Tomorrow would have been our oldest son's 30th birthday. He was born on July 14, 1984, and died some 12 hours later. His name was Brian.
I have his little footprints framed on my dresser. I will be forever grateful to whoever took these, as well as to whoever took pictures of him. A thoughtful nurse also gave us the little yellow knit hat that he wore during his short life. Blessings to whoever knit it. Years later, when I was looking at it, I discovered a little brown hair of his inside the hat that I had never noticed before. It took my breath away.
The hospital where I had him had a tradition of serving a meal to both of the new parents, including champagne to celebrate. When someone hesitantly asked us what we wanted to do, we said "yes, we want to celebrate his life." And we ate and drank, thinking of what a wonderful gift his short life had been, how happy we had been.
Of course, I was still in shock at that time, and so much grief and anger and confusion would follow.
The hospital where I had him had asked if we wanted him to be baptized (we said yes) and they arranged a small funeral service for him. Several friends and family came. I was there in my bathrobe in a wheelchair, still hooked up to an IV pole. Because I had had a C-section I wasn't able to go to the cemetery with my husband when they buried him. It was a rainy day, and I still picture him there alone with the gravedigger.
I had been raised in a church-going family; my husband had not. We had no particular beliefs about God at all when we got married, even though we did get married in a church with a traditional Christian service.
I think the greatest gift that Brian gave us was the gift of faith. Through all the difficult questions that surfaced during our time of grieving, questions people have asked through the ages regarding suffering and evil, we were able to come out on the other side with a strong faith in the Christian God.
In the subsequent years we lost six more babies through miscarriage. Those times, too, tested our new-found faith and made it stronger. I thought of Peter, who was asked by Jesus, "will you too leave?" after some of His followers had abandoned Him, and when I, too, wondered about this God. "No, Lord, where would I go? You have the words of life."
There were times I did wonder what God was doing, but where else would I go? Who else loved me as much? Who else offered me as much hope? Who else faithfully walked with me through all the pain and heartache that this old, broken world can dish up? Who else promises to bind up the brokenhearted, to make all things new, and Who promises I will see my loved ones again? Yes, seven in heaven. I am looking forward to seeing all my dear ones.
Brian was the first of our ten children. Yes, the Lord blessed us with three beautiful children who lived, now 21, 23, and 27. They are treasures to us.
I think back to myself all those years ago, young, happy, and so proud of my little expanding belly. I remember walking downtown with my husband the first time I wore a maternity top (that was in the days before skin-tight t-shirts outlined the baby bump). "Do you think people can tell I'm pregnant?" I asked him, trying to push out the barely visible swell of my stomach. I wanted to share with everyone the exciting, wonderful news of this unbelievable miracle. And then how quickly it all turned, months later when I worried I hadn't felt him move, the anxious trip to the hospital, the doctor listening for a heartbeat, and then the frantic rush to the delivery room and an emergency C-section.
Beauty and happiness, then horror and disbelief. I lay there in the hospital afterwards, stunned and in shock, clutching a small doll from my childhood that I had asked my husband to bring from home.
I think of the young woman I once was, and wish I could reach back and hold her, and whisper that everything was going to be okay, that the Lord can bring beauty out of ashes, a glad heart out of mourning.