“Nurse, can I hold him please?” Richard Shepherd asked hesitantly.
The portly midwife frowned but did not move.
“Please. This is very important to me,” he added more forcefully. This was his life, not hers, and he would not be denied. He did not care if his request broke all conventions.
The nurse glanced at the doctor, who shrugged nonchalantly.
The midwife reluctantly placed the man’s tiny, three-kilo son in his large hands. He drew the baby to his chest, cradling the small head in his left hand.
The man stared at his son, mesmerised. The innocent little face had his mother’s brown eyes and button nose. But tears sprang into the man’s eyes when he noticed the delicate little ears and thatch of thick black hair. Though the baby’s face was uniquely his own, it was still so similar to that of his sister when she was newborn that it would have been hard to tell them apart.
As the man studied his son’s perfectly formed face his mind wandered. He envisioned the little fellow wrapped in a blanket and lying in his cradle, wearing the new blue jumpsuit they had bought for him last week. The man saw himself standing next to the cradle, savouring the moment that had taken nine months to come to fruition.
Then the vision changed and the father saw his son lying on the floor. His arms and legs were going in all directions as he batted away toys dangling from the infant playgym that even now awaited him at home. The baby smiled and giggled in delight when he saw his father watching him.
Then the man saw his son crawling across the dining room floor. But the little boy was not crawling slowly. Instead, he had developed what Richard had dubbed ‘speed crawling’ – it was the next best thing to running. His daughter had developed this talent by the age of eight months so he could see his son developing the same ability. Next the boy found a plastic golf club and swatted a toy golf ball all over the room. No obstacle could check his progress - that ball had to be whacked!
Richard returned his attention to the present and ran his fingers through the baby’s thick black hair. He knew he should be envious of his son’s full head of hair, yet he felt only loss. This sense of loss was further amplified by the realisation that his little son’s skin was, even at birth, darker than his pale Anglo-Saxon complexion.
The man felt his mind stray again. He visualised his son as an active one year old and taking his first steps across the living room. Kneeling in front of him with outstretched arms, the man egged him on. “Come on, little fella! Come to Papa!” Somehow the toddler managed to stagger across to his father without falling, who immediately tossed him giggling into the air.
The scene changed and it was the first day of school. Although he cut a fine figure in his new school uniform, his son also looked as he though had escaped from the pages of a comic book, due to the school bag on his back that was larger than his torso. He was tall now, yet smaller than other boys his age were, due to his petite Asian mother.
Months fled by in the man’s mind and he found himself watching his boy participating in the school sports carnival. It was time for the fifty-meter sprint. The boy met his father’s gaze and said, “I have a secret that’s gonna win me this race, Papa! When I swing my arms at my side like this, I can run faster than the wind!” And sure enough, once the whistle sounded he pumped his arms and legs like twin pairs of pistons and outstripped all of his classmates to win that first place ribbon. The father imagined his daughter, now in her early teens, sweeping her brother into her arms.
A voice shattered his reverie. “Mr Shepherd, I am sorry, but you need to pass him to me now.”
Angered at this invasion of his daydream, Richard’s eyes eventually registered the outstretched arms of the midwife. He looked down at the motionless form in his arms, his heart and mind buffeted by waves of shock. Only yesterday the baby had been so active in the womb, elbows and knees poking his small wife’s midriff almost painfully. Yet today, (Richard could barely find strength to finish the thought) today, his son made his arrival into the world stillborn.
Richard Shepherd placed the still, lifeless form of his son in the midwife’s hands, and forcing himself to his feet, moved over to stand beside his wife as she lay on the hospital bed. It had been a very difficult birth, and she was exhausted. He looked for words to encourage her, mindful that her loss outweighed his own, but found nothing. His heart was an empty, aching void. A depression thicker than a smothering woollen blanket prevented speech.
Aware of tears streaming down his cheeks, Richard met his wife’s gaze. To his surprise she lifted a bronzed hand to cup his face. “Darling,” she began, “this is not the end.”
“What do you mean?”
Somehow she managed a smile, “One day, you will stand before the Lord in heaven, and He will say to you, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ and then He will take your right hand and say, ‘Come with me, Richard, there is someone here you’ve been waiting to meet.’ Then He will introduce you to a young man with auburn hair, a button nose, and a face that reminds you of our daughter. Our son.”
Richard buried his face in her neck and fought back the tears. But her words he took and hid in his heart.
This was not the end.
He would see his son again.
* * *
1 Corinthians 15:55 (NIV)
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
Peter, this is a beautiful article. It brings tears to my eyes when I think of my grandson whom I've never seen. One day we will meet in Heaven. "This is not the end." What a day that will be! This article needs to be shared by all who lost a child as a tiny baby.
Where's the Kleenex? Having lost three babies, this speaks so profoundly to me. When my husband couldn't handle our loss, I couldn't comprehend his silence. Now I understand. His dreams were dashed as were mine. Thanks, Peter, for an excellent look at the loss of a preborn child through the eyes of a loving father. This story will be featured in the June 2008 issue of Journezine.com. God bless!
Peter, this is such a beautiful piece and what an encouragement! I'm moved in my spirit. Thanks for reminding that this is not the end. Yes, we'll meet our loved ones again. Be blessed to write more for His glory.