• 63°

Faith And Family

(Writer's note: This column originally appeared November 17, 1999. It is our earnest desire that those who must travel the same ground as we find hope in God's grace.)

A child can bring only increased joy to an already happy home and we looked toward Christmas-my wife's due date-with great anticipation.

Married eight years, long we had sought God's will for a family through prayer and by faith. In the spring of 1999, He saw fit to answer.

Over the course of the next seven months, the child grew safely inside its mother's womb. We read to the baby. Played music. Celebrated the joy of every movement. Told the child we loved them and waited anxiously for their arrival.

Though not sure it would be a boy or girl (we wanted to wait until the day of birth to find out), we had a bond that only parents can know. We never laid eyes on our child, yet we loved the baby the same as if it were being cradled in our arms.

Love isn't always needing to see.

Our married friends with families, perhaps thinking we would never celebrate the same joy as they, were delighted to learn of our circumstance. Everyone wanted to help, offering everything from baby toys, to clothes and a barely-used mattress. Our church congregation applauded the day the minister announced the expected arrival of our bundle of joy. Applause. Everyone was happy for us.

Grandma, who has only one grandchild who's now 21, was filled with excitement beyond imagination.

My wife beamed with the glow of pregnancy.

Joyfully, I went to the doctor's office to hear the heartbeat.

See the ultrasound.

Be a part of the life experience.

As a couple, we were drawn more closely together than ever. We read books. Planned plans. Dreamed dreams.

Our home was in the midst of a game of musical furniture. We moved our bedroom to the guest room, office furniture to our bedroom, and planned to paint the new created nursery.

Everything was going so well.

Until.

If only I didn't have to write that word. Until.

It's such an awful word.

I hate it.

Hate. I didn't think I had such emotion.

Until.

Yes, until the tears.

Until the soul-wrenching questions.

Until the nurse told us, two days after an otherwise normal check-up where everything was fine, that the baby's heart had stopped beating. Our baby had died.

Two of the hardest phone calls I've ever had to make: Telling my mom she wasn't going to be a grandmother again. Telling my father-in-law he had lost a grandchild.

We were devastated.

A world that once held nothing but joy and anticipation, now was hollow beyond belief. Beyond feeling. Beyond any painful emotion we had ever felt.

We wondered why God had chosen to give us such a wonderful gift, only to take it away. We had been so careful about everything.

So careful.

“It's nothing you did,” all the medical people told us. “Sometimes things happen and we never know why.”

We still don't and, probably this side of death, never will.

“Nothing matters,” I mumbled over and over again, staring out the window in what would otherwise be a beautiful sunny day.

“Why not me instead?” I thought. “Why not me?”

I tried to comfort my wife, but there was neither comfort or peace. Only heartbreaking anguish as we drove silently to the hospital for what would prove to be an unfruitful delivery.

I spent two days in the hospital by my wife's side. We were in this together. For better, for worse.

A picture of a newborn hung on the room's wall. The gentle sobs of a little one's cries floated like music down the hallway. Who knew the sound of a baby crying could sound so good?

Or so cruel.

My mom called the minister and, through the support of the church, family and friends, a prayer circle formed. Co-workers sent flowers. Friends stopped by to lend their support. Our house was soon full of food.

The pastor and a nurse, a long-time friend, prayed with us. A sweet group of ladies spent hours in the hospital waiting room praying. A dear friend of my wife took time off from work and camped out at the hospital.

The cloud and the pain eased a little. Never before had we experienced such an outpouring of love. We had always been on the giving end of consolation and now we understood what it meant to receive.

We don't always know why, many told us, but God knows what He's doing. Though it mashes on us like the weight of the world, He has promised not to give us more than we can bear. It must be true. Without hope life would be a miserable existence filled with tragedy after tragedy.

There is hope that the sun will come up again.

Hope in a place called heaven in Christ.

Hope that, as David said in the loss of his child, they would be reunited.

From the first weeks of pregnancy, my wife and I had agreed that if we had a girl, she would be called Faith Ann. It seems even more appropriate now. Faith is, after all, defined in the book of Hebrews as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

We had hoped for a child through faith. Now we trust through faith we will see her again someday.

In the sad days since we came home from the hospital, we have been flooded with much appreciated sympathy cards. It has helped more than we can say.

Many have also told us personally they have experienced a similar loss and offered words of comfort and encouragement. Such heartbreaks, inexplicably, happen more often that we, or perhaps you, might have imagined.

We've been told over and over again in the past few months that “a child will change your life.” I can't speak for everyone, but I know that we will never be the same.”

We're surviving day-by-day. Time may heal all wounds, but I don't think the scars will ever go away.

Still, we take comfort in knowing that though we can't hold her or enjoy grilling her first date or clasp her teenage hand when she cries from a broken heart, we know that we have a daughter who awaits us.

A daughter we call Faith.