Wife & newborn son die, but not Chris Picco's love for the Father

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Chris Picco kisses son, Lennon James. Screenshot via lluc.org/AdventistReview.org

LOMA LINDA, California (Christian Examiner) – It's a scene jarringly familiar because of intense media exposure: the young father, guitar in hand, sitting next to his infant son's hospital incubator, bending down to softly sing Paul McCartney's "Blackbird."

Among the words: "Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life you were only waiting for this moment to arise."

Chris Picco had known there wasn't much hope. His wife Ashley had died unexpectedly in her sleep. Nov. 8. An emergency Caesarean saved Lennon James, but the infant was born a precarious 16 weeks early. Four days after his mom died, Lennon James died too.

Picco had lost the love of his life, then the so very young life he was nurturing in love. Now caught in a media circus -- stemming from the 12.5 million viewers who in three days had seen the "Blackbird" video posted by a friend -- he rested in the love of his Father to endure.

Picco explained on his wife's memorial page the reason behind his guitar-playing to his son.

"Ashley would often feel Lennon moving to music, so I brought my guitar today and gave him a little concert."

The Nov. 15, ninety-minute, joint memorial service at Loma Linda University Church three days after his son died could have been more than most could endure, but Picco told those at the service – mostly students – that he drew strength from his faith in God.

He had questions, he said, but he didn't doubt God.

Chris hugs Lennon James. Photo via lluc.org screenshot/AdventistReview.org

"I know that God did not compose this; God had nothing to do with this," Picco said, according to an article written by Andrew McChesney, news editor for the Adventist Review, affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Picco spoke "slowly and resolutely in unscripted remarks," McChesney wrote.

"But I can see Him, tears streaming down His face," Picco continued. He closed the memorial service by singing, "This is my Father's World."

Picco and his future wife met in the aftermath of 9/11, when both were drawn to New York City to help in the clean-up. They married six years later and waited for their firstborn another seven years.

"We met as the result of a tragic, tragic event. ... So, something good came from something so tragic," Picco said during the memorial service. "So from this unspeakable tragedy, that's what I want. I want good to come out of this."

The Ashley Picco Memorial Fund set up by the Loma Linda University Church, where Chris Picco leads worship, "has far exceeded its target of $50,000 for medical bills and other expenses," according to the Adventist News article. "Contributions on the fundraising website YouCaring.com topped $155,000 by the end of the evening memorial service."

People – including himself – are asking the question, "Why?" But a more important question is "What now?" Picco said to those at the memorial service, which can be seen on the first page of the church's website.

"When you are ready to ask that question, let's dream together, let's see what we can do, let's see how we can live better lives, let's see how we can love more," he urged. "So many voices out there that have reached out to me didn't have the support, didn't have the random viral video, didn't have this opportunity, this momentum.

"So for whatever reason we have this," Picco said holding in his pain. "And so, what now? What good can we bring out of this? "This broken world, what good can we bring out of this?"

Ending the service, Picco answered any lingering questions by song.

"This is my Father's world: Why should my heart be sad?" he sang. "The Lord is King; let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad!"