Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster in Wales. On the 21st of October the waste tip of the local coal mine gave way and careened down the mountainside, burying the village’s school in its wake. One hundred sixteen children died that day, and it is still remembered as Wales’ darkest day.
The loss of a child is probably the most terrible thing that can happen to person. There is the moment of disbelief, followed by shock, tears, silence, and an emptiness that never goes away. I have been on the receiving end of this experience and it is one I would never wish upon another. They say time makes memory fade, but alas this is not the case when one looses a child.
This loss magnifies as it impacts those around you. You are the one grieving, but often you feel the need to be strong for those suffering on the periphery. You bury your own loss, and wait, cry in private, and grieve some more. I remember the young rookie policemen sent to “comfort” me, this poor boy was in a terrible emotional state, and trying hard to be “professional.” We in the end exchanged comforting roles.
I am sure there are many such stories from Aberfan, Dunblane, Syria, and beyond; where communities have lost there young, and in a sense their future. The loss in any case is always intense, irreconcilable by human means. In Matthew chapter 2, he recounts Herod’s murder of the children of Bethlehem and quotes Jeremiah: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more. (2:18 NIV)”
During the Shoah, 1.1 million children were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators. Communities and their future were in reality lost for forever. When such things occur, many ask, “If there is a God, where is He?” This question resounds historically, but even more so personally.
With all sincerity of heart, and with no intention of being trite, there is only one true answer. He is exactly where He was when His own son died (Matthew 27:45-50), and is just as sorrowful.
I take comfort in this thought, I pray if you have need you can find that comfort too.