Saturday, April 05, 2008

Birth and Death

When we visited Williamsburg recently, one of the guides talked about the dangers of childbirth in the colonial period. Even among the gentry, the birth of a child was a dangerous time. The child might die, the mother might die, or both might die. This, of course, was true well into the early 20th century, but I did not realize how this possibility might come home so soon.

Friday morning my wife received a call that the daughter of one of our closest friends was in the delivery room birthing her first child and there were complications. Rita immediately went to the hospital. When I didn't hear anything from her, I went over and walked into a tragic situation. The mother, who was only 25, had "complications" in childbirth. The baby boy survived, but the mother did not. Her pregnancy had been normal, there were no evident problems, yesterday was her due date, but she did not make it.

We really don't expect this to happen in 2008. Sometimes infants don't survive, but it is rare to lose a mother. The hospital staff, very competent and professional people, seemed--yes, indeed were--as stricken as the family, friends, and clergy who quickly gathered in the maternity area.

How does anyone cope with this type of tragic loss? This is one of those "Why, God?" situations. In the midst of tragedy, we search for some signs of hope. Sometimes we do not see such signs; others take years to emerge. In my struggling with this loss, I have been able to perceive a few things that help me. First, this young woman was a believer who lived each day to help others. There is much to be said about her gracious Christian living. She blessed those she touched. Second, she wanted to have a child so much, and she brought this precious life into the world at great cost. Third, I am reminded that we should not take the passage of childbirth lightly. We should thank God for our mothers, wives and daughters who have undertaken this task and give them a special embrace to show our thankfulness. Fourth, we should value each moment with our loved ones; we never know when those will end.

But . . . we still grieve this loss.

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