“Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4
Last August, our congregation welcomed Maelyn Delaney Opdahl as a newborn into our church family. As with all our newborns, this precious one was joyfully embraced, often being passed around and held by many during and after services or in small groups. Her infectious smiles and easy-going demeanor endeared her to us all.
We were then devastated to learn that after being taken to Los Robles hospital a week ago Friday evening, she died during the early hours of Saturday, February 1. We have absorbed this news with disbelief, incredulity, and numb shock. When we gathered for our new-schedule worship service last Sunday, we felt heavy, sorrowful grieving.
But in the midst of seeking to absorb this gut-wrenching news, we have done what Conejo Church does so well: rallied to provide support for Erin and Silas, for Sebastian and Kimi, and for uncle Chris. More than twenty kept vigil at the hospital through the dark hours last Friday. Since Maelyn’s death, people have driven to the airport to pick up family members, opened their homes, provided meals, helped plan the memorial service, cleaned the apartment, driven family members to appointments, visited and provided moral support, and much more. A first-grader in our children’s ministry circulated a hand-made card during children’s church to give to the Opdahl family. Thank you, Church, for translating your heartache into actions of love.
We have also gathered to worship together, grieve together, and care for one another. Our worship gathering is not some attempt to deny or cover up the awful loss we’ve experienced. In our worship, we offer up our prayers and laments to the Lord, entrusting our sorrows and griefs to the One who will raise the living and the dead. In our worship, we pray for those who have suffered most deeply, surrounding them (sometimes quite literally) with our care and love. In our worship, we continue to affirm our ardent belief that God is worthy of our praise, our trust, and our deepest allegiance. In our worship, we pour out our hearts to the One who created us, sustains us, redeems us, and who will one day welcome us into his everlasting Kingdom. Thank you, Church, for being a community that together entrusts its burdens to the Lord.
The journey of grief following Maelyn’s death will vary for each person impacted. May we continue to heed Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:2 to “Bear one another’s burdens…” in the weeks and months to come. May we reach out both for help as we have need and to help as we have opportunity. May we keep loving God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves, refusing to be overcome by the evils of this world and working to overcome evil with good.