I used to have this joyful view of death. I would be sad, sure…but it’s all a very natural part of life. Grandparents die. Parents die. Friends die. Spouses die. As a Christian, I’ve always found the best way to honor their loss was to treat their life as a celebration. Sometimes death is unexpected but it’s still part of the natural cycle of life and ultimately through grief we come to accept this cycle with the comfort that they have had a deep impact on our life and that they are now in a better place.
On October 2, 2013, my wife and I said hello and goodbye to our only child—the beautiful 20-inch, 7.7 pound, Mordecai Max; how do you celebrate this? The child you expected, prayed for, planned your future around…is taken from you. The death of a child is the unfortunate reminder that we are not in control. And that’s not fair by our standards of fairness. It’s a parents right to hear their baby laugh…cry…sneeze; and it’s a parents duty to protect them. But sometimes…sometimes it all comes crashing in and those things you so eagerly anticipated are no longer there. When it happens…what then? Suddenly celebrating a person’s life feels a little less valid and all that is left is an abyss of confusion and sadness.
I remember watching the ultrasound technician scanning my wife’s stomach several times before finally making a note in the computer: No FHR. Only a doctor could tell us what this meant, but I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that FHR stood for the unthinkable: no fetal heart rate. Still I prayed as we waited; prayed for a miracle—prayed with fervor that what Jesus said was true…if you have enough faith you can tell a mountain to move and it will. I had faith… But faith didn’t make Mordecai’s heart beat.
Mordecai was born with the cord around his neck…something that happens to lots of babies…but something that very rarely kills them. Doctors couldn’t explain why it happened to such a healthy baby, but even if they could it wouldn’t change anything. Our answers would still not be answered. We could have searched endlessly for answers but we would have never been satisfied with any answer. In the end there is no answer…none that we in our human state of conscious can understand.
It was only when we stepped away from everything and looked at it through God’s eyes that we could have some resolve. Through God’s eyes, we could accept that we had prayed for a blessing and God had granted our request.
Blessings are a curious thing. When we pray for a blessing, we are praying God’s protection. To say we were not blessed by both the life and death of Mordecai would be to say we do not believe in God’s power or authority.
People celebrate their blessings…when they are good. No one thinks twice about thanking God for their job or marriage or health or any number of things that we associate with good. But if you were to publicly thank God for your dead baby…it would be questioned to say the least. My wife and I feel very blessed in our child and we have no shame saying it—to each other. While friends post cutesy photos of their newborn and talk about how God has blessed them, we quietly sit with the only symbol of Mordecai that we have…a single footprint. We are blessed…though few people can understand why.
We are not thankful for our selfishness—for wanting our baby even when God had other plans. But we are thankful for our blessing—for the life we only knew in the womb of my wife. We know that God is in control; maybe Mordecai was spared in death by some kind of great disparity; maybe his death paved the way for someone in the future; maybe he somehow open doors for us; maybe it was a combination of many things. Why God does what he does, we don’t know. We had faith when we prayed for a miracle, and God gave us that miracle. We know that he took care of our baby and us.
Three months later, we can look back and then to the future, and we can say that our life is good. We are sad. We are crushed. And yet spiritually we are alive—more so then we have been in years. God has blessed our family. And we are thankful.