunity, our house had been private for long enough, now it was time to throw open the doors and welcome everyone in, to pay their respects in our time of grief.

Leah’s body came home on Friday 17th January 2014. Her coffin was open and she looked so peaceful. Leah’s open white coffin was placed on top of her bed. Also on her bed I placed mementoes of Leah’s sixteen years – her Baby Book, photo albums, school uniform, Girl’s Brigade hoodie etc. The room was softly lit with her bedside lamp and her pink fairy lights. In the background, Leah’s favourite praise and worship music played quietly. Visitors commented on the sense of peace that they felt upon entering the room.

Hundreds of people visited our house over the Friday and Saturday. Everyone was offered a cup of tea or coffee and a plate of sandwiches and wee buns, by an army of ladies who manned our kitchen. I stayed in the bedroom with Leah and our visitors were escorted in small groups to see us. Neighbours put up signs on their driveways that said “wake parking” for the overflow of visitors’ cars. Everything was thought about and taken care of by someone other than me.

On the Sunday morning, after a short service in the house, Leah’s coffin was closed and carried out of our house by the men of the family. It was a heart-breaking sight, seeing Leah’s boyfriend, her daddy and her uncles, carry the white wooden coffin down our drive and a short distance along our little country road. The road was lined with friends and neighbours. I’m so glad that we don’t grieve as those who have no hope.

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 NIV

Over a thousand people were waiting for us at our church when we got there. Our minister knew Leah well and he preached a very encouraging message about Leah’s faith, our grief and the mystery of suffering. We sang some of Leah’s favourite hymns and at the very end, her coffin was carried out of the church to the rousing tones of My Lighthouse, which was at that time the latest single by Leah’s favourite band – Rend Collective:

In the silence, You won’t let go

In my questions, Your truth will hold

Your great love will lead me through

You are the peace in my troubled sea

You are the peace in my troubled sea

My Lighthouse, my lighthouse

Shining in the darkness, I will follow You

My Lighthouse, my Lighthouse

I will trust the promise,

You will carry me safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)

Safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)

Safe to shore (Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)

Safe to shore

Vicky Whyte

Vicky lives in Northern Ireland with her husband and two younger children. All she ever wanted in life was to get married, have kids, serve Jesus and love other people. Just quietly and without too much excitement. Her favorite spare time activities are catching up with friends or getting lost in a good book. Then, in 2013, family life changed forever. Leah, the second eldest of their four children, was diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation and went through a bone marrow transplant. Nine months after her initial diagnosis, Leah developed a rare side effect of her treatment and died shortly after her 16th birthday. Devastated and heartbroken by her daughter's death, Vicky has found that blogging helps her to trace the rainbows through the rain and see God's hand in everything.

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