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Hopeful, Thankful, and Blessed

December 15, 2008

We started going to our neighborhood church recently. Some members of our church, a young couple, just last week delivered a premature baby who did not make it. Lucy was born and died on December 8th. This made for a pretty heavy church service yesterday as most of us didn’t know the sad news until the service had started. It wasn’t a funeral service but I’m certain it wasn’t the regular service either. It seemed the direction of the service was really focused both on this young family in mourning as well as the upcoming holiday. It was if the church, all the members, the choir, the pastors, and the walls themselves, wrapped their arms tightly around this couple in the front row, and just held them close. It was probably the first time I’ve ever felt so much spontaneous love and heartbreak inside of a church. The emotions were so close to the surface, so real, and impossible to hide. The tears began spreading throughout the faces of the entire community within the walls of our small, old church, as more prayers were said out loud through the choked voice of the assistant pastor, as the songs were sung…so many of them with parenting themes, and as the pastor’s sermon commenced with “This may sound odd, but this may be the best Christmas ever…” well, yeah it did sound odd and almost hurtful. But as she spoke and tried to begin to make some sort of sense of the madness all around the world, I think we all began to understand what she meant. And she was right in that magical, wonderful way she almost always seems to be

We are the only other expecting family in our church that I know of and that helped make it especially hard for us, I think. What do we possibly say to them? Just like that, we no longer have that common bond of baby-in-the-belly. My wife met this couple for the first time just a few weeks back and they were so excited for their first baby. And they were happy there was another young family (us) going through the same thing. They weren’t due until April. Now suddenly their baby is gone, so quickly, but we still have ours. We heard its strong heart beating just today at our 31-week doctor’s appointment.

At the end of the service, as we walked out of church, I looked at some of our friends and everyone sort of just looked like zombies, like nobody knew what hit them, and everyone had red eyes. It felt weird to just walk away from that and try to go on about the day. The first thing we did was pick up the kids from Sunday school across the dirt parking lot where they spent the morning singing Christmas songs and were still happily singing when we showed up, joyously oblivious to what church had been like that morning. I grabbed our two precious kids each, one by one, and just hugged them long and hard. Because in the end, that’s all we can do – be present right now and be full of as much love for them as possible.

Next time Doodle asks me to play Eskimo when I’m washing the dishes, I’m turning off the water and leaving them on the counter. Next time I’m reading a magazine and Bubbaloo asks me to color with her, I’m grabbing a seat at her art table. No excuses. There is simply nothing that should get in the way of being fully present and being part of their lives whenever possible.

There’s nothing happy about this writing, but today is a happy day – it is my wife’s birthday. Today, her age exactly matches the age in weeks of our baby in her belly. Kind of like magic to me, that is. And so we celebrated.

Sometimes I feel like I’m going through life with my fingers crossed all the time. Hopeful, thankful, and blessed.

That’s pretty much what it’s all about, isn’t it?

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