Blessed are you, holy are you!
Rejoice and be glad for yours is the kingdom of God!
As a devout Catholic family, we are open to life. We've always been open to life. Because of God's great grace (and a courageous priest--thank you Fr. Lyle), I will never look back on our years of fertility and wonder if God had more children in mind for us. We greedily accepted all those that were offered.
But it has certainly gotten more difficult. Oh, not that we want them less. If anything, I want them more. My prayers for the blessing of children have reached a fevered pitch of desperation as I confront the reality of my forties. Please, Lord, send me more before it's too late!
What has become more difficult is the recognition that this is a fallen world and that all our joy is bittersweet. I offered my labor for a dear friend who had recently confided that she was pregnant again, two years after a heartbreaking stillbirth. Throughout labor, I was painfully aware that life and death are but a breath apart. And I was overcome with fear. It was a fear that my friend knew all too well and one that she had faced when she embraced life once again.
A few weeks later came the heartbreaking news that her newest baby would also be born into heaven before she ever held him. As I cradled my newborn and wept for my friend, I wept for myself as well. Gone was the nonchalant innocence, the notion that if we want a baby, we can have a baby. In its place is the awe-filled recognition that life on this earth is very precious indeed. And that openness to life--conception, pregnancy and childbirth--is also openness to exquisite pain.
My phone rang several times that night and the next day. The news of this latest loss rocked the worlds of some very steady, faithful women. We needed each other--we needed to sort the feelings of loss and pain and hopelessness. And we need to be reminded by each other of faith. Like so many candles lit from a single flame, we consoled each other, we held each other up, even as we mourned the loss of the little row lights that had been snuffed too soon.
I talked with my pastor about it all last Sunday. And he said to me, in his forthright, blunt, German way, "It's not about you. It's not about your friend. It's about the baby. Sometimes women forget that the whole idea is getting a new soul to heaven. That baby's there. Mission accomplished." He went on to say that I might not want to be so blunt when I spread the message, but that that really is the bottom line. New souls for heaven.
And with that reality ringing in my ears, I had the holy privelige of bringing another baby before God to be baptized this week. Choosing a date for Karoline's baptism was tedious. My husband's travel schedule and the priest's schedule and the Holy Day schedules all bumped up against each other. I ended up with a date two weeks later than I wanted. I ended up with All Soul's Day. And I wasn't thrilled with it. Seemed sort of morbid for a baptism.
But yesterday, in that church, I prayed for those women whose lives and whose stories were so much a part of my pregnancy--for Missey Gray, the homeschooling mother of five who died in childbirth last winter and for Nicole, a dear friend who learned she was dying of cancer as she gave birth to her third baby. And I prayed for Donna, who gave another baby to God. And then, there was Betsy. So much pain mingled with such utter joy. Birth and death, saints and souls, truly life in the Catholic Church. And that water, that holy water, looked to my eyes to be the tears of those mothers who so loved their children. Please God, just grant us the grace sufficient to do your will with these precious souls.
I listened as the dear priest who has baptized all my children reminded my husband and me again that the goal is heaven and that we were solemnly promising to pass on the faith and to educate our children for heaven. Heaven. No matter whether we hold them for a lifetime or hold them not at all, the goal is to return them to God.
And so yesterday, this precious, precious baby girl became what she is, a child of God. Please Lord, let me always remember that she was created for heaven.