It was in a cold hospital room that I found my voice for a couple who desperately needed to be heard. Their infant son was born that morning. No one knew exactly why but he wasn’t breathing. The call had come in right after church. Our pastor wanted to know if my husband could stop by and pray with them. As I relayed the message to him it was clear, this was my visit to make. This one fit me. Shortly after I arrived it was clear, I couldn’t just pray and leave. They needed someone to advocate, minister and cry with.
It was only a few years before that I worked upstairs in the emergency room. Working with the patient advocate office gave me experience with families facing trauma and death. Parenting a child with medical anomalies helped me see the other side as well. My position was phased out the year after we left the church that had been our home for so many years. It felt as if everything I did was a copy of someone else or a feeble attempt to create a place to serve. On that day though there was no trying, it was a matter of surrendering to the calling. It was being willing to to be drained in order for another soul to find strength.
The mother has some developmental disabilities and the father would probably best be described as delayed. The father understood more of the situation but still couldn’t grasp enough to even help with the most minor decisions. The nurse assigned was his Special Olympics coach and a few months pregnant herself. The doctors and nurses were fighting valiantly to save the life of this precious child in the other room but nothing they did could keep him with us.
After the decision was made to cease all heroic efforts, we readied the mom as best we could to say goodbye to her newborn boy. The father sat nearby proclaiming that he couldn’t “go through this again” and he wasn’t going to hold him. The pediatrician carried him in, the only sound was the rhythm of the bag on the mask pressed into his perfect face as she kept the oxygen flowing through his little body. He was placed in his mom’s arms. The breathing tube was removed.
As mother cradled son, the irrepressible sobs behind me broke through the stillness. She kissed his soft head and we prayed. In her innocence she looked up at me, asking more than once “I don’t get to take him home?” I could only shake my head subtly as a whispered “no” forced past my throat. Not completely understanding the gravity of her situation, she picked up his hand and let it drop a few times against the swaddled blanket.
In a prayer that fell awkwardly out of my lips, he was dedicated to Jesus. There were no words to fit this moment. Nothing made sense so we thanked God for the strength He would grant a grieving family. We offered gratitude for the presence of an almighty Creator who knew the pain of losing His only Son in a cruel, fallen world. This was no longer just a hospital room, we were standing on sacred ground. The Holy Spirit brought comfort and undeniable peace we would treasure as strength.
Soon she placed him in my arms, physically light but the weight of the privilege pressed into my arms. Drawing him to my chest I whispered over his body, “You are safe now and so very loved.” I brushed his face against my cheek allowing a tear to fall on his head. When I had my fill, I handed him to another waiting comforter in the room. More than once a prayer was prayed in the muffled sobs. Bit by bit, we cleared the room leaving a couple of friends to help prepared for the photographer.
Five days later I presided over my first infant service. Speaking of pain, comfort and destiny my words echoed through the small chapel. Light blue balloons disappeared against the cloudless sky that afternoon as we sought to release our sorrow. We hugged doctors, nurses, family and friends.
Every life, every soul, every breath we take is more precious than we know. The shortest lives still hold deep significance to the story of this world. They connect us in ways so unexpected yet no surprise to our Creator who says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” They move us to pray, seek and hopefully love.
May we never allow the sacred moments in life cease to change us. Even the saddest ones.
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