They took his picture in his mama's womb He really put on a show Dancing and diving for the ultrasound Fearfully made, and wonderful But the doctors said we're sorry, there's a problem We'll do our best to make him well But we're not sure if we can fix him Only time will tell, only time will tell
He had ten perfect toes and fingers His daddy's eyes, his mama's spark You'd never know just looking at him There was a hole inside his heart But the doctors, they were planning operations They said it isn't going well There's still a chance that we can save him Only time will tell, only time will tell
There was a power in that fragile little boy He stole our hearts and broke them and he filled them up with joy He lived 130 days on love and force of will But a heart can only take so much and one day his stood still
Some say God needed one more angel But I am certain they are wrong I think he is as we remember But now his heart is beating strong I think his first steps are with Jesus I think he's glowing pink with health I cannot prove that I'm not dreaming Only time will tell, only time will tell
Some say it's cruel for God to make a life and take it And I suppose that would be true If this were the world that we were made for If we weren't only passing through The truth is we've all got a hole inside us It's been that way since Adam fell But there's a rumor of a healing And of all things all being well Only time will tell Only time will tell Only time will tell
C 2004 Carolyn Arends Music (SOCAN)
About the Song
I am not sure if I'll ever be able to sing this song without crying.
Our good friends Chris and Sally were blessed with twins - Joanna and Sean -- after a long battle with infertility. Joanna was feisty. Sean was gentle. They were both utterly beautiful. Joanna remains a force to be reckoned with. Sean died at four months from a heart condition.
Even from a distance (we are in Vancouver, they are in Nashville) the loss of Sean was an agony - I can't imagine what it was like for Chris and Sal. Every time I thought about it I just sort of hit a wall - what does one think about these things?
A few months after Sean's death I read Things Unseen (the Mark Buchanan book that helped inspired "Great Cloud of Witnesses"). Somewhere in the book Buchanan acknowledges a natural, instinctual reaction to the loss of a child: "Why would God create a life if it's just going to be taken?" He responds with a gentle reminder that this is not the only life for which we were created.
Over a period of a few days "Only Time Will Tell" came out in bits and snatches. When it was done I wasn't sure what to do with it - I didn't know if it would feel insensitive or exploitative to my friends. I sent them the lyric and they blessed it and said they were for anything that helped keep Sean's memory alive. In an email back to me, Sally said:
I join the ranks of people who are truly torn between this life and the next, which may be how we are meant to feel, except I never really did, I loved it here so much. Now I can never be with both my kids at the same time, at least not yet ...
What "Only Time Will Tell" affirms for me in its own oddly triumphant way is that while we mourn (and only God himself knows how deeply Chris and Sally mourn), we do not mourn as those who have no hope. We mourn as a people who understand that there is both a Now and a Not Yet.