I am a father of five children here on Earth. And three more who, with God's mercy, I hope to meet in Heaven someday. I think about those children sometimes (often). It's not something I talk about often (ever?) but I mourn them.
You don't know when grief from something like that will hit. Sometimes it's when someone tells me they're shocked that I have five children. I say, "Yes I have five children." And I secretly think of the three.
Sometimes it's random moments when the kids are getting into the van and I think of the seats that aren't filled with laughing messy children. It stops me for a second and I have to accept it all over again and go on. I have to remind myself to breathe. Remind myself to step. And step again. And I do.
But sometimes...a lot of times...it just hits at night when it's quiet and dark. And I think and wonder if there's something I could've done. Maybe called the doctor sooner or maybe called for another opinion. Something. Anything. And I think of the times I put my hand on my wife's womb and perhaps didn't know that at that moment my son or daughter was dying in the womb and I didn't know. It makes me feel small. And powerless.
I tell you this because I read something today that was like a smack in the face. Just horrifying.
Bloomberg News reports on a story where a mother learned that her unborn child had a defect:
Jennifer Hercegovac and her husband picked out a name, set up a nursery and sold her business so she could be a stay-at-home mother. Then, when she was 18 weeks pregnant, an ultrasound detected fetal heart defects.
At first, she thought her son could still grow up to play football after surgeries. Further tests last month, at 22 weeks, detected DiGeorge Syndrome, a chromosome disorder that with the heart defects made the survival of her fetus beyond a few months unlikely, she said. She scheduled an abortion the next day -- an option other women in Arizona won’t have under a law set to go into effect next week.
“You are attached to the baby, you love the baby, but to give birth to a baby that you know is going to suffer and pass away?” Hercegovac, 38, of New River, said in a telephone interview as her sons, ages 2 and 3, drummed on cooking pots in the background. “This seemed more humane.”
Humane? That's the word that just got me. Humane? I'm sorry but that's not a concept I associate with killing children.
I read those quotes from that woman and I can't help but think my ability to mourn my unborn children is a gift. It tells me I'm human. It reminds me that love and suffering are inseparable. To love another is to invite pain into your life. And my willingness to accept that suffering brings me closer to God, the source of love. When we cut ourselves off from suffering we cut ourselves off from God.
I don't know how it works after we die. But if by God's mysterious mercy I meet my three children I'll be their earthly father but they'll know so much more than me. I'll have nothing to teach them and they'll know intimately of God's love. But I can tell you one thing --they will know they are loved by me. They will know that I would never hurt them. Ever. And maybe as parents that's all we can ever do.