William Thomas Rainer: In Memory. To God Be the Glory.

It’s cliché. But it’s true. Life can change in a second. Our neatly ordered plans are not always realized. Our dreams can seemingly be dashed in a moment, a blink of the eye.

Jess and Rachel Rainer woke up on February 3 with excitement and anticipation. They had moved to Hendersonville, Tennessee to plant a church. Jess was doing radio interviews about his book that he co-authored with me, The Millennials. And, more than anything else, they were soon expecting their second son, William Thomas Rainer.

February 3 was also the date of a doctor’s appointment for Rachel. The doctor told Rachel in her previous appointment that she wanted to check a couple of items, but she really wasn’t that concerned. But the news was bad. Very bad. The baby had a rare condition that typically is not detected until later in the term, about the point where Rachel was. Both Jess and Rachel were told that the chances of their son’s survival were slim. But they prayed. They prayed for a miracle. They prayed with hope. Above all though, they prayed that God’s will would be done.

A Son is Born. A Son Dies.

On February 6, with Rachel’s life at risk, the doctors performed a c-section. William Thomas Rainer was born at 3:31 PM. He died at 4:31 PM. He weighed a little over five pounds, and had a head full of black hair like his dad and granddad. He was also named for Jess (his middle name is William) and me.

Rachel wrote these words shortly after Will’s death: “Will went to go be with the Lord at 4:31 p.m. Jess and I were both able to hold him. Will died in our arms very peacefully, with no suffering. We love him and can’t wait to be reunited with him in heaven one day. We rejoice in the Lord for his life!” Jess would send this simple but profound message on Twitter: “We rejoice in the birth and death of our son, William Thomas, today. So thankful that God is in complete control.”

My Heroes of the Faith

Jess and Rachel are among my heroes of the faith. They lost a son. They held him in their arms as he died. They are experiencing a grief unlike any I’ve known. But they are praising God. They are looking forward to being with their son one day. They prayed for his life, but they rest in God’s decision to call him home.

It breaks my heart to see Jess and Rachel make funeral plans for their son. I never thought I would see such a sad moment in my life. But I stand amazed at their strength and their faith. Theirs is a faith that has been tested. Theirs is a faith that is refined and true. I want to be more like Jess and Rachel.

From Granddad

I have written personal blogs about every one of my other three grandchildren after they were born. I probably drive some folks crazy talking and writing about my family so much. But Will will not be left out. He is my fourth grandchild. I love him so much. I will not get to see him grow up, play, or get married. I will not be able to babysit him as I do the other grandchildren. But I will see him again. And I will make up for the lost time when I join him in heaven.

Will, if you could read these words, I would want you to know that you have the best parents in the world. They love you, and they did everything they could for you. They were thankful for the sixty minutes they had with you. And they know they will get to spend eternity with you.

And, Will, please know that your granddad loves you. I am so proud to have you as my namesake. I miss you buddy. But I will see you soon.

William Thomas Rainer.

Born February 6, 2011.

Entered God’s heaven the same day.

To God be the glory.    

Posted on February 14, 2011

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  • Thom Rainer says on

    Don –
    I am so sorry about Kathy, and I am embarrassed that I did not know about her death until now. I remember conversations we had about both our wives who fought breast cancer. Your love for her is obvious and deep.
    Thank you for being such an encourager to me. We have no promises of an easy life on this side of eternity, but we do have His presence now, and the promise of heaven where we will be re-united with both Will and Kathy.
    Blessings to you my friend.

  • Don McCutcheon says on

    I just read this post and my heart goes out to you and your entire family. You have so blessed my life and ministry over the last 18 years and I appreciate you greatly. I pray the following words will be of some small comfort.
    I said good-bye to Kathy, my sweetheart of 44 years, last August 5 due to breast cancer. One of her favorite sayings from the very onset of her 4 1/2 year battle was, “No matter what the outcome, I win.” She did win as the champion she is. William Thomas won and his parents, grandparents and family celebrate with tears at his victory.
    I have found that God’s sustaining grace is His amazing grace. I also learned that enduring suffering reveals certain deep things of our Lord and His love nothing else can reveal. Heaven now draws me more forcefully than anytime in my walk with Him – To die is gain.
    You and your family have inspired my heart and many others through your response to this journey of suffering. May the God of grace and peace fill and heal your hearts.

