My son, Ruben Lewis Stewart, was stillborn on May 19th 2017. He weighed 1lb 15oz and he had my nose. The weeks since have been beyond brutal. No father should bury his son. What follows was written for Ruben’s funeral. It’s my only hope in Ruben’s death.
Ruben lived a full life. Erica’s body gave him a better home than I could have ever built or earned. He never got sick, he never suffered, he was always warm and well fed. And for six months he changed our family. He knit Erica and I tighter, and brought joy to Sunny and Shiloh. I lost count of the number of times they talked about him, or asked if he was kicking, or blew raspberries on Erica’s belly. Because of him we know that our friends, parents, and in-laws are willing to walk with us even if that means walking through death. In every way possible his life was full and each day had purpose – even his last one. Erica and I have kept asking “Why was he taken from us?” – and we may never know. But I do know we were graced with him for six more months than we deserved and I thank God for every hour.
But my hope for Ruben doesn’t rest on all the good that came from his life – that’s not why he is in heaven. My hope for Ruben doesn’t even rest on his innocence. He is not with Jesus right now because he did nothing wrong. No, Ruben was saved the same way I have been – by God’s grace alone and through Jesus alone. Ruben’s only hope for life is that Jesus died in his place, and was raised from the dead. That’s why Ruben’s name has been the hardest and most precious part of all this. Ruben means: “God saw what I needed, and he gave me a son…”
There have been times when that was impossible to process. I still wonder how I needed any of this. But what a privilege for me as Ruben’s Dad to have a son whose only legacy is the gospel. A son who has no accolades or degrees pointing me to his proficiencies but a name that tells me God saw what I needed in my sin, and gave me his son Jesus.
I am so proud of Ruben.
I am so proud that my son’s name points me, and my family to the God who saw what we needed, and gave us his Son, Jesus. And since Jesus died, and was raised from the dead I know that this grave is not Ruben’s home. I know that he still lives, that he is firmly in God’s hand, and that I will see him soon.
Ruben’s only hope in death was that he belonged to God. That means his life and death were not accidents, but that each of his days were numbered, purposed, and planned by a Father who loves him better than I ever will; by the God who saw what I needed, and gave me not only his son Jesus, but His son Ruben too.
“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” Romans 14:7-9