Birth and death have more in common than we think
By: By William Loewen
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 06, 2013 12:58 pm
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Sometimes, even when we think we are fully prepared, the situation changes and we need to adjust to an unexpected reality.
That was the case on Feb. 20 in my household. For a few weeks before that, I had been clinging to my cell phone anticipating a call from my very pregnant wife saying it was time. For our previous two children, I was a great encourager offering love, reassurance and, perhaps most importantly, a hand, an arm or a neck to hold as we braced for the arrival of our child.
Now, for our third child, I was ready to once again be the moral support as my wife and the midwives did the real work. In the end, that wasnít meant to be.
You see, I am from a generation that believes we can plan when we will start having children, when we will stop and precisely how many we will have. News of the impending arrival of our third child was a little ahead of schedule, but the plan could easily be adjusted. Also, I thought that since we already had two children we were experts, at least my wife was, and we would know exactly what to expect. So, with all of the tasks on our pre-baby checklist crossed off, we waited eagerly for his or her arrival.
Then, early that Wednesday morning we were awakened by signs the baby was on the way. The house was ready for the home-birth and we were ready for things to happen like they had the last time, but things didnít happen that way.
Whether it was because of our misinterpretation of the physical signs or the rush this child was in, it was soon clear none of our careful preparation was going to matter.
I was supposed to be the cheerleader. I could even handle the idea of being the coach. But this time, at the risk of stretching the football metaphor too far, I was thrust into the role of quarterback, and when the midwife arrived immediately after the child emerged, I was happy to make the hand off and get out of the way. The midwife would later compliment how I handled the situation, even using hero language, but what else was I going to do? I had chosen to partner with my wife and I had been assigned the role of father for this child. There was nowhere else I could possibly be.
As I carried out the other jobs I had to do, I began to think about how I would word this birth announcement. I didnít want to draw too much attention to myself, but I did want to somehow mention my role in the process. It struck me that I could say, ďat 7:55 a.m., she was received into her fatherís loving arms.Ē It sounded poetic, it mentioned me being there, and it even had a spiritual ring to it. Then it came to me I had heard that phrase before. Had I subliminally stolen a phrase from someone elseís birth announcement?
After a moment, I realized where it was I had heard this turn of phrase before. It was not from news of another child being born, but from an obituary. Within Christian communities we often use Father terminology for God and there is an understanding when we die, he is waiting to receive us. Putting these two events together, birth and death, seemed odd to me at first, uncomfortable even. I was only now celebrating the arrival of this child and now I had made myself reflect on her death, even my own death. At first I didnít want to put those things together, but the more I dwelt on them, the more natural it seemed.
I have plans for where my life will take me. I also want my family to be able to make plans for me to be around. There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we need to recognize the fulfillment of those plans is often out of our hands. As unsettling as it is to realize how little control we have, it is reassuring to me that my loving Father waits lovingly with arms outstretched for the moment when I will pass from this world to the next.
William Loewen is the pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church in DeWinton.