There are questions, particularly about death, which we will never be able to answer in this life because we dont yet have the benefit of that heavenly perspective.
The single date on the headstone is always a stark reminder to me of the day, seven years ago now, when my niece, Abigail - my brothers first child - was tragically stillborn at full term.
Visiting her grave recently with my own daughter, Grace, whos almost four, my wife and I obviously had to find a way to explain to her what had happened and why she couldnt meet her oldest cousin; not to mention what all the stones in the graveyard were for.
As often seems to be the case with young children, she took our explanation in her stride and was very content with the thought that Abi was living with Jesus in Heaven.
And then from the mouths of babes came the killer question: "But, Daddy, where is Heaven?"
I have to admit this stumped me. While I was searching around in the depths of my brain for something in my theological training to date which would provide an answer, my wife jumped in with the suggestion that Heaven was wherever Jesus lived.
Again, this simple but powerful statement seemed to provide a satisfactory answer for Grace and her attention was soon diverted to some passing butterfly or pretty flower.
Trailing rather sheepishly behind them back to the car I reflected on how often, as adults, we try to pin down in precise detail the answers to all our questions rather than enjoying that simple, childlike acceptance of the way things are.
I once heard a Priest say at a funeral "I dont know why Shaun died so suddenly as he did, because Im not God". I remember thinking how strangely comforting it was to know that there are questions, particularly about death, which we will never be able to answer in this life because we dont yet have the benefit of that Heavenly perspective which will smash through the limits of our current earth-bound intellects. As St Paul says: "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face"(1 Cor: 13:12).
Seven years on, I still have questions about what happened to Abigail. But I thank God for the gift of faith which allows me if not to answer, then to live with, the questions day by day the sort of faith which is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1).
About the author
James Harris is an ordinand and Executive Assistant to the Archdeacon of Malmesbury