  • Thom, Jess, and Rachel,
    At such a time as this, there are no words to soothe the loss of a child. We lost two children, Sadie and Seth, to a disorder called anencephaly. Though our grief was profound, God’s presence was immeasurable. Though some of the nation’s greatest physicians advised us against ever attempting to have more children, we sought the counsel of the Great Physician. Today, Hannah is 18 and Nate is 12. Both healthy, wonderful, loving, believers on the journey. May God grant you peace in your time of loss.
    Doug Morrell

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Again, thank you for your kind words and prayers. The funeral is this Saturday. Please pray for my other sons, Sam and Art, who will officiate the funeral. And, above all, please continue to remember Jess and Rachel in your prayers.

  • Doug Miller says on

    I am so sorry for this loss. Our son was born 7 weeks early due to my wife’s medical condition. He was pretty healthy in general, but they were worried about his heart and lungs. After 12 days in NICU we were able to take our baby boy home. My heart breaks for you all. I continue to pray for all of you, that God will bless with another child, that He will continue to bless with this obvious attitude of gratitude, and with His love. May God, our Father, be honored with this testimony and this life that you lost but celebrate.
    Rev. Doug Miller
    Hardinsburg, KY

  • Praise God for this article and thank you for sharing it with us. I’m truly humbled by it. There is a lot of talk about putting our “faith into action”….often what is meant by this is feeding the hungry, clothing those who can’t clothe themselves etc (and rightly so), but this example, heart-wrenching though it is, is a wonderful example of amazing faith in action. How great is our God that though a couple should lose a child on earth, they know that they serve a God who will have baby Will ready and waiting to meet them in glory. Surely it’s a true saying that there is no greater testimony to the reality of God that the testimony given by Christians who endure suffering well, to the glory of God.
    Prayers and thoughts go out to mum and dad, and the wider family circle. May God grant you all comfort in your loss, yet continue to enable you to rejoice in the truth of baby Will’s eternal security.
    To quote Sara Groves “I don’t know of bright lights at the ends of tunnels, or any of these things. But I know to be absent from this body, is to be present with the Lord…and from what I know of Him, that must be pretty good”

  • Betty Hassler says on

    My husband and I lost a daughter at birth due to a condition called placenta previa. Because she never drew breath,some discount the loss much as miscarriage is often discounted. Every parent grieves the death of a child, whatever the circumstances. May we all be reminded to comfort each other at such times, avoid platitudes or “explanations,” and celebrate the child’s life, however brief.

  • Dr. Rainer, Your family is in my prayers. I know that as hard as 2/6 was… 2/12 will also be a hard day. I recently held my mother as she stepped into Glory (1/31/11). While it was difficult to let her go, I also marveled at how wonderful it was to be that close to the presence of Heaven that when I felt her last breath, Jesus felt her next. I found this reference in my mother’s Bible after her death and it has been a comfort to me: “I’m sacred, but I know Jesus and he will see me through this.” Phil. 3:20-21

  • Praying for your precious family, thank you to each of you for letting the beauty of Christ shine through you during this season.

  • Jennifer Gorgas says on

    Jess and Rachel are now my heroes of the faith too.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Thank you, all of you, for your gracious words, for your taking time to write, and for your prayers. I really wish you could see as I have the strength of Jess and Rachel. Their tragedy is already becoming God’s testimony. Please continue to pray for them. The funeral is Saturday, and the walk through the valley of grief will be long. But, without a doubt, they know Who is with them.

  • Dr. Rainer,
    Condolences to you and your family. My heart breaks for Jess and Rachel. My husband and I have a similar story, losing our first daughter at 5 months into the pregnancy. During that process I was fighting for my life as well. Two years later we lost a son.
    But I can boldly say that God showed us the true meaning of the ‘peace that passes ALL understanding’. Jess is right GOD is in control. We also look forward to the day we see Grace and Matthew in God’s fullness for eternity. And our family of five will be complete.