Saying Goodbye

In 2001 I was at Spring Harvest – an Easter gathering of thousands of Christians – when Stuart Townend and Lou Fellingham introduced the new song ‘In Christ Alone’. I remember how they did it, by doing each verse through twice and a long musical interlude between, to let the reality of the words sink in. By the third and fourth verses, the volume in the room was incredible as lots of people realised the power of this new modern hymn.

We didn’t know it then, but nine months later we would be giving birth to our first child, and preparing for his dedication service in church. As we thought about what song we would like to use for after the vows, we knew it had to be ‘In Christ Alone’, not just because it’s an amazing song, but because it spans through the gospel and how that applies from the beginning all the way through to end of our lives, especially in this line: From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.

I don’t know if it was the drama student in me, or whether God was preparing my heart even then, but I remember thinking as we chose that song, ‘I will sing this at my children’s dedications, and, if I have to, at their funerals too.’ I knew I couldn’t honestly sing it at their birth unless I was also prepared to sing it at their death. So we sang this song for all four boys’ dedications.

And on Monday we sang it at our boy’s funeral. Thanks to God’s grace, and the perfect peace that passes understanding, I was able to mean it as much that day as ten years, eight years and four years I had done previously. The morning service was in a small chapel, but the seventy-odd voices that sang that song could’ve lifted the roof off that building. Before and after each song, there were sobs and sniffles as we remembered and said goodbye to him, but during the singing every voice seemed to be lifted as high as it could go.

Later in the afternoon, a few hundred gathered in a bigger church for the celebration of his life service. This time, with a much bigger band (made up of our family and a couple of close friends), the physical volume was much louder but just as powerful as the first service. Every song was chosen deliberately because it spoke truth about life and death, and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more powerful worship service. Instead of whispering the words like I thought I would, I could sing them louder than ever because they were more real to me than ever before. Because this is still not the end. As his eight-year-old twin said when he went back to his brother's grave at the end of the service, 'Goodbye Daniel. See you again at the end of the world.'

Below are links to all the songs we used, the first three in the morning and then the three in the evening. For a short time, the celebration service is up on my home church’s website – if you want to watch. It can’t quite capture how amazing the music was on the day, but if you get the chance to watch or listen, it’s well worth it.
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness:

There Is A Day:

God Is Able:

I Can Only Imagine:

You Never Let Go:


  1. So powerful Esther. This is Carlos' favourite hymn in English. Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. It was an amazing celebration indeed and I'm glad I was able to be there with you all.

  2. The power of the song 'If I was a butterfly' was incredible. The young man who sang it made me smile and sob at the same time. It spoke volumes. Sending my love, my thoughts and my hugs to you and all your family Esther. I have kept a candle burning in my house for the last couple of weeks to honour Daniel.....all different scented we have vanilla frosting and the whole house smells of summer and children - if that makes any sense at all??? Much love Shabbs xxxx

  3. you are amazing and an inspiration. You make me want to serve God with all my heart. May God bless you and your family. I never met Daniel but through your blogs and Gods grace he has changed me and I will serve God to the best of my ability in memory of Daniel. Xx


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