His name is David. I only knew him for two and a half hours. And I miss him.
He came over four months earlier than he should have. Mom was taxed beyond her physical limits, fighting a horrific combination of pain and infection from a burst appendix. Her body decided that it could not fight this battle and still continue to grow this child.
And so, at 5:30 Saturday morning, amid great pain and horror, we had a baby.
The nurse asked me, right there in the midst of battle, if I wanted to see him. I told her I didn't know. I was crying, but I could see lots of blood; I could hear my wife screaming in pain, and I had a mental image of those pre-term babies you sometimes see...the ones that look sort of like deformed fish. I did not want to remember him as anything other than a baby. Better not to remember at all.
But I could see movement out of the corner of my eye. I could see these nurses--these beautiful, beautiful nurses--carefully cleaning the baby, wrapping him in blankets. They treated him as a precious thing, this creature that there was absolutely no chance of saving, born only to die. They treated him like a baby. And, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tiny hand move in the blankets. I couldn't help myself. I looked.
I saw, not a deformed, horrible thing. I saw a baby. A tiny, beautiful, delightful, perfect, half-sized baby, with eyes that were still fused, skin so delicate it was almost translucent. I saw tiny, perfect hands and feet. I saw an intelligent face that seemed so like my daughters, a perfect blend of mom's and dad's features. I saw my son.
I took him then, and held him, trying to memorize his face. The nurses said he might live a few minutes, or an hour. As it was, he held on almost three. Tough little guy, like his mom, like his dad. I held him. Mom held him. During a lull in the battle, when mom had been stabilized and brought out of immediate danger, a nurse asked me if he had a name. It had not occurred to me, there in the midst of all that horror, to give him his name, but I remembered what we had decided. "His name is David."
We spent the next couple hours or so passing him back and forth, mom and I. We talked to him. I sang him my most powerful, most magical songs. Mom kissed his head and told him she loved him. One of the beautiful nurses told me, at one point, that love was all this boy would ever know. She had tears in her eyes as she said it. I'm pretty sure I did too.
I could feel him getting colder. A baby this size can't generate its own body heat. I mentioned this to a nurse, and she took him, only to return him a few moments later wrapped in a warmed blanket, with a tiny knit cap on his head, tiny knit socks on his feet. Beautiful nurses. They assured me he wasn't suffering, and I believed them--his movements were infrequent and gentle, not the hard kicks we both knew he was capable of delivering when something was bothering him. Every few minutes, one of the nurses would use a miniature stethoscope to check his heartbeat. It gradually got slower and fainter. Finally, at 8:05, the nurse shook her head. "I don't hear anything."
Mom asked to hold him one more time. She didn't let go until she was darn good and ready.
And that was that.
What would he have been? Would he have been an athlete? A scholar? A musician? An explorer? A builder? A hunter? A scientist? A fisherman? A mathematician? A logger? An environmentalist? Would he have been boisterous and quick to act, or quiet and thoughtful? Reckless, or cautious? A worker with his muscles, or a creator with his mind? A rough man of the open country, or a man of civilization and refinement? A spiritual man, or a practical man of the world?
Now, he will never be any of those things. And somehow I know he is free, now, to be all of them.
Rest easy, little buddy, in the arms of the God who made you. Forever perfect. Forever my son.