Baby Chimes, Nursery Rhymes, and the Presence of Death; A Pastor’s Thoughts on the Cycle of Life
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— a time to give birth and a time to die.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
The life of a pastor is surrounded by the two bookends of the human experience known as birth and death. Hospitals are our second homes. And in its hallways, it is not uncommon to hear the sound of baby chimes while comforting a grieving family. As newborns are delivered into their temporal earthly home, others are ushered into their eternal home. Tears of joy on the third floor combat tears of grief on the seventh floor. There have been times in my ministry when I have heard the cry of a newborn and the cry of a widow all in the same day. Needless to say, it can be very sobering to see birth announcements printed next to the obituaries in the local newspaper.
In the Spring of 2013 while pastoring in Tennessee, both birth and death were brought to the forefront of my mind. I was at the local hospital in Jackson, Tennessee spending time with a deacon in our church (along with the rest of his family) as his precious wife was about to slip into eternity. We were all gathered together in the hallway just outside the intensive care unit. The family had already accepted the fact that Mrs. Peggy probably only had just a few more hours to live. In one sense they rejoiced to know that she would no longer suffer (Revelation 21:4) and that soon she would be ushered into heaven by angels (Luke 16:22). But these theological promises from Scripture did not take away their grief. The scent of sadness was strong, and the sound of silence was deafening. Yet in that moment, the silence was broken as the hospital intercom system began to softly play baby chimes signifying the birth of a newborn. I am not sure if anyone else heard the chiming nursery rhyme, but I most certainly did.
Some might refer to it as the cycle of life. But no matter what you choose to call it, both birth and death are a part of the life experience. King Solomon understood this, and poetically expressed this truth in our passage above. He says that the Lord has appointed a time for everything, and that nothing happens by accident. Every event under heaven takes place for a specific purpose and has a time slot in God’s appointment book. He further illustrates this truth by contrasting various seasons of life such as planting and uprooting, killing and healing, tearing and building, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing, throwing and gathering, embracing and refraining, searching and surrendering, keeping and discarding, tearing and sowing, silencing and speaking, loving and hating, along with warring and peacekeeping (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). But strikingly evident in these poetical pairings is what Solomon mentions first – birth and death. And all the other seasonal pairings fall between these two major life events.
When I preached Mrs. Peggy’s funeral, Ecclesiastes 3 was the scripture passage I read at the graveside service. For some reason it just felt appropriate. The season of life had ended for this precious saint of God. The Lord had appointed her time of birth to be back in 1945, and He had appointed her time of death to be 2013. And by setting these timeline parameters for her earthly lifespan, the Lord was penning her storybook. With this in mind, it should not surprise us that David prayed to the Lord in Psalm 139:16 and said, “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
Yet Peggy’s earthly story is only the beginning of her eternal story; for her story is a story with no ending. As eternal creatures, people are designed by God to exist forever. Which raises a question; where will you spend eternity? Peggy Joyce Ivy had trusted Christ as her personal Lord and Savior. If you have not done the same, please do not delay and do so today!
– Pastor Eric