Sharon traced his tiny toes. Hot tears soaked her gown. Her chest ached, her body worn out from the induced labor. Medication flowed through the IV into her arm and her head began to feel floaty. Soon they would come to get Jeremiah, but she wanted to be awake and alert when they did.
Brian scooted onto the narrow hospital bed and wrapped his arms around her. He stroked the face of their son with his finger and wept.
Liz stood behind the curtain to compose herself to take the infant. She loved her job but she considered this part a ministry. She whispered a brief prayer and slid the curtain aside.
The tender scene of man and wife huddled over their small son grabbed at her chest. Liz stifled a sob of her own. Not yet, Liz. She berated herself. Push through with grace and mercy now, you can fall apart later.
“I’ll take good care of him,” Liz offered in sincerity.
Carefully she lifted the under-formed infant and cuddled him to her chest with one hand as she repositioned the curtain around the occupied hospital bed with the other. Liz stole a glance at the parents and immediately shut her eyes. She regretted the last glimpse. Now this scene would be emblazoned in her memory to reappear at unexpected times.
With careful and precise expertise, Liz placed the infant’s ink dipped foot onto the paper. “Such perfect little feet you have, Jeremiah.” She whispered as she wiped them clean. “Let’s give your mommy and daddy something special to remember you.”
Sharon stared at the paper with her son’s footprints as they wheeled her towards the hospital exit; her arms empty, womb vacant. Soon I’ll wake up, right? This has to be a dream… a nightmare.
Everyone on staff gazed at them with pity. Sharon didn’t want to make eye contact. Instead, her eyes remained fixed on the paper-clip sized footprints of her son, the only physical evidence that he ever existed.
Liz jotted information on the large wipe-off calendar at the nurses’ station. She knew today marked the one year anniversary of one of the stillbirths she had handled. On her break, she thumbed through her journal. “Jeremiah. I remember you.” She closed her eyes and envisioned the couple cuddled together with their tiny infant son.
She read through her thoughts from that day and let the tears spill onto the pages. Written words were Liz’s form of grief therapy. She remembered the couple ministered in a small mountain town near her favorite hiking get-away.
They wouldn’t recognize me. Liz reasoned as a plan formed in her mind.
The past week had been an emotional rollercoaster. Brian had planned several activities to commemorate the birthday of Jeremiah. The final experience surprised Sharon the most. One they talked about but she never imagined they would actually follow through on it.
Sharon untangled herself out of Brian’s sleepy embrace. Today would be a tough one. Her eyes were swollen and red from crying. This is the day they would face the reaction of their church family.
Brian looked sharp in his short sleeved dress shirt and tie. No suit jacket on this summer Sunday. Sharon checked her reflection in the mirror, flounced her flowy skirt, and smiled.
Liz slipped into the sanctuary unobserved. Gathered in small huddles, the congregation seemed to be abuzz about something.
Sharon stepped up to the pulpit and opened her Bible to begin the worship service.
“This week we celebrated the birthday of our son, Jeremiah. I have been reminded of this verse over and over again every time we sing this song. Job 1:21 says: Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The pianist began the familiar chords. Pastor Brian raised his hands in enthusiastic praise while Sharon stepped away from the pulpit to join the worship team.
That’s when Liz noticed the apparent cause that stirred up this conservative congregation. Boldly on Brian’s forearm and Sharon’s ankle were paper-clip sized perfect baby footprints.
No one could possibly understand the reason for Liz’s tears as she admired the tattooed tiny toes she had carefully stamped on paper one year ago.
Editor’s note: Scripture quoted from NKJV
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