Being very young at the time of my birth, I have little recollection of the birth of my baby brother 14 months later. Like I, he was born in a hospital in India where our parents were missionaries.
After my mother delivered him, she was briefly shown her new baby before he was taken away to the nursery. Later he was brought to her for feeding. “Here’s your baby, Mrs. Johnson,” the nurse said, holding the baby out for her to see.
Eager to examine her new son, Mom reached out to take him. The blanket fell away from his face and, with a gasp she exclaimed, “That is not my baby!”
“Of course he is your baby,” the nurse assured. “His armband says Johnson. Now take him and feed him.”
The band did say Johnson, and true, she had only seen him for a moment, but she was certain that this was not the baby boy she had given birth to only a short time before. For just a moment she questioned her own sanity. Could this, indeed, be her son? No! Something in her mother’s heart knew it was not. She refused the child again, and again the nurse insisted that she take him.
She didn’t know what to do, how to solve this nightmare. And then she remembered something, “There is only one other white woman here in the hospital. What sex is her child,” she asked the nurse.
“A girl” was the fortunate reply. “Her mother is nursing her right now. Now, take your son,” the nurse commanded!
Mom demanded that the nurse remove the baby’s diaper. An easy and logical solution and yet the nurse refused. My mother took the baby, declaring, “Fine, I will do it then!”
Of course the baby was a girl; Mother’s know these things. Although, perhaps not all mothers as the other woman was unsuspectingly nursing my brother, Don. The babies were quickly returned to their correct mothers and Don was rightly brought into our family.
I didn’t know it then but I had just lost my chance of ever having a sister. I already had a brother 14 months older than I, and now this one, 14 months younger. I was desperate for a sister by the time baby number four was on its way. Although I prayed nightly for a sister, God saw fit to bless us with another boy! I believe it was Don who said to my older brother, “When Mark grows up let’s all three get together and beat her up.” Now how could I possibly not be pleased that we ended up with him?
However, Don and I actually were kindred spirits, both a bit stubborn and belligerent; he more so than I, of course. We often enjoyed a good healthy ‘discussion’ and he inevitably played the devil’s advocate, and I inevitably was right. We played games in the most competitive manner but always ended up smiling and asking for more.
I did not, however, ask to be held down while my face was rubbed with bacon and the dog was brought to lick it off. Nor did I deserve to have a mustache drawn on my face with permanent marker in the middle of the school hall.
But it was also Don who got up early in the morning to have devotions with me before we left for high school. And it was Don who encouraged me to go to the Bible College he attended.
Through marriage and kids we have remained confidants and encouragers for each other. Of course we continue to enjoy being competitors and have a loud ‘discussion’ now and again.
The Psalms tell us, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” I’m sure that includes sisters as well. Although it has not necessarily always been pleasant, we are blessed to have survived youth and grown up to choose to be friends as well as siblings.
I guess I must admit that God knew what He was doing when he denied me a sister all those years ago and gave me my brother Don instead. I can’t imagine any sister who could have replaced him.
I love all my brothers, who did not get together and beat me up, but am especially thankful for Don whenever I hear the story of how easily he might not have become one of our family. What if the other woman had also given birth to a son?
Psalm 133:1 NIV
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